A meeting of minds across the workspace : common ground in collaborative design
This thesis reports an exploration of how the use and construction of external representations through methods of signalling and conversational grounding, support the sharing of ideas for spatial design tasks and how that support changes as a function of access to a shared works pace, external representations and memory support. Further aims of the study were to develop a coding scheme to identify the use of language in establishing and maintaining mutual understanding between collaborators. Pilot studies identified appropriate tasks relating to visual problem-solving design tasks for use in the main studies. For the main studies, video recordings were obtained, coded and time-stamped and analysis of the duration of grounding and activity codes, as well as concurrent grounding and activity, was carried on the impact of tasks and constraints on communication. For the first study 36 pairs of participants were used to investigate collaborative problem-solving and visual access to a shared workspace was varied. For the second study, 30 pairs of participants were used to investigate how ‘learned’ solutions are communicated. Again visual access to a shared workspace was varied, together with the manipulation of the opportunity for communicators to have access to external representations and memory support. Evidence was obtained to support the principles of ‘co-operation' and 'least collaborative effort' in conversation. Differences in the use and construction of external representations were discussed in terms of compensations, and changes in dyadic interactivity, made as a function of limitations in the media settings and the purpose of the joint activity. Other issues emerged relating to perceived communication efficacy as a result of a divided workspace focus and competition between problem-solving and grounding resources. These findings have implications for design cognition and communication as well as the technological support offered to support such activities.