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Effects of awareness on coordination in collaborative information seeking



Communication and coordination are considered essential components of successful collaborations, and provision of awareness is a highly valuable feature of a collaborative information seeking (CIS) system. In this article, we investigate how providing different kinds of awareness support affects people's coordination behavior in a CIS task, as reflected by the communication that took place between them. We describe a laboratory study with 84 participants in 42 pairs with an experimental CIS system. These participants were brought to the laboratory for two separate sessions and given two exploratory search tasks. They were randomly assigned to one of the three systems, defined by the kind of awareness support provided. We analyzed the messages exchanged between the participants of each team by coding them for their coordination attributes. With this coding, we show how the participants employed different kinds of coordination during the study. Using qualitative and quantitative analyses, we demonstrate that the teams with no awareness, or with only personal awareness support, needed to spend more time and effort doing coordination than those with proper group awareness support. We argue that appropriate and adequate awareness support is essential for a CIS system for reducing coordination costs and keeping the collaborators well coordinated for a productive collaboration. The findings have implications for system designers as well as cognitive scientists and CIS researchers in general.