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It is always interesting to note the alternative meanings of a term, and collaboration is no exception. We take collaboration to mean working jointly with others, especially in an intellectual activity. It should be noted that collaboration has a secondary definition that most would consider to be perjorative, i.e. to assist or help an enemy. We might speculate that for some, the inclusion of computer assistance in the work effort reflects such an "enemy". Groupware is broadly defined as the technologies that support interpersonal collaboration -- see [33,18]. Activities can be synchronous or asynchronous, occur in single location or multiple locations, can be formal or informal processes, and the groups themselves can be highly structured or ad hoc. Groupware systems must be flexible enough to support various types of activities, or must be designated as supporting particular subsets of activity and group types.

At a more operational level, collaboration occurs in a variety of contexts. People collaborate in meetings. People collaborate through communications such as phone calls and mail notes. People collaborate through work on shared information objects -- documents, databases, designs, etc. Meetings can be supported by using meeting support software and/or videoconferencing systems. Computers play an increasingly large role in mediating communications between individuals. From electronic mail to electronic bulletin boards to voice annotation and speech production systems, computers increasingly play a role in mediation of communication. At a more sophisticated level, computers support shared information spaces such as whiteboards and systems of public and private windows in meeting support systems. Finally, computers have increasingly sophisticated writing tools that people can use when working together. These tools include versioning, commenting, author identification, etc. The tools for working together on shared information spaces include networks of documents, shared databases and shared design spaces.

Michael Spring
Fri Jan 31 13:59:00 EST 1997