University of Oulu

From tailoring to appropriation support: Negotiating groupware usage

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Author: Pipek, Volkmar1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Information Processing Science
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2005
Publish Date: 2005-01-21
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Raahensali (Auditorium L10), Linnanmaa, on February 1st, 2005, at 12 noon.
Reviewer: Associate Professor Yvonne Dittrich
Associate Professor Anders Mørch


This thesis contributes to the field of collaborative information systems and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW). It extends the notion of technological support for design activities "in use" beyond providing the flexibility to tailor collaborative software, to provide means to support the appropriation process of these tools in their application fields.

Two long-term studies on the evolution of usages of collaborative software in a German authority and in a network of freelancers in the field of consulting form the foundation of this work. Based on the experience there, it was possible to identify user activities that drive the appropriation process and to establish a perspective on the appropriation of a Groupware as a social process. Appropriation can be described as a collaborative effort of end users, who perform "appropriation activities" to make sense of the software in their work context. Besides activities to configure the software to fit into the technological, organisational and individual work context of the users ('Tailoring'), there is a larger area of technology-related communication, demonstration and negotiation activities aimed at establishing a shared understanding of how a software artefact works and what it can contribute to the shared work context. The mutual shaping of the technology and organisational contexts resemble an ongoing design process that end users perform largely without any involvement of professional developers.

This perspective is the guiding line for developing means for "Appropriation Support", i.e., means to support the appropriation activities that end users perform. To inform the design of appropriation support measures and functions, current approaches that capture the collaborative dimensions of tailoring, and the necessities of 'discourse ergonomics' for technology-related online communication are explored. The trend to work with a tool 'infrastructure' instead of monolithic Groupware tools is a complicating yet important secondary consideration here, since it demonstrates the necessity to offer support 'beyond one tool' to support a use-oriented perspective on appropriation.

The resulting idea of 'Use Discourse Environments' as a main concept for appropriation support which captures the activities of communication, demonstration and negotiation as well as the activity of tailoring (where possible) was implemented and evaluated in two prototypes that refer to the application fields of the initial studies. The idea of integrating online discourse, tool representations and tailoring facilities served as a guideline for the use discourse both in an event notification service as well as in the 'Online Future Workshop' that addressed a shared inter-organisational software development infrastructure. Based on the evaluations, design recommendations for appropriation support are made, and the problematic nature of appropriation activities as 'infrastructural work' versus the 'productive work' that end users consider their main area of work is addressed. The thesis concludes with a vision of collaborative software tools that do not only provide their original services, but also address end users as a 'virtual community of technology practice'.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
ISSN-E: 1796-220X
ISBN: 951-42-7630-2
ISBN Print: 951-427629-9
Issue: 430
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2005. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.