Computer-supported cooperative work: History and focus

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Citation: Jonathan Grudin (1994) Computer-supported cooperative work: History and focus. IEEE Computer (RSS)
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): Computer-supported cooperative work: History and focus
Tagged: Computer Science (RSS) CSCW (RSS), Groupware (RSS)


Jonathan Grudin, a major voice in HCI and a leading voice in CSCW at that point, offers a 10-year retrospective on the development of CSCW more generally. His article's basic goal is place CSCW in relation to other work. Essentially, he argues that computing can be thought of a set of concentric circles. At the center is individuals served by research in CSCW and at the outside is organizations which is served by MIS researchers. Grudin argues that CSCW can be thought of as focused as something in between at the small group level but that the research itself involves people from the office automation level (one level of above CSCW at the team level) which had predated CSCW.

Grudin 1994 typology.svg

He also argues that groupware is more product and firm focused while CSCW is more academic and HCI focused and involves more social scientists. He argues that each of these differences, and the fact that CSCW is boundary spanning and bringing in people from a variety of places, had made work in CSCW difficult. He points to a tension between small-group versus systems approaches as one example.

Grudin also points out differences between US and European CSCW researcher arguing that the US work tends to be more empirical and product focus while the European work is more philosophically and theory driven.

Grudin argues that there are major arguments as to what groupware or CSCW applications even and offers a typology based on time versus places to discuss the differences between asynchronous versus synchronous and collocated versus distributed. He adds a "predictability" distinction to each category.

Grudin's leaves us with little in the way of concrete conclusions stateing that:

Some writers describe CSCW as an emerging field or discipline, but what we see today resembles a forum, an undisciplined marketplace of ideas, observations, issues, and technologies. We expect to find shared or overlapping interests, but we should anticipate differences in interests and priorities (25).

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

Grudin's article has been cited more then 480 times since it's publication more than 16 years ago, almost all within the CSCW literature.

See also: