Awareness must be matched to appropriate tasks

Coming to the wrong decision quickly:Â why awareness tools must be matched with appropriate tasks by A. Espinosa and J. Cadiz and L. Rico-Gutierrez and R. Kraut and W. Scherlis and G. Lautenbacher, CHI 2000. The paper underlines the importance of matching the features of an awareness tool with a workgroup's tasks and goals.

Although the results obtained provide some encouraging evidence about the benefits of awareness tool use, they also make evident how the availability of such tools can be more of a distraction when available but not properly used. (...) while the awareness tool seems to have contributed to a more efficient division of labor, the resulting reduced overlap in documents read by team members seems to result in a loss of common ground, thus foregoing the benefits of shared mental model formation. (...) Also, consistent with the literature on groups, it is evident from our results that awareness tools need to be matched to appropriate tasks [18, 19]. The primary focus of our awareness tool was helping teams to solve a problem quickly. This is precisely what the tool did in our experiment. (...) the features implemented in our awareness tool are adequate for a divergent problem in which there is no apparent right solution, and in which reaching a unified team solution is important. Strategic planning, sports team strategies, surgical teams in the operating room, and economic planning committees are examples of situations in which awareness tools of this type can help.. However, in order to provide support for problems in which a correct solution does exist, different types of awareness information would have to be presented to the user. This highlights the all familiar tradeoff between general awareness tools that provide a little help for many types of tasks, and specific awareness tools that significantly help only one type of task. It also highlights the need to find the optimal amount and type of awareness information to make available without creating unnecessary distractions and information overload.

Quoted references: 18. McGrath, J. Groups: Interaction and Performance, Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1984. 19. McGrath, J. and Hollingshead, A. Groups Interacting With Technology, SCalifornia, 1994.

Why do I blog this? this five years old paper is very relevant to my current research about location-awareness tool in mobile collaboration. Even though it deals with virtual environments, it raises very relevant problems related to awareness efficiency that I am also dealing with in Catchbob!.