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authors Kvan, Th., West, R. and Vera, A.
year 1997
title Choosing Tools for a Virtual Community
source Creative Collaboration in Virtual Communities 1997, ed. A. Cicognani. VC'97. Sydney: Key Centre of Design Computing, Department of Architectural and Design Science, University of Sydney, 20 p.
summary This paper reports on the results of experiments carried out to identify the effects of computer-mediated communication between participants involved in a design problem. When setting up a virtual design community, choices must be made between a variety of tools, choices dictated by budget, bandwidth, ability, availability. How do you choose between the tools, which is useful and how will each affect the outcome of the design exchanges you plan? Cognitive modelling methodologies such as GOMS have been used by interface designers to capture the mechanisms of action and interaction involved in routine expert behavior. Using this technique, which breaks down an individual's behaviors into Goals, Operators, Methods, and Selection rules, it is possible to evaluate the impact of different aspects of an interface in task-specific ways. In the present study, the GOMS methodology was used to characterize the interactive behavior of knowledgeable participants as they worked on a design task under different communication-support conditions.

Pairs of participants were set a design problem and asked to solve it in face-to-face settings. The same problem was then tackled by participants in settings using two different modes of computer-supported communication: email and an electronic whiteboard. Protocols were collected and analyzed in terms of the constraints of each tool relative to the task and to each other. The GOMS methodology was used as a way to represent the collaborative design process in a way that yields information on both the productivity and performance of participants in each of the three experimental conditions. It also yielded information on the component elements of the design process, the basic cognitive building-blocks of design, thereby suggesting fundamentally new tools that might be created for interaction in virtual environments.

A further goal of the study was to explore the nature of task differences in relation to alternative platforms for communication. It was hypothesized that design processes involving significant negotiation would be less aided by computer support than straight forward design problems. The latter involve cooperative knowledge application by both participants and are therefore facilitated by information-rich forms of computer support. The former, on the other hand, requires conflict resolution and is inhibited by non face-to-face interaction. The results of this study point to the fact that the success of collaboration in virtual space is not just dependent on the nature of the tools but also on the specific nature of the collaborative task.

keywords Cognitive Models, Task-analysis, GOMS
series other
references Content-type: text/plain
last changed 2003/05/15 18:50
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