Monday, October 27, 2008

CSCW: Computer-Supported Cooperative Work

The topic of Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) is derived from an earlier system of office automation. The notion that we can work cooperatively, within groups has been around since the 1970's. We want to learn from others and get and share ideas. Successful companies know that teamwork is imperative for the success of a company, and that each team player has at least one thing to contribute to this. The study on History and Focus written by Jonathan Grudin, University of California, Irvine shows us how we vary by culture.

I can understand how CSCW gains insight from the field of anthropology, educators and those who participate in group activity. We have so many applications we subscribe to today. We use facebook, myspace, open office, gmail documents, skype and so many other sources of communication today. This is not just single-user based applications, though we use them individually. We use them to connect to a specific group.
According to Grudin, group work was not developed in the technology created in the 70's, in this case then, how did technology learn human behavior? Jay has created a short story for this topic and has given us the option to create more to the story, to comment on the story, and even the option not to participate. For this lesson in group work, I think it is great to have the opportunity to participate, so thanks Jay for this insightful chance. The story can be totally twisted, which is awesome, and I hope it goes in that direction.

For us to focus only on the 'work' effort of CSCW is very generalized. Since CSCW supports the small group effort, it can be regarded in most concentrations. Not only that, but so many areas have an influence in the development of this product. Information Systems people are familiar with the social dynamics of networked PC's and individual workstations and the greater good of organizations. They can assist in creating small groups with workstaions by creating a sense of community. When we share the need of key goals and direction, we are cutting down on the friction of being to general.

Grudin explains that in large IS environments, the (vast majority of users) decades of experience will shed light on the non-technical problems. Is this really because of the users bringing this insight to attention? I can understand that within a small group of users, the technological problems can become an issue as they (the user) may not have the experience to use the programs.

Another difference into the CSCW area is how it relates to users by country. Grudin sites that there are many differences to the way we (here in the U.S.) approach CSCW compared to European countries. One of the differences lays in finance. In the United States, research and development are supported and more interwoven with universities. This supports the reason that the funding is coming from a more varied source (independent research, private research grants, and endowments) than within Europe, where their funding is more goverment sponsored. The research in Europe also focuses on large-scale systems development. While I'm not exactly sure what that may mean, I would guess it means that they are progressing faster than we are here. In the U.S., it almost seems like we think backward. According to Grudin, many U.S. researchers build technology and then look for ways to use it. Wouldnt this be a waste of time and effort? I think many developers in HCI would like to have their ideas be used on the first time of introduction, but really I would hope to believe that they would perform in-depth user studies to find the need first. Culture plays an integral part in this effort. In Europe, their many cultures play a part in the need for a groupwork social dynamic. During conferences and social gatherings you can tell that the Europeans are professionals who would like to share their research, experience and current results. At conferences, most who are attending will present their work. Compare this with the U.S. culture who present their work for larger audiences (may or may not be presenting), are more polished and emphasize results.
It is interesting that we share group work with people all over the world. Some of the correspondence seems effortless, while others are prevented by firewalls. Designers creating the applications have so many issues to think about, it is amazing that we communicate so much~

work cited:
Jonaghan Grudin, University of California, Irvine. "Computer-Supported Cooperative Work: History and Focus", May 1994

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