Reasoning about tasks, activities and technology to support collaboration

Leon A. Watts, Andrew F. Monk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (SciVal)


An aspect of collaboration described as 'semi-synchronized activity' is discussed as a particular challenge for the task analysis (TA) of collaborative work. TA typically involves the decomposition of work systems into essentially independent component processes between which commodities (information or materials) pass. In collaborative work, people routinely violate the condition of independence by moving seemlessly in and out of synchronization with one another, allowing for both independent and varying levels of conjoint activity. The shift between joint and independent projects is not fixed but managed through more or less explicit awareness of the other people over time. A number of case studies of the effect of communication technologies in telemedical consultation are drawn upon to illustrate the relationship between awareness and synchronization in collaborative work. They show that an analysis of collaborative activity requires a consideration of: (1) the activities constituting work; (2) the interactions between participants required to carry out the activities; (3) who else has access to these activities besides the primary participants in the ongoing work; (4) the contemporaneity of activities; (5) the locations/environments in which the activities are carried out; and (6) the constraints that apply to accessibility acid participation within and between these environments. The Comms Usage Diagram is described as a framing notation incorporating these characteristics for a broad, communications-level analysis of collaborative activity. It shows how particular technologies relate to particular phases of work, indexing their effects to collaborative activities in those contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1583-1606
Number of pages24
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 1998


  • Collaborative work
  • Task analysis
  • Telecommunication
  • Telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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