Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/CSCW and the collaborative wiki platform

CSCW and the collaborative wiki platform

I have used wikis both within collaborative work environments and more recently in an online student environment. In work environments I’ve used them to communicate project requirements, processes, team accountability, and as a general repository for resources and assets.

They were very useful for quickly ramping new team members onto projects that were already mid-stream and to mitigate some of the repetitive process questions that are inevitable when new people join a company, especially if they were working remotely. They also had the benefit of providing team members, specifically engineers, with access to the learnings of others on current and past projects.

From a business perspective, the wiki platform was better at facilitating these learnings than face-face interaction because they offered a 1:many outcome, rather than the time-consuming and repetitive 1:1.

In this respect they were a time-saving tool, that ultimately saved a project money, through the two basic mechanisms of aggregation and synergy that make groups perform better than individuals (Carroll 2003). Synergy & aggregation in the form of engineering contribution, where learnings and solutions discovered by a team within one department, could be readily accessed by a team in another department, and in many instances improved upon.

Naturally the success of the wiki was dependent on the quality and consistency of contribution from team members and a taxonomy had to be agreed and adhered to across many disparate projects. This aligns with the input-process-output model that says the success of a group depends upon inputs that the group has to work with and the interaction among team members (Carroll, 2003).

It absolutely required coordination and common goals to maintain its efficacy and to minimize social loafing, where team members assume that their efforts are being pooled with the efforts of other team members and begin to work less hard (Carroll, 2003).

The fact that the wiki was open, had visible attribution, and was accessible to everyone in the company, including executives, helped to incentivize quality contribution. Group members are motivated to expend efforts and are discouraged from slacking off, knowing that others can see their input, evaluate their performance and position them as experts when compared to other less skilled members of the team (Carroll, 2003).

Cited Carroll, J. M. (2003). HCI Models, Theories, and Frameworks: Toward a Multidisciplinary Science (Interactive Technologies) Elsevier Science. Kindle Edition.