Chapter 2

Collaboration as an
Information Processing Activity

In most intellectual collaborations, the work of the group is ultimately focused in the production of some concrete product that constitutes successful completion of the project. Although groups differ significantly in their size, duration, the complexity of the products they produce, and the ways they go about doing their work, they also show surprising similarities in many of their activities, such as developing a body of shared knowledge about the task, using that knowledge to develop a plan of action, and, in turn, using the plan to guide their work. In this chapter, I illustrate both the diversity among collaborative groups as well as their similarity with respect to the types of information they use and produce.

The chapter is divided into two sections. First, three different collaborations are described to illustrate the range of behaviors commonly found in collaborative groups and to ground the discussion in concrete detail. Second, a simple information flow model is discussed; it describes the flow of information from one type to another, as concepts expressed in one form are transformed into a different form.

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