Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/CSCW and Wikibook - A Successful Example of Distributed Collaboration

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Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) is a growing area of HCI. This sub-field of HCI looks at building and evaluating tools that will help dispersed groups more successfully accomplish their joint work. The globalization of the economy has resulted in companies (and their respective workers) being distributed all over the world. Often times there are people working on the same project who are not even on the same continent. To be sure this poses some issues as to how these groups can effectively collaborate and work together. Research into CSCW is largely based on social psychology research. One of the factors that has been noted to detract from dispersed group collaboration is that of social loafing. Social loafing refers to the tendency for those in groups to work less hard as an individual because they view their contributions as being less important as they are part of a collective. This decreases individual motivation and thus decreases individual output. Group projects in which the deliverable is one particular report or item lends itself to social loafing. Each member is part of one collective deliverable; the communication for which is generally over email, or cloud based sharing documents. In essence, this one "group" deliverable could be completed by just one of the group members; there is no benefit or requirement for collaboration. The risk for social loafing is rather high in these situations. Wikibooks, however, is a much better platform for dispersed group collaboration that aids in insulating against issues like social loafing. Wikibooks is a collective of postings made by a group of people. This collective of postings in essence creates a "book". It could be argued that there is indeed "one" deliverable, the "book" - but the "book" would not exist, there would not be chapters without the contribution of each and every group member. In this way it is an individual activity in that each group member has an important piece to contribute, but the sum of all those contributions creates an even greater whole. Because there is an individualist piece to creating a wikibook, this helps prevent social loafing - individual motivation is increased which increases individual output and the result is a myriad of productive postings. Clearly wikibooks is an excellent example of CSCW.