Authors: Preece, Rogers & Sharp
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Designing for Collaboration and Communication


Chapter Introduction | Web Resources | Assignment Comments | Teaching Materials


Imagine going into school or work each day and sitting in a room all by yourself
with no distractions. At first, it might seem blissful. You'd be able to get on with
your work. But what if you discovered you had no access to email, phones, the Internet and other people? On top of that there is nowhere to get coffee. How long
would you last? Probably not very long. Humans are inherently social: they live together, work together, learn together, play together, interact and talk with each
other, and socialize. It seems only natural, therefore, to develop interactive systems
that support and extend these different kinds of sociality.

There are many kinds of sociality and many ways of studying it. In this chapter
our focus is on how people communicate and collaborate in their working and
everyday lives. We examine how collaborative technologies (also called group­ware) have been designed to support and extend communication and collaboration. We also look at the social factors that influence the success or failure of user adoption of such technologies. Finally, we examine the role played by ethnographic studies and theoretical frameworks for informing system design.
The main aims of this chapter are to:

  • Explain what is meant by communication and collaboration.
  • Describe the main kinds of social mechanisms that are used by people to communicate and collaborate.
  • Outline the range of collaborative systems that have been developed to support this kind of social behavior.
  • Consider how field studies and socially based theories can inform the design of collaborative systems.