Designing collaborative workspaces for particular complex work settings

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This research explores how new collaboration technology can be designed to enhance distributed collaboration in particular complex work settings. Collaboration in work environments increasingly involves complex interactions between individuals and teams working across geographical, institutional and professional boundaries. This research addresses the challenges of supporting real-time communication and information sharing between different teams and across variable local settings. These issues are explored within the context of developing collaborative workspaces which integrate sophisticated video conferencing and information sharing technologies in multi-display environments. This research aims to understand the characteristics of interactions that a collaborative workspace needs to support and how to design a collaborative workspace for collaboration across different local settings without compromising the integrity of local work practices. The research issues were explored through three case studies in three work domains: multidisciplinary medical team meetings in two hospitals, collaboration in a national committee responsible for the emergency response to animal disease, and scientific collaboration across containment barriers in a biosecurity laboratory. Workplace studies were conducted in each of the studies. The case studies were research components of design-oriented projects carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) with aims to inform the design of a collaborative workspace within each domain. The case studies are the empirical contributions of this thesis. This research has shown that a set of socio-technical factors relating variations in local physical settings, information sharing practices and organizational contexts can influence the dynamics of collaboration across different local settings. The results highlight different kinds and levels of configuration work required in designing collaborative workspaces. These include the careful integration of physical settings with information sharing practices, the appropriate configuration of collaborative workspaces to enable diversity of local practices and the configuration of collaborative workspaces at an organizational level and in the context of coordinative practices. The results of the study have contributed to the development and deployment of an integrated collaboration platform in a scientific laboratory and have demonstrated that a generic collaborative workspace can be extended by components developed in response to the specific requirements of the work of the local setting. A set of design guidelines has been developed that can be used to guide the design and development of collaborative workspaces which provide coherent collaboration environments across different already existing local settings while respecting the variations within local practices.
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