by Nuno Guimarães
The research activities in the area of Computer Supported Cooperative Work at INESC emerged from the convergence of multiple research directions, namely User Interfaces, Hypermedia and Multimedia, and Distributed Systems. The research carried out at the Multimedia and Interaction Techniques group in this area has to be put in context with a number of different research efforts which are aggregated under a common umbrella, designated as Organisational Computing.
This broad area is currently instantiated in large project, called Orchestra (Organisational Change, Evolution, Structuring and Awareness). This project aims at developing a flexible platform to satisfy the requirements of current organisations and includes research and development efforts in the areas of distributed systems, information bases, workflow, communications, negotiation and decision, and social sciences.
In the context of the Organisational Computing framework, CSCW research plays the role of an auugmenting factor in technological support for organisational processes. The meaning of this statement is the following: processes like interpersonal, group communication, group decision and negotiation, which fall under the category of organisational informal processes, can and should be enhanced through the use of computer-based tools. With this objective in mind we are addressing specific issues in CSCW systems:
Group Decision Support Systems
The research and development in this area is based on the study and analysis of acknowledged methods and techniques for decision making, negotiation and facilitation, and on the design of computer-based systems to support those methods (for example, voting, brainstorming, Delphi, Nominal Group Technique). There are a number of relevant and open issues in this context. Some examples are:
The communication inside organisations is nowadays limited to raw messaging provided by electronic mail or conferencing facilities. The communication systems can be enhanced through several mechanisms like:
The most significant and winning example of distributed and large scale information system is clearly the World Wide Web. We see this system as a powerful infrastructure for information sharing, but also as a motivation for further innovation in the design of mechanisms for navigation in large information bases. Our approach can be summarized as an attempt to manage the uncertainty and flexibility of a world wide information base, through high level constructs that do not require static and rigid name systems, link managers, or heavy administration services.
Some of these efforts are documented in a set of reports and papers (some of which submitted recently) that are available to interested readers. Information about the ORCHESTRA project is also available. Send requests to nmginesc.