Internet-based support for creative collaboration

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This work shows that the sharing of non-deliberate communicative actions is important in creative collaboration and that such non-deliberate communications can be shared over the Internet Problem This work concerns computer support tor designers. Design work typically involves the solution of poorly-defined problems (Goel 1995; Lawson 1990), and it is often necessary during this process for designers to seek help from and to collaborate with others (Fischer 2000; Ancona and Caldwell 1990). Studies have revealed several patterns of collaboration in creative work (John-Steiner 2000; Candy and Edmonds 2002; Mamykina, Candy et al. 2002), the most successful of which typically involve collaborators working closely together rather than one person acting as an assistant to another. The selection of collaborators must go beyond assessing their expertise and must also include their level of enthusiasm, willingness or ability to become deeply involved with the problem. When we meet a person face to face, there are two sorts of information available to us in support of our formation of an impression of that person. People may make what Schutz (1967) describes as “expressive acts", deliberate actions intended to communicate some message or to give some impression. In addition, people make "expressive movements", which while informative to an observer, are unintentional and contribute to what Goffman might describe as the impression that the person "gives off" (Goffman 1959). There are many tools and processes that allow people to publish or display information about themselves for others to see and to send information to one another. That is, to make expressive acts. An area that has not been so thoroughly covered, either in research or in the design of tools, relates to the sharing of expressive movements. The problem that this work addresses is how computer-based tools might be used to support the formation of collaborative relationships. In particular, the concern is with the sharing of expressive movements over the Internet. Methods As part of the work described here, a number of studies have been carried out: • A user evaluation of an online scrapbook tool (WISA) described in (Weakley and Edmonds 2004) and with an extended discussion in (Weakley and Edmonds 2005) as well as in (Weakley and Edmonds 2004) • Three studies of creative collaborations. The first specifically related to requirements for tools to support collaboration (Costello, Weakley et al. 2004; Costello, Weakley et al. 2005). The others reported on experiences of using systems as they are being developed as communication tools while collaborating on a creative work (Turner, Neumark et al. 2004; Weakley, Johnston et al. 2005). • A survey of how people respond to expressive acts (in this case a person's curriculum vitae) compared with expressive movements (a photograph of the same person's bookshelf). • A series of repertory grid interviews investigating how people form impressions of others based on a photograph of their workspace (Weakley and Edmonds 2005). Key Results The studies showed that interpretation of expressive movements can lead to people forming new impressions about one another and that their exchange can support creative work. The survey confirmed that people gain different insight from expressive movements than they do from expressive acts. The interviews shed light on which of the artefacts that people surround themselves with contribute to which sorts of impression about them. A tool that goes beyond the exchange of deliberate expressive acts to include the exchange of expressive movements would be useful. The key aspects of such a tool are described.
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