Carroll presents on collaborative awareness

September 29, 2011

Jack Carroll, Edward M. Frymoyer Professor in Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology, recently spoke to his peers about the benefits of supporting activity awareness and coordination among partners in complex activities such as emergency management, software development, information analysis, and education.

Carroll gave an invited talk on "Supporting Activity Awareness in Computer-Mediated Collaboration" on Sept. 22 at the 55th annual meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, which was held in Las Vegas. 

The society's mission, according to its website, is to “promote the discovery and exchange of knowledge concerning the characteristics of human beings that are applicable to the design of systems and devices of all kinds.” The annual meetings bring together society members who are interested in the latest developments in the field. Carroll’s talk was co-sponsored by the Computer Systems and Internet Technical Groups of the Society.

”I presented my views on the status of research on collaborative awareness in the area of computer-supported collaborative work, discussed some examples and results from my own research, and sketched the directions I think are important to pursue in this research area,” he said.

His collaborators in his research were Craig Ganoe, Gregorio Convertino, Marcela Borge, Mary Beth Rosson, Shin-I Shih, Helena Mentis, Dejin Zhao and Blaine Hoffman.

Carroll, who has a doctorate in experimental psychology from Columbia University, has played a pioneering role in the development of human-computer interaction. He served on the program committee of the 1982 Bureau of Standards Conference on the Human Factors of Computing Systems that in effect inaugurated the field. In 1984, he founded the User Interface Institute at the IBM Thomas J.Watson Research Center, the most influential corporate research laboratory during the latter 1980s. Carroll has published 21 books and more than 400 technical papers; and has received numerous awards, including the Rigo Career Achievement Award from ACM for contributions to research and practice in technical information. In 2003, he became the fifth recipient of the CHI Lifetime Achievement Award.

In his talk at the meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Carroll expressed that “effective regulation of joint activity requires awareness of and coordination with partners at many levels.”

According to Carroll, supporting awareness is a major issue for designing any type of collaborative system.  In his talk, he drew upon research in two domains – emergency response planning (developing and evaluating plans to evacuate a family from a flooded area) and information analysis (gathering and evaluating information to determine who likely suspects are and what they may be planning to do next).

An example of a higher-order activity awareness pattern, Carroll said, is that as people carrying out a collaborative task come to understand one another better, they are able to use shorter referring expressions and to coordinate speech turns better.

Another example, he added, is that as people work together and attain a higher level of activity awareness, they begin to “push” information to partners instead of offering it only when asked.

“This kind of awareness can make teams far more efficient,” Carroll said. “It also builds mutual trust among the members.”

Carroll and his collaborators, he said, are investigating multiple view visualization systems -- systems with online maps, calendars, social networks, affinity graphs and other digital representations.

“One interesting finding was that separating the map interactions into personal interactions with a personal map and public/coordinated interactions with a shared map allowed distributed teams to perform our emergency relief planning better in some ways than co-located teams,” Carroll said.
“It is still unusual to find cases where remote collaborations are more efficient than face-to-face collaborations.”

The research on activity awareness, Carroll said, could be useful to anyone who must make sense of distributed and complex data sets, especially emergency managers and intelligence agencies.







Last Updated September 29, 2011