Implications of We-Awareness to the Design of Distributed Groupware Tools
We-awareness is the socially recursive inferences that let collaborators know that all are mutually aware of each other’s awareness. While we-awareness is easy afforded in face to face collocated collaboration, it is much more difficult to design distributed groupware tools to provide equivalent capabilities: there can be no awareness unless it is programmed in via system features. We identify a series of questions that must be considered if we-awareness is to be supported. What types of awareness information is crucial and should thus be added to the ‘blank slate’ of a screen sharing system? How can that awareness information be captured through technology, and what information will be lost during this capture process? How should that information be translated, transformed and encoded into a digital form, and—as part of that—what information will be altered as part of that translation process? How will that information be transmitted, and what are the network effects in terms of that information being received in a timely manner? How will that information be represented to other participants in order to enable the rich and subtle interactions that occur in the face-to-face setting? We illustrate the nuances of these questions and why they are difficult to answer by revisiting several prior technical solutions to we-awareness.