Supporting Situation Awareness and Workspace Awareness in Co-located Collaborative Systems Involving Dynamic Data
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Co-located technologies can provide digital functionality to support collaborative work for multiple users in the same physical space. For example, digital tabletop computers — large interactive tables that allow users to directly interact with the content — can provide the most up-to-date map information while users can work together face-to-face. Combinations of interactive devices, large and small, can also be used together in a multi-device environment to support collaborative work of large groups. This environment allows individuals to utilize different networked devices. In some co-located group work, integrating automation into the available technologies can provide benefits such as automatically switching between different data views or updating map information based on underlying changes in deployed field agents’ locations. However, dynamic changes in the system state can create confusion for users and lead to low situation awareness. Furthermore, with the large size of a tabletop system or with multiple devices being used in the workspace, users may not be able to observe collaborators’ actions due to physical separations between users. Consequently, workspace awareness — knowledge of collaborators’ up-to-the-moment actions — can be difficult to maintain. As a result, users may be frustrated, and the collaboration may become inefficient or ineffective. The current tabletop applications involving dynamic data focus on interaction and information sharing techniques for collaboration rather than providing situation awareness support. Moreover, the situation awareness literature focuses primarily on single-user applications, whereas, the literature in workspace awareness primarily focuses on remote collaborative work. The aim of this dissertation was in supporting situation awareness of system-automated dynamic changes and workspace awareness of collaborators’ actions. The first study (Timeline Study) presented in this dissertation used tabletop systems to investigate supporting situation awareness of automated changes and workspace awareness, and the second study (Callout Bubble Study) followed up to further investigate workspace awareness support in the context of multi-device classrooms. Digital tabletop computers are increasingly being used for complex domains involving dynamic data, such as coastal surveillance and emergency response. Maintaining situation awareness of these changes driven by the system is crucial for quick and appropriate response when problems arise. However, distractors in the environment can make users miss the changes and negatively impact their situation awareness, e.g., the large size of the table and conversations with team members. As interactive event timelines have been shown to improve response time and decision accuracy after interruptions, in this dissertation they were adapted to the context of collaborative tabletop applications to address the lack of situation awareness due to dynamic changes. A user study was conducted to understand design factors related to the adaption and their impacts on situation awareness and workspace awareness. The Callout Bubble Study investigated workspace awareness support for multi-device classrooms, where students were co-located with their personal devices and were connected through a large shared virtual canvas. This context was chosen due to the environment’s ability to support work in large groups and the increasing prevalence of individual devices in co-located collaborative workspaces. By studying another co-located context, this research also sought to combine the lessons learned and provide a set of more generalized design recommendations for co-located technologies. Existing work on workspace awareness focuses on remote collaboration; however, the co-located users may not need all the information beneficial for remote work. This study aimed to balance awareness and distraction to improve students’ workspace awareness maintenance while minimizing distraction to their learning. A Callout Bubble was designed to augment students’ interactions in the shared online workspace, and a field study was conducted to understand how it impacted the students’ collaboration behaviour. Overall, the research presented in this dissertation aimed to investigate information visualizations for supporting situation awareness and workspace awareness in co-located collaborative environments. The contributions included the design of an interactive event timeline and an investigation of how the control placement (how many timelines and where they should be located) and feedback location (whether to display feedback to the group or to individuals when users interact with timelines) factors affected situation awareness. The empirical results revealed that individual timelines were more effective in facilitating situation awareness maintenance and the timelines were used mainly for perceiving new changes. Furthermore, this dissertation contributed in the design of a workspace awareness cue, Callout Bubble. The field study revealed that Callout Bubbles were effective in improving students’ coordination and self-monitoring behaviours, which in turn reduced teachers’ workloads. The dissertation provided overall design lessons learned for supporting awareness in co-located collaborative environments.