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Computer Supported Cooperative Work 8

Editors:Kjeld Schmidt
Publisher:Kluwer Academic Publishing
Standard No:ISSN 0925-9724
Links:www.wkap.nl | Table of Contents
  1. JCSCW 1999 Volume 8 Issue 1/2
  2. JCSCW 1999 Volume 8 Issue 3
  3. JCSCW 1999 Volume 8 Issue 4

JCSCW 1999 Volume 8 Issue 1/2

A Web on the Wind: The Structure of Invisible Work BIB 1-8
  Bonnie A. Nardi; Yrjo ENgestrom
Layers of Silence, Arenas of Voice: The Ecology of Visible and Invisible Work BIBAK 9-30
  Susan Leigh Star; Anselm Strauss
No work is inherently either visible or invisible. We always "see" work through a selection of indicators: straining muscles, finished artifacts, a changed state of affairs. The indicators change with context, and that context becomes a negotiation about the relationship between visible and invisible work. With shifts in industrial practice these negotiations require longer chains of inference and representation, and may become solely abstract. This article provides a framework for analyzing invisible work in CSCW systems. We sample across a variety of kinds of work to enrich the understanding of how invisibility and visibility operate. Processes examined include creating a "non-person" in domestic work; disembedding background work; and going backstage. Understanding these processes may inform the design of CSCW systems and the development of related social theory.
Keywords: cooperative work, articulation work, invisible work, social informatics, requirements analysis, feminism
Invisible Work of Telephone Operators: An Ethnocritical Analysis BIBAK 31-61
  Michael J. Muller
This paper applies principles derived from ethnocriticism to help explain differential outcomes with different methods used to analyze the work of Directory Assistance telephone operators in a large US telecommunications company. The work of Directory Assistance operators provides a subtle case of computer-supported cooperative work. Collaborative work between operator and customer is supported and shaped by digitized-voice and database technologies. Our work also involved the introduction of additional voice-recognition technologies to this human-to-human collaboration. In a previous paper, we used methods from participatory design to show that knowledge work is a major component of the operators' conversations with customers. By contrast, other research using formal cognitive task analyses had described operators' work as routine and as involving no active problem solving. How had evidence that we had found so compelling been invisible to other analysts? I analyze the concept of "invisible work" as an attribute not of the work, but rather of the perspectives from which that work appeared to be invisible. Ethnocritical heuristics help us to contrast the analytical methods and their outcomes.
Keywords: work analysis, task analysis, participatory analysis, knowledge work, GOMS, CARD, ethnocriticism, ethnocritical heuristics, telephone operators, invisible work
Expansive Visibilization of Work: An Activity-Theoretical Perspective BIBAK 63-93
  Yrjo Engestrom
Work is commonly made visible along two dimensions: the linear and the socio-spatial. Both are limited to depicting work in terms of relatively discrete actions. Activity theory introduces the crucial distinction between collective activity systems and individual actions. Expansive visibilization of collective activity systems offers a powerful intervention methodology for dealing with major transformations of work. The linear and the socio-spatial dimensions of work actions are seen in the broader perspective of a third, developmental dimension of work activity. Four steps are identified in a cycle of expansive visibilization, combining activity-level visions and action-level concretizations. The cycle is examined in detail as it unfolded in an intervention study at a children's hospital in Finland. It is concluded that expansive visibilization, driven by contradictions and seeking to reconceptualize the object and motive of work, is not a straightforward process which can be neatly controlled from above. Coherent analytical explanation and goal-setting may come only after the creation and practical implementation of innovative solutions.
Keywords: activity theory, action, transformation, expansive learning, intervention, visibilization, health care, medical records
Collaborative Networks Among Female Middle Managers in a Hierarchical Organization BIBAK 95-114
  Kristina Westerberg
I present empirical findings from an observational study of female municipal middle managers who are home help assistants in elder care. The observations showed that the home help assistants' sphere of activity was influenced by two distinct patterns: the official line organization and the invisible horizontal social network. I first give a brief description to the immediate background of the present study. Then I describe the line organization and give two empirical examples of information exchange where the practical implication of the line organization at different levels is visible. However, the study also revealed another pattern opposed to the line organization, called the horizontal network. I will give an empirical example of an incident that illustrates how the home help assistants use a social network to solve problems and to make judgments. The study showed that these networks are not persistent -- they are rebuilt depending upon context. Members of the network can be people both within and outside the municipal organization. Decisions and problem solving are thus conducted in a process of interaction and negotiations with other people. The social networks are not visible in the official organizational description. Still they form the foundation for the home help assistants' work and influence their ideas of how the work should be conducted. Finally I discuss some implications of the line organization and the social network and the possible consequences when introducing new technology, i.e., computers in work. In this case the computers were planned to support the line organization but not the work practice of social networks.
Keywords: female leaders, middle managers, elder care, hierarchy, social network
Visible and Invisible Work: The Emerging Post-Industrial Employment Relation BIB 115-126
  Libby Bishop
"It's Just a Matter of Common Sense": Ethnography as Invisible Work BIBAK 127-145
  Diana E. Forsythe
Anthropologists have been using ethnographic methods since the 1970s to support the design and evaluation of software. While early use of such skills in the design world was viewed as experimental, at least by computer scientists and engineers, ethnography has now become established as a useful skill in technology design. Not only are corporations and research laboratories employing anthropologists to take part in the development process, but growing numbers of non-anthropologists are attempting to borrow ethnographic techniques. The results of this appropriation have brought out into the open a kind of paradox: while ethnography looks and sounds straightforward, this is not really the case. The work of untrained ethnographers tends to overlook things that anthropologists see as important parts of the research process. The consistency of this pattern suggests that some aspects of ethnographic fieldwork are invisible to the untrained eye. In short, ethnography would appear to constitute an example of invisible work. Drawing on my own decade of experience as an anthropologist working in design, I attempt to clarify the nature of ethnographic expertise, describe six misconceptions about ethnography that I have encountered among scientists, and present real-life examples to illustrate why quasi-ethnographic work based on these misconceptions is likely to be superficial and unreliable.
Keywords: ethnography, anthropology, medical informatics, computers and medicine, qualitative methods, user studies, evaluation
The Invisible World of Intermediaries: A Cautionary Tale BIBAK 147-167
  Kate Ehrlich; Debra Cash
Many observers consider traditional intermediaries such as brokers, lenders and salespersons anachronisms in a world where consumers can communicate directly with providers of products and services over computer networks. Under the same rubric, information mediators such as journalists, editors, librarians and customer support representatives are being targeted for elimination. Drawing on our ethnographically-informed studies of customer support analysts and librarians, we demonstrate that the expertise and experience of intermediaries is often invisible -- to the consumer, to the organization in which these intermediaries work, and even to the intermediaries' managers. The valuable services provided by intermediaries are not made unnecessary by end-user access. We argue for a richer understanding of intermediation, and a reallocation of functions and roles in which "new intermediaries" -- people, software or a combination of the two -- aggregate, personalize and assure the quality of information.
Keywords: CSCW, electronic commerce, intermediary, digital library, electronic community, customer support, librarians, notes, trust

JCSCW 1999 Volume 8 Issue 3

Meetings of the Board: The Impact of Scheduling Medium on Long Term Group Coordination in Software Development BIBAK 175-205
  Steve Whittaker; Heinrich Schwarz
Despite a wealth of electronic group tools for coordinating the software development process, instead we find technologically adept groups preferring to use what seem to be outmoded "material" tools in critical projects. The current ethnographic study investigates this apparent paradox. We begin by building up a detailed picture of the overall software development process and identify critical general problems in achieving coordination. Coordination problems arise in software development not only because of the complex dependencies that hold among the work of different individuals, but also for social and motivational reasons. We identify the central role of the schedule as a coordination device, but find that its value can be undermined because the schedule is often neither accurate, current nor credible. As a result, the schedule is not used as a resource for individual or group planning. We then compare coordination in two development groups, one using electronic and the other material scheduling tools. We found that the medium of the schedule has a major impact on coordination problems. The size, public location and physical qualities of material tools engender certain crucial group processes that current electronic technologies fail to support. A large wallboard located in a public area encouraged greater responsibility, commitment and updating and its material properties served to encourage more reflective planning. As a result the wallboard schedule was both accurate and current. Furthermore, the public nature of the wallboard promoted group interaction around the board, it enabled collaborative problem solving, as well as informing individuals about the local and global progress of the project. Despite these benefits, however, the material tool fell short on several other dimensions such as distribution, complex dependency tracking, and versioning. We make design recommendations about how the benefits of material tools could be incorporated into electronic groupware systems and discuss the theoretical implications of this work.
Keywords: commitment, communication, group coordination, group memory, long-term coordination, media, paper, scheduling, social factors, software development
Visualizing Common Artefacts to Support Awareness in Computer-Mediated Cooperation BIBAK 207-238
  Thomas Berlage; Markus Sohlenkamp
The idea of a "common artefact" is a useful metaphor for the design of CSCW systems. Our ACCT model of a common artefact describes structural elements that provide awareness about the work of others. The ACCT model identifies actors, contents, conversations, and tools as the central components of a common artefact, arranged on a shared background. The elements of a common artefact provide both a background visualization of the activity, but also permit dynamic notification of particular events. We explore this process of notification, which is composed of a selection and a presentation stage. We identify the critical factors of the process, in particular we highlight techniques related to temporal and spatial distortion. The framework helps to prepare design decisions of multi-user systems more consciously.
Keywords: awareness, common artefact, CSCW, distortion, notification, state presentation
Integrating Contexts to Support Coordination: The CHAOS Project BIBAK 239-283
  Carla Simone; Monica Divitini
The paper reports on the outcomes of the CHAOS project whose aim was the development of a computer-based tool for coordinating activities not organized in a structured flow of work. In CHAOS coordination is achieved by negotiating commitments within conversations. The paper illustrates the conceptual foundation on which the prototype is based and its main functionalities. The latter are organized into four logical modules that are responsible of the management of the information concerning the communication, operation, organization and linguistic contexts, respectively, in which the communication occurs. The paper presents achievements and limits of the project and positions its aims and outcomes in relation to the recent debate about the Coordinator.
Keywords: adaptive systems, communication supports, language/action perspective
Sharrock and Button ... and Much Ado about Nothing BIBAK 285-293
  Kalle Lyytinen; Ojelanki Ngwenyama
The paper discusses Sharrock's and Button's criticism of our attempt to use Habermas' communicative action theory to analyze group work platforms. We demonstrate that they misconstrue our goals of the paper, misinterpret our analysis of Habermas' action types, and misunderstand the concept of critical science. At the end we question the usefulness of these types of debates in furthering CSCW research.
Keywords: CSCW, critical theory, deconstruction, ideal speech situation, social action theory
"CSCW Requirements and Evaluation," edited by Thomas, P. J. BIB 295-297
  Richard H. R. Haper
"Video-Mediated Communication," edited by Kathleen E. Finn, Abigail J. Sellen, Sylvia B. Wilbur BIB 299-301
  Hubert Knoblauch

JCSCW 1999 Volume 8 Issue 4

Media Production: Towards Creative Collaboration Using Communication Networks BIBAK 303-332
  Ellen Baker; John Geirland; Tom Fisher; Annmarie Chandler
To examine the diffusion of remote collaboration technologies within the media production industries, a series of case studies was recently conducted with early adopters of advanced electronic networks in Sydney, Los Angeles and London. The studies assessed: 1) user reactions to these collaboration technologies and types of activities being supported and 2) factors influencing their adoption decisions. Interviews conducted also provided early indications of the conditions likely to facilitate remote collaboration and the likely impacts on work practices in media production organizations. It was established that electronic delivery, remote access to resources and materials, and remote creative collaboration were all being carried out, even internationally. Although most network applications were routine substitutions for non-electronic equivalents (e.g. couriers or catalogue browsing), some did involve shared creative activities, thus confirming that remote creative collaboration is a viable option. Key factors influencing network adoption were cost considerations and regulatory issues, time savings and productivity, and security concerns. Certain industry segments -- animation, post-production, and advertising -- were more likely to be early adopters, as were companies who found innovative ways to achieve greater benefits. Conditions likely to facilitate remote collaboration include more sophisticated change-agent strategies, increasing the perceived control of creative outputs, developing and maintaining trust, providing more auxiliary support for coordination needs, and making more effective use of timing and time-zone differences. Likely impacts of remote collaboration in media production are: more overlap between pre-production, production, and post-production activities; faster work pace; enhanced creativity; and improved quality of work life.
Keywords: media production, distributed workgroups, emerging technologies, diffusion of innovations, work practices, electronic networks, creative collaboration
Formality Considered Harmful: Experiences, Emerging Themes, and Directions on the Use of Formal Representations in Interactive Systems BIBAK 333-352
  Frank M., III Shipman; Catherine C. Marshall
This paper reflects on experiences designing, developing, and working with users of a variety of interactive computer systems. The authors propose, based on these experiences, that the cause of a number of unexpected difficulties in human-computer interaction lies in users' unwillingness or inability to make structure, content, or procedures explicit. Besides recounting experiences with system use, this paper discusses why users reject or circumvent formalisms which require such explicit expression, and suggests how system designers can anticipate and compensate for problems users have in making implicit aspects of their tasks explicit. The authors propose computational approaches that address this problem, including incremental and system-assisted formalization mechanisms and methods for recognizing and using undeclared structure; they also propose non-computational solutions that involve designers and users reaching a shared understanding of the task situation and the methods that motivate the formalisms. This paper poses that, while it is impossible to remove all formalisms from computing systems, system designers need to match the level of formal expression entailed with the goals and situation of the users -- a design criteria not commonly mentioned in current interface design.
Keywords: formalization, structure, hypermedia, argumentation, design environments, knowledge-based systems, groupware, knowledge representation, tacit knowledge
Voice Loops as Coordination Aids in Space Shuttle Mission Control BIBAK 353-371
  Emily S. Patterson; Jennifer Watts-Perotti; David D. Woods
Voice loops, an auditory groupware technology, are essential coordination support tools for experienced practitioners in domains such as air traffic management, aircraft carrier operations and space shuttle mission control. They support synchronous communication on multiple channels among groups of people who are spatially distributed. In this paper, we suggest reasons for why the voice loop system is a successful medium for supporting coordination in space shuttle mission control based on over 130 hours of direct observation. Voice loops allow practitioners to listen in on relevant communications without disrupting their own activities or the activities of others. In addition, the voice loop system is structured around the mission control organization, and therefore directly supports the demands of the domain. By understanding how voice loops meet the particular demands of the mission control environment, insight can be gained for the design of groupware tools to support cooperative activity in other event-driven domains.
Keywords: attention, broadcasting, common ground, coordination, ethnographic study, mission control, mutual awareness, overhearing, voice loops
Accumulating and Coordinating: Occasions for Information Technologies in Medical Work BIBAK 373-401
  Marc Berg
This paper attempts to provide a relational understanding of the generative power of information technologies: an understanding that sees information technologies as embedded in workpractices. This theoretical undertaking, inspired by actor-network theory and work within CSCW, has a practical and political aim. The problems it discusses are directly relevant for the aims and hopes of CSCW: the design of systems that fit workpractices better than traditionally designed systems, and that enhance worker's competencies and responsibilities. The paper depicts information technologies as reading and writing artifacts. Taking parts of the medical record as an example, the paper argues that those tools -- in relation with the reading and writing activities of nurses, doctors, laboratory systems -- can be seen to perform two roles in work practices. They accumulate inscriptions and coordinate activities of other entities in the work practice, and in that way afford the handling of more complex worktasks. This focus on the generative power of these artifacts leads to a reconsideration of the notions of "supporting" work and "transparent" technologies, and to a series of specific entry-points for a politics of IT.
Keywords: actor-network theory, distributed cognition, electronic medical record, information technology, politics, reading and writing artifacts, workpractice