Research alert

XI.5 September + October 2004
Page: 11
Digital Citation

Modeling individual and collaborative construction of jigsaws

Hilary Johnson, Joanne Hyde

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The core concern of our research is how to represent, model, and understand collaborative tasks, and use the resulting models to develop systems to support collaboration. Recent years have seen an overwhelming interest in how people collaborate and how collaborative working might be supported. There have also been significant advances in technology and the emergence of a range of collaborative systems to support group work. For technology to support collaboration, a better understanding of group and organizational work is needed.

To address our research goals, we have undertaken small-scale empirical studies in which two participants—individually and collaboratively—constructed jigsaws. The results of the studies have been used to provide a research vehicle for generating requirements for approaches to modeling collaboration and collaborative tasks, extending an existing task-analytic approach (Task Knowledge Structures, TKS), and providing requirements for a computer-based virtual jigsaw.

The first research question relates to whether there were any individual and collaborative differences between the participants in how they constructed the jigsaws. In the individual phase, Participant 1 demonstrated a more structured approach: The frame was completed first, pieces were then attached to the frame, and completion proceeded from the top down. Participant 2 was less structured and more opportunistic: Pieces were picked up and considered, and were either placed in the jigsaw or categorized and sorted in a number of ways for later use. As with participant 1, more of the jigsaw was completed at the top than at the bottom.

In the collaborative phase, the interesting question was whether the participants would change their individual approach. At the start of the activity there was negotiation about how they would approach the task and what they each should do. Participant 1's behavior was different; his approach was much less strict, with pieces being placed within the frame before the frame was complete. Participant 2 also adopted a different approach by working on the focal point of the jigsaw, in his own individual working space outside of the jigsaw. A significant collaboration is where the frame is opened to allow the dinosaur or middle section to be slid into the frame.

Figure 1.

It is clear from our analysis of the studies that there are at least two different kinds of knowledge utilized in collaborative settings: how to collaborate and how to undertake the specific collaborative task. These different kinds of knowledge lead to different requirements for a computer-based virtual jigsaw.

Further empirical studies are planned in different domains with different characteristics. The requirements for a computer jigsaw are currently being used by our collaborators for the design of a virtual jigsaw. The links between the task models and the virtual jigsaw will be exploited to enable progress towards developing principles and a user interface design environment, for the construction of collaborative systems.

This work was funded by EPSRC grants Collaborative Working Environments (GR/M83162), and Modeling multiple and collaborative work tasks: Integrating TKS and ICS (GR/M97305/01).

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Hilary Johnson
University of Bath, UK

Joanne Hyde
University of Bath, UK

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This abstract is from a recent issue or forthcoming issue of ACM's Transactions of Computer Human Interaction (ToCHI). It is included here to alert interactions readers to what research is being done in the field of Computer Human Interaction. The complete papers, when published, can be found in ACM's Digital Library at

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F1Figure 1. Status of the collaborative jigsaw construction at the sixth minute after the dinosaur has been included.

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