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Being virtually everywhere: An exploration of teachers' multitasking in a hybrid ecology of collaboration
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics.
2009 (English)In: Designing beyond the product: Understanding activity and user experience in ubiquitous environments, Helsinki: Edita Prima Oy , 2009, 307-314 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Collaboration mediated by digital technologies is typically considered an alternative to face-to-face collaboration. However, in real-life settings “virtual” and “physical” collaboration are often complementary, rather than mutually exclusive. This paper reports an empirical study of a hybrid physical/virtual ecology of collaboration at a senior high school in Sweden, a massively collaborative environment featuring different concurrently used groupware. The study focused on teachers’ collaborative multitasking, that is, management of multiple collaborative activities. The findings indicate that the use of groupware in the setting presented a significant challenge for the teachers, who experienced collaboration overload. To keep themselves updated on current developments in their teams and projects, the teachers developed a variety of strategies for monitoring several collaboration spaces and switching between different technologies. The identified problems and strategies of collaborative physical/virtual multitasking are discussed in relation to existing research and design of supportive technology.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Helsinki: Edita Prima Oy , 2009. 307-314 p.
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508Alphabeta Varia. Album Religionum Umense, ISSN 1104-1978
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-26562ISBN: 978-951-38-6339-5OAI: diva2:272473
European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics, 30 September - 2 October 2009 in Helsinki, Finland
Available from: 2009-10-15 Created: 2009-10-15 Last updated: 2009-11-30
In thesis
1. Striking a balance: Managing collaborative multitasking in computer-supported cooperation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Striking a balance: Managing collaborative multitasking in computer-supported cooperation
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is a collection of six papers and a cover paper reporting an exploration of how to strike a balance between individual task execution and work articulation in Computer-supported Cooperative Work (CSCW). The interest in this theme is motivated by an increased reliance of IT-supported cooperative work arrangements in modern organizations, the fragmented layout of work for multitasking individuals and reports on various forms of overload, increased level of stress and anxiety experienced by workers active in these organizations.

Modern organizations are increasingly reliant on IT-supported cooperative work arrangements for doing work. Cooperators are not only expected to execute assigned tasks, but also to engage in work articulation. This is a term used to describe the process of rich and frequent interaction needed for securing that the contributions of cooperators are executed in such a way that the overall goal is reached. As cooperators typically are involved in several work formations in parallel, they need to find a balance between individual work and work articulation in relation to several work formations. The challenge of finding a balance in cooperative work has only to a limited extent been addressed in CSCW and there are few successful designs available for this purpose. The scope of this thesis is to develop an understanding of the challenges faced and strategies deployed by cooperators and work formations for striking a balance in work. The purpose is therefore to explore how multitasking individuals manage to find a balance between task execution and articulation work in computer-supported cooperative work, what challenges they face in the process, and how IT should be designed to support them. To reach this purpose several instances of cooperative work in different contexts have been closely studied.

The main conclusions of this thesis are that cooperators are constantly struggling for a balance in work through making frequent switches between work formations, individual task execution and work articulation, sometimes through making switches in the technology that is used. Strategies for finding this balance are developed in relation to the specific context of a cooperative activity as cooperators ‘design’ their use of IT, structures, procedures and norms. It is further concluded that for avoiding overloads of interaction, cooperators show and estimate availability through reliance on various sources of shared information, that social (e.g. interpersonal relation) and contextual factors (e.g. location) are considered when establishing interaction, that cooperators when searching for interaction with others are influenced by their estimated availability, competence and willingness to assist, but also by network maintenance efforts (i.e. an ambition to avoid overloading and underutilizing other cooperators). Finally, it is concluded that norms are important for finding a balance in work as they reduce the interaction needed for work articulation.

The main contributions of this thesis are rich descriptions of four cooperative work formations, the challenges they face and the strategies they apply, redefined theoretical concepts (i.e. availability management, interruption, multitasking) and extended understanding of interaction search behavior and ways to achieve high levels of informal interaction across distance. This work also provides some practical contributions in the form of implications for designers of supportive IT and implications for cooperators active in modern organizations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, Institutionen för informatik, 2009. 333 p.
, Research Report, Department of Informatics, ISSN 1401-4572 ; 09.03
Computer-supported Cooperative Work, articulation work, individual task execution, balance, interruptions, availability, awareness, interaction, information technology, multitasking, task switching
National Category
Computer and Information Science
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-29945 (URN)978-91-7264-894-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-12-21, MA121, MIT-huset, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 13:15 (English)
Available from: 2009-11-30 Created: 2009-11-27 Last updated: 2009-11-30Bibliographically approved

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