phd topic : Spatial Awareness and Collaborative Problem Solving in Mobile Settings

Bookmarklets | MOVABLE TYPE At CRAFT, we are concerned Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (CSCL). This term refers to "situations in which two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together" (Dillenbourg, 1999). One research track at CRAFT is hence to study collaboration, and the peculiar processes that occur when people are involved in joint activities. To meet this end, we first design computer supported environment and we then use social and cognitive psychology methodologies to evaluate the potential learning gains as well as how using such tools modify the cognitives processes involved during collaboration. It is also be noticed that Mobile Learning (i.e. the use of mobiles devices for CSCL) is the technology we target. The underlying question is hence to examine the added value of using mobile devices.

In this context, my project deals with how people use space and spatial features to solve problem collaboratively in mobile settings. There is a very wide range of literature concerning how people rely on space during social interactions. For instance, proxmics states that distance between people is a marker that both expresses the kind of interaction that occurs and reveals the social relationships between the interactants (Hall, 1966). Another topic the literature about spatiality addresses is the relationships between people and artifacts located in the vicinity of the participants of a social interaction. Indeed, when a speaker talks about an object to his hearer, they are involved in a collaborative process termed referential communication (Krauss and Weinheimer, 1966). Dealing with the topic of human activity, the notion of Social Navigation is also of interest. According to Dourish and Chalmer's seminal paper (1994), it describes situations in which a user's navigation through an information space is guided and structured by the activities of others within that space.

In addition, space impacts on how people solve problem collaboratively. Former experiments revealed very interesting facts about that topic :

- Space modifies communication patterns (Dillenbourg and Traum, 1997) - People rely on space for division of labor (Dillenbourg and Traum, 1997) - Space is used for coordination (Dillenbourg and Traum, 1997) - Space allows to narrow down the referential context (Ott and Dillenbourg, 2002) - Space can improve the performance of the task (Nova et al., 2003) - People could used space to infer their partners's strategies.(Nova et al., 2003)

Nowadays, information about space, and location in particular are available on lots of devices like mobile phones, PDA and so on. We would like to investigate the added values of giving people information about their physical location as well as other contextual cues. Location-aware systems take advantage of the users change of location to aid the user in certain tasks. The actual utility of context-awareness in mobile systems has been demonstrated in a wide range of application examples, in obvious domains such as fieldwork and tourism, as well as in emerging areas like mobile gaming. However, it appears that most of the applications are devoted to individual activities or just cooperative activities. Just few systems indeed supports joint and collaborative tasks.

The idea of this research project is to find a specific domain of application in which people collaborate on a joint project and need spatial information to achieve their goals. First, we would like to develop an application that could help them by providing spatial information. Then we would like to test the effectivemess of this application. Experimental studies will be conducted in order to study the cogntive impacts of those tools.

The research question is hence to study how modelling the partner's spatial position with mobile devices impacts on collaboration : performance ? Division of labor ? Understanding of the task ? Interactions ? This project aims to examinate the socio-cognitive roles of space in collaborative teams using mobile technologies.


Dillenbourg, P. & Traum D. (1997) The role of a whiteboard in a distributed cognitive system. Swiss workshop on collaborative and distributed systems. Lausanne, May 1st 1997.

Dillenbourg P. (1999) What do you mean by collaborative leraning?. In P. Dillenbourg (Ed) Collaborative-learning: Cognitive and Computational Approaches. (pp.1-19). Oxford: Elsevier.

Hall, E.T. (1966). The Hidden Dimension : Man's Use of Space in Public and Private. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

Krauss, R. M. & Weinheimer, S. (1966). Concurrent feedback, confirmation, and the encoding of referents in verbal communication. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4 (3), 343-346.

Nova N., Wehrle, T., Goslin, J., Bourquin, Y. & Dillenbourg, P. (2003). The Impacts of Awareness Tools on Mutual Modelling in a Collaborative Video-Game. In J. Favela and D. Decouchant (Eds.), Proceedings of the 9th International Workshop on Groupware, Autrans France, September 2003, pp. 99-108.

Ott, D. and Dillenbourg, P. (2001). Using Proximity and View Awareness to Reduce Referential Ambiguity in a Shared 3D Virtual Environment. Proceedings of CSCL 2001, Boulder, Colorado.