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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
- 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
- Consider how field studies and socially
based theories can inform the design of collaborative systems.