This thesis explores the use of the World Wide Web asinfrastructure for collaboration among small or middle sizedgroups. A collection of Web-based tools has been developed,whose main characteristic is that they allow users to makeannotations to shared documents. These Web annotations form adialogue that is persistent and immediately accessible to theusers. Special interest has been devoted to observing howcollaborators make use of a common space where Web-documents aswell as Web-annotations are organized and stored. This commonspace has been called a domain.
We have also tried a novel method for the design ofcollaborative Web-based systems, calleddesigning frominside. It is based on communication between the usersand the designer in the form of a dialogue, which is generatedand presentedinsidethe system that is beingdeveloped. In this way, users can make comments about theirexperience using the tool while in the appropriate context.Comments by the users as well as the designer's replies areshared with other users. In this way the users become involvedunobtrusively in the design process of the tool.
One of the tools, DHS, has been used in longitudinal studieswithin courses where students also met regularly in theclassroom. In one contextthe students used the DHS as adiscussion or annotation tool for documents that they hadwritten. Within this framework, we also explored how secondlanguage students collaboratively made use of the tool toaccomplish a task that is normally done individually (readingcomprehension).
Col·lecció is the latest version of the DHS. Themost important change in this tool is that users can add theWeb-documents to the domain themselves. This gives a newperspective to the tools because it can work as a collectivebookmark system. This system has been used in three casestudies in which a distributed and co-located group discussed acollection of Web-documents.
Another system in the family is Col·laboració,which is oriented to supporting collaborative writing tasks. Itfocuses primarily on the communication needs co-authors mighthave around a shared document that is being produced. Thesystem also allows for on-line revision and for generatingversions of the document. This system has been used in 8 casestudies, where we have observed the usersinteraction andexplored the possibilities that the Web offers to collaborativewriting. For example, co-authors can use the commenting spaceas awindow to the Web, as the Web provides a hugeamount of information that can be relevant during the writingprocess.
One of the characteristics of all these tools is that theypresent the comments in chronological order. No threadingmechanism is used, although several users have requested athreaded presentation of the comments. This design choice isbased on the belief that with threading of comments, the focusof the discussion could drastically divert from its originaltopic, the document. In our observations, a dual discoursecontext is often found in the comments referring both to aprevious comment and to the shared document. To facilitateorientation in the discussions, we have also developed avisualization tool called Domain Interactivity Diagram (DID),designed to work together with the other systems.
The studies show that the Web offers a suitableinfrastructure for text-based discussions in which the documentcan be given a prime role. It also emerged that the integrationof email was appreciated by users mainly because it wasconsidered as a reminder of the task. In educational settings,students valued the possibility to go through many exampleswritten by other students in comparison with the traditionalway. Also the dialogue formed by the comments was astraightforward way to promote collaboration amongstudents.
WWW, discussion, annotation, design, writing, collaborativework, asynchronous communication, text-based communication.
Stockholm: Numerisk analys och datalogi , 2003. , vi, 186 p.
WWW, discussion, annotation, design, writing, collaborative work, asynchronous communication, text-based communication