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reviewed some of the reasons for the the move to the virtual environment, the remaining pages will take a closer look at some the responses to these pressures.
This page looks at the nature of
Distributed Collaborative Work - a generic term that can be used to describe many examples of work in the virtual environment - in more detail. Following that, we examine three examples of this type of work,
Communities of Practice. These pages also link to
an undergraduate course that deal with similar topics, but from the standpoint of a
Virtual Organization or Virtual Enterprise.
Distributed Collaborative Work
Work in the virtual environment may be distributed either physically (e.g. it may be carried out in different places) or temporally (e.g. it may be carried out at different times). The forms of Distributed Working that are considered in this course may involve one of both of these. Collaborative Work is taken to mean work that is work undertaken as part of a group activity.
There is an implicit assumption in most of the literature on Collaborative Working that the group activity is directed towards some shared goal or has some common purpose. As with almost any form of group activity there is some element of social interaction to the work as well as the simple fulfillment of a task (e.g. teamwork usually requires some degree of trust between the members of the team if it is to be effective).
Two forms of Distributed Collaborative Work can be identified.
Hot Distributed Collaborative Work:
also known as 'closely coupled', 'tightly coupled' or 'on-line' Distributed Collaborative Work is Collaborative Work in the sense that we would normally think of it, i.e. it is highly interactive and requires the active presence of the other members of the group. This form of work is also sometimes referred to as closely coupled work.
Cold Distributed Collaborative Work:
also known as 'loosely coupled' or 'off-line' Distributed Collaborative Work is Collaborative Work in the sense that it is part of some collective activity directed towards some shared goal or common purpose, but it is work that is performed individually, i.e. it is not work that requires the active presence of the other members of the group. Such work is sometimes referred to as loosely coupled work.
The Essence of Distributed Work: The Case of the Linux Kernel
This paper provides a historical account of how the Linux operating system kernel was developed from three different perspectives. Each focuses on different critical factors in its success at the individual, group, and community levels. The technical and management decisions of Linus Torvalds the individual were critical in laying the groundwork for a collaborative software development project that has lasted almost a decade. The contributions of volunteer programmers distributed worldwide enabled the development of an operating system on the par with proprietary operating systems. The Linux electronic community was the organizing structure that coordinated the efforts of the individual programmers. The paper concludes by summarizing the factors important in the successful distributed development of the Linux kernel, and the implications for organizationally managed distributed work arrangements.
- Easterbrook, S. M. (ed.). CSCW: Co-operation or Conflict? Springer Verlag, London, 1993.
- Meyrowitz, J. No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior, Oxford University Press, New York, 1985.
- Marshall, E. M. The Collaborative Workplace, Management Review, June, 1995, pp. 13-17.
- Baskerville, R.; Travis, J.; and Truex, D. Systems Without Method: The Impact of New Technologies on Information Systems Development Projects,
in The Impact of Computer Supported Technologies on Information Systems Development, K. E. Kendall, K. Lyytinen, and J. I. DeGross (eds.), North-Holland, Amsterdam, 1992, pp. 241-269.
Distributed Collaborative Work (DCW).
Creating Shared Information Spaces to Support Collaborative Design Work
This paper builds on the major concepts, theories, and debates in the areas of computer support for cooperative work (CSCW) and workflow management systems (WFMS) to advance research in the area of design, implementation, and testing of systems to support asynchronous, distributed collaborative work. Some of the major methodological challenges are outlined and the information flow analysis method used is presented.
Knowledge Management: Concepts and Controversies - part 1 Space: Conceptual, Personal and Social Aspects
The effectiveness of physical space for knowledge work is dependent on what is physically delivered through architecture, construction and facilities management. It is at least as dependent on personal and conceptual space - territoriality, privacy, and intimate communications. The aim of this paper is to examine the relationship between physical space and knowledge creation and sharing, with particular reference to the psychological (conceptual and personal) dimensions of that relationship.
The Parting of the Ways: Divergence, Data Management and Collaborative Work. (.pdf)
Systems coordinating distributed collaborative work must manage user data distributed over a network. The strong consistency algorithms which designers have typically borrowed from the distributed systems community are often unsuited to the particular needs of CSCW. Here, Paul Dourish outlines an alternative approach based on divergence and synchronization between parallel streams of activity.
Re-Place-ing Space: The Roles of Place and Space in Collaborative Systems
Drawing on material from architecture and urban design, as well research findings, this paper highlights the critical distinction between "space" and "place." While designers use spatial models to support interaction, it shows how it is actually a notion of "place" which frames interactive behaviour. This leads us to re-evaluate spatial systems, and discuss how "place", rather than "space", can support CSCW design.
Collaboration and Collaborative Information Technology: What is the nature of their relationship? (.pdf)
Collaborative information technologies have been claimed to enhance collaboration in organizations, under certain conditions. This claim was found to be problematic in several respects. A number of issues emerged in the review that could help in understanding the relationship of collaborative information technologies and changes in work and organization. The issues included the role of the specific capabilities of the technology, the difference between technology as a product and technology-in-use, the kind of care needed in bringing about desired changes, the emergent, drifting nature of the change process, the role of the technology as a constructive tool in improvising and enacting the changes, and the gradual translations of influences from work practices to organizational practices.
Design Principles for Online Communities
The key challenges the Internet community will face in the future are not simply technological, but also sociological: the challenges of social interaction and social organization. There is no algorithm for community. Building community is a fundamentally different activity than writing computer code. The problems of social interaction and order are often ignored in the software and online industry. While many people have begun to talk about "social computing," as it is used now it is a thin term that applies more to user interface design than to actual social interaction between two or more people.
An Approach to Encounters and Interaction in a Virtual Environment (.pdf)
This paper describes a new concept about a virtual environment on networked computers to support distributed collaborative work. It focuses explicitly on tools to enable informal (casual) communications in contrast to most of the existing approaches of group- ware applications.
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