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Conventions and Commitments in Distributed CSCW Groups

ABSTRACT

Conventions are necessary to establish in any recurrentcooperative arrangement. In electronic work, they are importantso as to regulate the use of shared objects. Based on empiricalresults from a long-term study of a group cooperating inelectronic work, I present examples showing that the group failedto develop normative convention behavior. These difficulties informing conventions can be attributed to a long list of factors:the lack of clear precedents, different perspectives among groupmembers, a flexible cooperation media, limited communication, thedesign process, and discontinuous cooperation. Further, I arguethat commitments to the conventions were difficult, due to theconventions not reaching an acceptance threshold, uneven payoffs,and weak social influences. The empirical results call for aspecific set of awareness information requirements to promoteactive learning about the group activity in order to support thearticulation of conventions. The requirements focus on the roleof feedback as a powerful mechanism for shaping and learningabout group behavior.