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Striking a balance: Managing collaborative multitasking in computer-supported cooperation
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics.
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.
Series
Research Report, Department of Informatics, ISSN 1401-4572 ; 09.03
Keyword [en]
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
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-29945ISBN: 978-91-7264-894-4 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-29945DiVA: diva2:278635
Public defence
2009-12-21, MA121, MIT-huset, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2009-11-30 Created: 2009-11-27 Last updated: 2009-11-30Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Exploring the concept of group interaction through action in a mobile context
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring the concept of group interaction through action in a mobile context
2002 (English)In: Database and expert systems applications: 13th International Conference, DEXA 2002 Proceedings, London: Springer Verlag , 2002, 567-576 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper explores the concept of interaction through action. The exploration is done empirically in the setting of bird hunting. Using qualitative research methods, we studied how a hunting group secure awareness in order to coordinate their actions and to collaborate. We analyzed the data using a modified CSCW-model and found that the methods for securing awareness and coordination are rather complex and that environmental constraints play important roles. Dealing with coordination and collaboration in a setting such as the one we study is not easy. Based on the empirical findings, we derive design implications to consider in the design of artifacts for supporting group activity grounded on the concept of interaction through action.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: Springer Verlag, 2002
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-8026 (URN)3-540-44126-3 (ISBN)
Conference
Aix-en-Provence, France, Sept. 02-06, 2002
Available from: 2008-01-14 Created: 2008-01-14 Last updated: 2009-11-30Bibliographically approved
2. Lost in translation: Investigating the ambiguity of availability cues in an online media space
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Lost in translation: Investigating the ambiguity of availability cues in an online media space
2007 (English)In: Behaviour & Information Technology: An international journal on the human aspects of computingArticle in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper we present a longitudinal study of an online media space addressing the question of how availability is managed in an interaction-intensive organization. We relied on three different data collection techniques and analysed our data in relation to three different work modes. During this study we participated in an online media space, for approximately six months making spot checks and observing the population from which ten subjects were selected for interviews. Our results show how techniques and strategies for availability management are developed and continuously adapted to a shared common ground. Further, our results show how having the communication channel open, and regulating availability on a social level instead of on a solely technical level, has the advantage of better coping with the ever-changing dynamics in group works. Finally, we show that there exists an ambiguity of availability cues in online media spaces that is smoothly handled by individuals.

Keyword
Availability management, Workplace awareness, Interruptions, Media space
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-8039 (URN)doi:10.1080/01449290600874865 (DOI)
Available from: 2008-01-14 Created: 2008-01-14 Last updated: 2009-11-30Bibliographically approved
3. A comparison of chat and audio in media rich environments
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A comparison of chat and audio in media rich environments
2006 (English)In: CSCW'06: Proceedings of the 2006 20th anniversary conference on computer supported cooperative work, New York: Association for Computing Machinery Press , 2006, 323-332 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper presents two case studies of informal group communication using multimedia conferencing that supports various media including video, audio and chat. The studies provide a comparison of audio and chat as communication medium and present data on usage patterns, user preferences and attitudes. The quantitative and qualitative data collected suggest that chat does have advantages in some situations when used for informal communication along with video. The results provide evidence against the hypothesis that chat is a low bandwidth alternative only used when audio communication is unavailable. This suggests that video mediated chat deserves further attention from designers and the research community, since it is often ignored as a "useful" scenario.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
New York: Association for Computing Machinery Press, 2006
Keyword
Chat, video conferencing, collaboration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-8027 (URN)http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1180875.1180925 (DOI)1-59593-249-6 (ISBN)
Conference
Banff, Alberta, Canada, Nov. 04-08, 2006
Available from: 2008-01-14 Created: 2008-01-14 Last updated: 2009-11-30Bibliographically approved
4. Unpacking the Social Dimension of External Interruptions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Unpacking the Social Dimension of External Interruptions
2007 (English)In: GROUP'07: Proceedings of the 2007 International ACM Conference on Supporting Group Work, New York: ACM Press , 2007, 399-408 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The paper systematically explores the social dimension of external interruptions of human activities. Interruptions and interruption handling are key issues in human-computer interaction (HCI) and computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) research. However, existing research has almost exclusively dealt with effects of interruptions on individual tasks. In this paper we call for expanding the scope of analysis by including the effect of interruptions on the social context. We identify four facets of the social “ripple effect” of interruptions: location, communication, collaboration, and interpersonal relation. We discuss the advantages of extending the notion of interruptions and its implications for future research.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
New York: ACM Press, 2007
Keyword
Interruptions, interrupter, interruptee, social context, location, communication, collaboration, interpersonal relation
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-8006 (URN)http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1316624.1316686 (DOI)978-1-59593-845-9 (ISBN)
Conference
Sanibel Island, FL, Nov.04-07, 2007
Available from: 2008-01-14 Created: 2008-01-14 Last updated: 2009-11-30Bibliographically approved
5. The survival of the social: social interaction foraging in highly distributed professional social networks
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The survival of the social: social interaction foraging in highly distributed professional social networks
(English)In: Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

We present an empirical study of social interaction in a highly distributed professional social network. It takes as point of departure, previous research into distributed work and information foraging theory to explore social interaction search behaviour. We look at how people locate relevant collaborators to execute shared work tasks in a distributed network of professionals in the area of logistics. From our empirical data we identify six characteristics of the explored processes. We identify “the survival of the social” as a cornerstone for efficient and long-term professional social networks and outline design implications arising from our findings. In particular we identified some characteristics related to the active nature of social agents, the need for negotiation and long-term maintenance of social networks. Rather than optimising based on task characteristics, efficiency and cost, we show that participants are oriented to logistics solutions that involve active social agents and social relations. These behaviours illustrate basic mechanisms of highly distributed effective professional social networks and motivate the need for social interaction foraging theory. Furthermore, our design recommendations suggest that personal (as opposed to public) open interaction channels could be beneficial for the effectiveness and strength of the whole professional social network.

Keyword
Social interaction foraging, information foraging, social network, distributed work, coordination, interaction serach
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-29944 (URN)
Available from: 2009-11-27 Created: 2009-11-27 Last updated: 2012-01-31
6. Being virtually everywhere: An exploration of teachers' multitasking in a hybrid ecology of collaboration
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Being virtually everywhere: An exploration of teachers' multitasking in a hybrid ecology of collaboration
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, Published 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
Series
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508Alphabeta Varia. Album Religionum Umense, ISSN 1104-1978
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-26562 (URN)978-951-38-6339-5 (ISBN)
Conference
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

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