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Subject:

Re: CSCW vs. CMC

From:

Alan Dix <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Alan Dix <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 17 Aug 1999 07:42:01 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (132 lines)

>Having seen the list as mainly a source of information sources
>and advertising for conferences etc., I was interested to see
>the" CSCW/groupware, Knowledge Management and Ideology"
>thread developing.  In the hope of sparking a similar discussion
>I'd be interested to hear the views of listess on the distinction
>between CSCW and CMC.  Is there indeed a difference to be drawn
>or are they merely the same concepts viewed from different
>disciplines?

Andy

Re-iterating Dan's email (since this is so close to my heart).

This was precisely the factor that drove me to develop my own 'CSCW
framework' (captured in the paper Dan referenced) in the early 90's as
there was a tendency for CSCW work at that time to concentrate on CMC
rather than (to my mind) on full blooded CSCW.  If one;s definition of
'communication' is drawn wide enough then one could argue that there is
little difference, however normally communication is undertsood to be about
direct person-person person-group acts or channels of communication (video,
email, etc.).

The problem with CMC in its restricted sense is it is not WORK centred.
There are many different kinds of interactions:
 1.  participant-participant  - direct communication
 2.  participant-artefact - individual control and feedback of the artefacts
                           of work
 3.  participant-artefact-participant
                 - **feedthrough**, the ability to see the effects of other's
                   actions on work artefacts, this leads to ...
                 - **communication through the artefact** the implicit
                   channels of commication embodied within the work domain
 4.  participant-particpant->artefact
                 - diexis, methods to reference work objects from
                   direct communication

Although much of this seems quite obvious in the current CSCW research
setting, it was far from mainstream at that stage!

This framework was used to classify groupware technology (and used the
framework for this purpose in the HCI textbook some colleagues and I
produced around that time http://www.hiraeth.com/books/hci/) - e.g. CMC is
a computer support of (1), shared artefacts involve computer supprot of
(2)&(3).  I personally rank the effectiveness of groupware by the extent to
which it *supports* (not necessarily directly) the whole CSCW picture.  In
particular, one of my 'groupware' success stories is barcodes.  These are
not commonly thought of as CSCW technology, but they are a computer support
for diexis (4) - a means to refer to things.   The combined effect of their
simplicity, standardisation etc. means that they perform this support in a
way that enables the whole CSCW picture - they allow people across the
globe to know whether they are talking about the same thing.

The danger of focusing on parts of the CSCW picture, especially direct
communication, is that it is easy to accidentally damage or destroy the
implicit channels.  In my oroginal paper I considered the case of an
automated filing system which removes the ability to see that soemone else
has the (physiacl) file out and thus removes the chance to discobver common
interest.  An example I came across recently (in the book of Fermat's Last
Theorem) concerns two Japanese mathematicians who produced the conjecture
that Wiles proved and is so doing unlocked Fermat's Theorem.  These
mathematicians only met because one of them wanted a paper from the library
and discivered it was already on loan.  He went to the other mathematician
who had the paper and thus discovered an area of common interest and
collaborated from then on.  Given their different styles of work there is a
good chance that without this 'chance' meeting Fermat would still be as
ellusive has it had been for hundreds of years.  Of course, this is not
pure 'chance' - they met because the physicality of paper artefacts enabled
an appropriate meeting.  We have to be *SO* careful in designing electronic
systems that we take into account this full rich picture.

We now of course have  a wealth of studies focusing on the importance of
physical artefacts.  I've personally continued to be interested in
disentangling the many factors that contribute to this importance.  For
example, more recently looking at the way in which physical artefacts
encode personal and corporate memory within their 'accidental' attributes
(position, orientation etc.).  This has lead to what my colleagues and I
call the 'socio-organisational Church-Turing hypothesis' ;-)

The original expression (although because of time to publish the collection
not the first published account) of my own framework is in the collection
that Dan referenced.

   Design Issues in CSCW, Eds. D. Rosenburg and C. Hutchison. Springer Verlag.
   ISBN 3-540-19810-5

This collection also has many other perspectives on CSCW design, is a very
good read in general and sprung from one of the DTI CSCW SIG meetings, so
is extremely pertinent for this list!

For my own more recent stuff see my 'ecology of information' pages at:
   http://www.soc,staffs.ac.uk/~cmtajd/topics/ecology/

The artefacts workshop at Kings Manor, York last year has lots of other
interesting papers in this general area. (can't recall how much of that is
online).

Alan




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   Professor Alan Dix

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   email:   [log in to unmask]           (aQtive)
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   url:     http://www.hiraeth.com/alan/

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