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Title: Improving users' awareness interactions in the collaborative document authoring process : the CAWS approach
Author: Liccardi, Ilaria
ISNI:       0000 0004 2703 9968
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2010
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Awareness of individual and group activities is critical to successful collaborative authoring. Participants require knowledge of what other contributors are doing and have done, what meaningful changes have been made to a document, and who is editing each section of a document and why. With this information, group dynamics can be improved and members can work more efficiently toward the final product. In this thesis, key problems in collaborative activities are identified through a review of previous research on the subject and from field research of authors engaged in collaborative work. From these initial observations we deduce that many problems in collaborative writing occur due to technology that hinders the proper distribution of information to members of the group. The concept of “awareness”, identified in past research, is discussed, and used as a model to explain the underlying causes behind these common problems. As a specific example of the importance of communication and coordination mechanisms, an analysis is presented of the Wikibooks website, an online collaborative writing site that allows volunteers to work together to develop free textbooks. Statistical analysis of historical data from the site is used to correlate successful books with efficient use of planning, communication and coordination techniques. These results help to further cement the importance of communication and awareness channels. From analysis of these issues, a set of requirements is defined for an effective collaboration tool, specifically the features that such a tool should include in order to support the types of awareness that are necessary for successful collaboration. Existing groupware systems are compared and judged against these requirements, with the discovery that most systems lack support for many different types of awareness. To investigate the subject further, a prototype co-authoring system with features to support awareness (CAWS), developed as part of this research, is described. It is explained how these features attempt to reproduce some of the communications channels implicitly present within an office environment. The results of a usability study using the CAWS system are then presented, with particular reference to the effectiveness of the features of the system. Feedback from participants was gathered with respect to usefulness and ease of gathering information about other users‟ progress and interactions with the workspace with these features present. Finally the observations, findings and the implications of a real world groupware evaluation are presented (undertaken over a period of 17 weeks with 85 students divided into 15 groups). The groupware evaluation gives insight into the effectiveness of awareness mechanisms. This includes the role and effect of planning, the effect of the choice of tool on perceptions of awareness, the relative importance of awareness and how awareness contributes to a successful collaboration. We discuss the outcomes of the research with respect to the research questions and contribution, presenting how the research could be continued in the future.
Supervisor: Davis, Hugh ; White, Susan Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science