[Research] Mutual awareness and shared context

My reading notes onva very interesting paper: Salembier, P. & Zouinar, M. (2004) Intelligibilité mutuelle et contexte partagé. Inspirations conceptuelles et réductions technologiques, @CTIVITES, n°2, Vol. 1. The authors describes the fundamentals elements of the "situated action" approach (and its main sources of inspiration : ethnomethodology).

Introduction - most of the theories used in CSCW appeared "against" the cognivist paradigm - CSCW framework inspired mostly by situated action (garfinkel -> suchman) + activity theory (engeström) + distributed cognition (hutchins) - suchman criticized the cognitivist paradigm: she questioned the notion of internal representation, the functional role of plans are too limited to structure the control of action, there should be more emphasis on context - importance of ethnomethodology in suchman's work: emphasis put on mutual intelligibility and environments resources.

Control of the activity - unlike classical cognitive psychology (which state that the actor is in charge of controlling the actions), the 'situated action' theory states that the actor shares this control with artefacts (technological or organisational) and people: - 3 kinds of artefacts : objects (1. their physical affordance (gibson) 2. environment spatial organisation: it gives information about the state of the process (kirsh)), prescritpion (procedures), other agents (then the control is operated through explicit demands (direct or indirect communication acts)) or non-intentional. - coordination is the production of mutual intelligibility + verification of the production of this mutual intelligibility. The best condition is co-presence (because everybody access the same resources). - coordination needs: agents have to interprete what's happening (actions, traces, spatial arrangements of objects) so they need a specific knowledge for this, agents needs to be available, agents needs to determine which information should be transmitted

Accountability - The concept of “accountability” (Garfinkel 1967) is central to ethnomethodology and then CSCW - accountability = observable-and-reportable, i.e. available to members as situated practices of looking-and-telling. Being accountable, people’s actions and statements are inevitably subject to evaluation by others. By observing the social situations in which they find themselves, people continuously analyze the actions of others for their sense. People then design their own actions in a situation based in part on their emerging analyses or “accounts” of what the other people on the scene are doing. - in CSCW accountability is represented by the concept of "mutual awareness", awareness = monitoring other's + displaying one's activity

Use if shared context - having a shared context allows: efficient interaction processes, action coordination, joint problem solving, interaction regulation - discussion of the "common ground" notion, comes from psycholinguistics (Clark), for this framwork, sharing information needs having the same (or compatible) knowledge and beliefs. -> Mutual knowledge: some theorists (Clark; Schaffer) argue that mutual knowledge of some type is require (A and B mutually know p) Sperber and Wilson claims that it's not possible because it's a kind of infinite regress (hence not cognitively possible):

A and B mutually know p: A knows p B knows p A knows that B knows p B knows that A knows p A knows that B knows that A knows p B knows that A knows that B knows p ad infinitum

- Schmidt proposes a distinction between "Mutual" and "reciprocal"

Mutual manifestness - notion by (Sperber and Wilson 1988) to adress the pb of the "common ground" infinite regression, not cognitively possible, then the hypothesis of "Mutual knowledge" cannot be validated. - Sperber and Wilson states that human communication needs a shared knowledge but they describe a notion weaker than Clark's common ground. - Sperber and Wilson 1988: "A fact is manifest to an individual at a given time if and only if he is capable at that time of representing it mentally and accepting its representation as true or probably true" - various degree of manifestness depending on cognitive and perceptual skills: a phone rings in a room where is A; at the same time a car pass by in the street: the ring is more manifest than the car's noise. - Drawing from this notion of "mutual manifestness", Sperber and Wilson define the concept of "cognitive environment": "a cognitive environment of an individual is a set of facts that are manifest to him" (him = the individual): all the fact the individual can perceive and infer. Certain facts may be more manifest than others. For instance, facts that are relevant to an agent's goals are more manifest to her/him than others. - The same facts may be manifest in the cognitive environment of two people. In this case, these individuals share a cognitive environment which represents all the facts that they are capable of perceiving and/or inferring: "Mutual Cognitive Environment". In this environment every fact is mutually manifest. Thus, in a mutual cognitive environment, the identity of agents who share it is mutually manifest. For example, in an environment (for example a room) in which a telephone has just rung, it will be mutually manifest for the agents who share this environment that the phone has just rung. As in the individual case, events may be also more or less mutually manifest. In other words, there are degrees of mutual manifestness of events. The degree or level of mutual manifestness of events depends also on the perceptual and cognitive abilities of individuals and on the situation. In the model, Shared Context is viewed as a sub-set of events that are mutually manifest to a set of agents in a given environment. Shared Context can be considered as a sub-set of the MCE (some elements which are actually parts of the MCE will not be considered as relevant in the context of the work situation : for example the fact that an identified agent wears blue trousers can be manifest, but as far as we know this has little to do with the task at hand (which is, controlling the aircraft)-, and thus will not be taken into account). - The point is hence to identify, among all the manifest elements that happen in the situation, which are those that should be considered by the actors.