Social and Temporal Structures in Everyday Collaboration
The boundary between individual and collaborative work is a porous one. Many tasks carried out with ostensibly single-user tools are, on closer examination, collaborative in nature. Documents are frequently assembled out of pieces provided by others; presentations may be crafted as parts of larger projects, and are designed to suit the needs of both presenters and audiences; and spreadsheets are often used to coordinate collective activity. We refer to this as "everyday collaboration."
Yet the tools we use force us to choose: "am I now collaborating, or working alone?" Our research asks: how can the single-user experience be reconfigured to support the collaborative tasks being carried out?
We propose that an effective solution is not to turn single-user applications into groupware tools, but rather to reveal the collective activity that is already being carried out through those tools. We want to help people coordinate their work by providing them with ways to see how their work is connected to that of their colleagues. To do this, we are exploring the potential for using single-user tools as technologies supporting awareness.
The first step of that process is to understand something about how recurrent roles are played out through everyday communication. We have developed a tool that allows users to visualize their social networks and temporal patterns, and that allows researchers to talk with users about their networks and patterns.
The Soylent introspection tool is available for demonstrations! Feel free to check it out on your own email by reading the information at our demonstration page. Remember that this is research software; it is constantly changing and being improved--we would love your feedback.
Publications and Papers
November 7, 2003