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G4. Workspace Awareness Embedded in Interactions To promote valuable awarenesses among colleagues acting in shared application “workspaces,” product teams can envision targeted cues in their functionality concepts that could signal the performance of specific operations and larger tasks. Examples from three knowledge work domains: A financial trader see his colleagues’ transactions appear in the books of his trading application. When he begins entering the attributes of a new trade, such as a security name, the roster automatically filters to show him recent trades with similar characteristics. It also displays the name of any traders in his firm that are simultaneously entering the same security into their own trade forms (see illustration). An architect working in her building modeling application sees distant portions of the model subtly “flash” as colleagues save changes to them. These visual notifications give her a real time overview of the frequency of others’ changes, as well as the potential for iconic understanding of the general shape of incoming modifications. A scientist, reviewing the progress of current experiments for a clinical study in her lab’s information management application, coincidently views which samples each lab technician is currently processing. Knowledge workers are often highly skilled at understanding how their own actions fit into the context of cooperative and collaborative activities in their organizations. Computers can have dramatic impacts on this understanding. For example, when interactive applications become a major focus in work practice, implicit visibility and communication (J1) that was once tied to performing specific actions can become hidden or entirely lost — unless computing tools have focused functionality that promotes these specific awarenesses. Beyond envisioning workspace awareness at the structural level of an entire application framework (C7), product teams can create concepts for specialized awareness cues in the context of individual functional areas and trajectories of action (B7, H3, J5). These targeted cues can become valuable means of offloading effort (E) that would otherwise be needed to communicate about (J) and keep track of others’ interactions in a data locale. When product teams do not actively consider how workers’ actions could be made usefully and meaningfully visible to other actors within their shared application environments, resulting products may leave users with the feeling of constantly “stepping on each others toes.” While an application framework may alert them to the general presence of others, without specific visibility into collaborators’ actions, users may find that they have difficulty planning work (D3), knowing when to contact colleagues (J4), establishing representational common ground (F1, J2), and preventing conflicts (C9, G3). Conversely, too much visibility into the actions of others can be distracting (D4) and can potentially lead to unwanted surveillance effects (A2, G7). See also: A, B5, C2, C4, C5, G, K, M1


Looking within your team’s individual functionality concepts, where might tailored cues about the actions of others provide meaning and value in certain cooperative work practices? What might these awarenesses feel like in practice? How might these cues reference or fit within your sketched larger approaches for workspace awareness across your computing tool’s various areas?

My trading tool has a lot of new features that keep me in the loop with other traders on my desk, all while I’m just focusing on my typical trading work...

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications for knowledge work:

Financial Trader

How do targeted individuals currently keep track of their colleagues’ actions as part of the work practices that your team is striving to mediate? How, specifically, do current forms of shared awareness promote the effective execution of loosely coordinated or truly collaborative work? How do they prevent conflicts?

If I’m on the phone and I start typing in a security name, it filters our recent deals to show me what other traders have done for that par�cular name and at what terms...

What breakdowns currently occur due to insufficient awareness? Could these problems present opportunities for your product? Where might the introduction of your team’s computing tool remove implicit and subtle awareness cues from targeted work practices? What larger design and technology trends could influence your ideas about how workers might remain appropriately aware of others’ actions within your sketched functionalities? How might your functionality concepts replace lost collaborative information, and potentially provide new and valuable awareness cues, as part of supporting certain knowledge work operations and larger tasks?

If I enter a security name that someone else on my desk is currently working, I get a message right there in the screen that keeps us from conflic�ng...

Poten�al Conflict

How might the standards set by your team’s application level workspace awareness features be applied to your sketches for more granular functionalities in support of particular scenarios? Which awareness situations could benefit from or require novel awareness cues that are substantially different than those found in the larger frameworks of your application concepts? How might they maintain a meaningful family resemblance? Who needs to see various cues? How might awareness information relate to individuals’ permissions and tailored views? Do your sketched cues provide sufficient value to warrant their potentially distracting impacts within focused, goal oriented functionalities?

It’s like that for a lot of different areas... Also Viewed By: Like if I’m looking at how much business we’ve done with another firm, it will let me know if anyone else is doing that too...

How long should specific awareness cues last? How might they be tied to longer term, stored histories for certain functions and interaction objects? What unwanted surveillance effects could unintentionally occur from broadcasting specific actions to other workers? Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design concepting could valuably inform your team’s application envisioning efforts?

Working through Screens (Tabloid Size)  

Working through Screens: 100 Ideas for Envisioning Powerful, Engaging, and Productive User Experiences in Knowledge Work This heavily illus...