Awareness, Representation and Interpretation
This paper discusses how representation andinterpretation affect the degree and character of awarenessafforded by computer systems: awareness of people and ofinformation artifacts. Our discussion ranges from system designto theoretical concepts, and we focus on consistencies acrossthis spectrum. We begin by briefly describing a prototypecollaborative filtering system, Recer. This system tracks ongoingactivity in the web browsers and text editors of a group ofpeople, and offers recommendations of URLs and local programfiles that are specific to and adaptive with that activity, andthat reflect patterns of earlier activity within the community ofuse. We then take a more general look at collaborative filtering,and compare it with two other approaches to engendering awarenessof useful artifacts: information retrieval and software patterns.We discuss how each implicitly or explicitly involvescollaboration, formalisation and subjectivity in its corerepresentations. We then explore the artifact-centred approach toawareness that Recer represents, and relate it to theactivity-centred approach more familiar within CSCW. We use thiscomparison in discussing, in more theoretical terms, howrepresentation and formalisation affects awareness,interpretation and use. Our intention is to explore andunderstand the choices that designers have for the corerepresentations of information systems, and the consequences forawareness that follow for users. We wish to relate such practicaldesign issues to the more theoretical discussion in CSCW aroundconcepts such as common information spaces, the space-placedistinction, and the status of formal constructs.