From 27 until 29 February 2012 I had the great opportunity to join EUSSET symposium 2012 at Siegen University. EUSSET “is a networked organizational forum dedicated to the development of technological tools and infrastructures that incorporate a human-centred design perspective”.
As an early career researcher it was a great honour to meet about 35 leading CSCW researchers from all over Europe, the USA and China – many of them I met for the first time, e.g. Carla Simone, Mark Ackermann and Kjeild Schmidt.
I learned many interesting things during these three days and do not want to discuss the whole event.
The point I want to spread is rather to be considered on a meta or pragmatic level and not deadly serious: As from my perception ‘the CSCW researcher’ doesn’t like schematic graphics too much. During these three days we had quite a few group sessions and produced quite a few flip chart lists… but only two pictures. ;)
Thus, when a few days ago one of our PhD students asked me whether I could give him a pointer to some good summaries of CSCW (research) or perhaps even a graphic I did not have any idea what to tell him about the graphic. Of course there are various really good contributions that summarize CSCW. But having its roots in the 1980ies CSCW is a quite young discipline and I think the first generation of CSCW researchers have all their own ideas of what CSCW is. (If you want to deepen on this point start with the contributions of the three researchers above, add Liam Banon, Giorgio de Michelis, Volker Wulf and Dave Randall for a Europeen perspective and Paul Dourish, Jonathan Grudin, Gloria Mark, Wendy Kellogg and some others for a US perspective on CSCW. [This list is by no means complete])
To come back to the PhD student’s question. During our talk I remembered one of the two EUSSET pictures designed bei Jörg Behringer from SAP and me which give a good overview over what I would consider to be the core of CSCW (research). I want to briefly present and explain the picture in the following.
- CSCW aims to understand individuals (e.g. their motives) and their practices (i.e. how they work, how they interact).
- CSCW wants to support individuals and their practices with IT artifacts (or even better equipment).
- As CSCW design object both dimensions (and their interdependencies during the continous appropriation) have to be considered.
- To do so CSCW applies various, normally qualitative, research methods like ethnography.
- At the end the goal of CSCW should of course be to create valuable and transferable insights for individuals, companies and other researchers.
This is what I think is what CSCW research is about. What do you think?