Publication: From Technically Possible to Socially Natural Groupware

Many people believe that computers can support small teams collaborating over distance in real time. On the surface, current technology now makes this goal possible. We have systems that afford communication (e.g., text chat, digital voice and video) and systems that afford sharable artifacts (e.g., electronic whiteboards, shared applications). While the technology is functional, the resulting systems are not. Quite simply, most real-time groupware does not yet afford a socially natural setting for learning, for work, and for play. The solution is that we have to pay far more attention to the human factors necessary for effective groupware. To illustrate the path towards "socially natural" groupware, I describe how my group has used human factors in the evolutionary design of a shared groupware workspace. In particular, I discuss how our designs grew from our understanding the human factors of: 1) tight coupling and its role in intense collaborations; 2) loose coupling and how it helps coordinate both group and individual work; 3) casual interaction and how it helps people contact one another; and 4) seamless transitions and how it influences the design of an integrated work environment.




Saul Greenberg
University of Calgary
Carl Gutwin
University of Saskatchewan


Greenberg, S., Gutwin, C. 1998. From Technically Possible to Socially Natural Groupware. In Proceedings of the 9th NEC Research Symposium: The Human-centric Multimedia Community, Nara, Japan.


@inproceedings {477-from-technically-possible,
author= {Saul Greenberg and Carl Gutwin},
title= {From Technically Possible to Socially Natural Groupware},
booktitle= {Proceedings of the 9th NEC Research Symposium: The Human-centric Multimedia Community},
year= {1998},
address= {Nara, Japan}