From I-Awareness to We-Awareness in CSCW
Awareness is one of the central concepts in Computer Supported Cooperative Work, though it has often been used in several different senses. Recently, researchers have begun to provide a clearer conceptualization of awareness that provides concrete guidance for the structuring of empirical studies of awareness and the development of tools to support awareness. Such conceptions, however, do not take into account newer understandings of shared intentionality among cooperating actors that recently have been defined by philosophers and empirically investigated by psychologists and psycho-linguists. These newer conceptions highlight the common ground and socially recursive inference that underwrites cooperative behavior. And it is this inference that is often seamlessly carried out in collocated work, so easy to take for granted and hence overlook, that will require computer support if such work is to be partially automated or carried out at a distance. Ignoring the inferences required in achieving common ground may thus focus a researcher or designer on surface forms of “heeding” that miss the underlying processes of intention shared in and through activity that are critical for cooperation to succeed. Shared intentionality thus provides a basis for reconceptualizing awareness in CSCW research, building on and augmenting existing notions. In this paper, we provide a philosophically grounded conception of awareness based on shared intentionality, demonstrate how it accounts for behavior in an empirical study of two individuals in collocated, tightly-coupled work, and provide implications of this conception for the design of computational systems to support tightly-coupled collaborative work.