Language efficiency and visual technology - Minimizing collaborative effort with visual information

Darren Gergle*, Robert E. Kraut, Susan R. Fussell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


When collaborators work on a physical task, seeing a common workspace transforms their language use and reduces their overall collaborative effort. This article shows how visual information can make communication more efficient. In an experiment, dyads collaborated on building a puzzle. They communicated without a shared visual space, using a shared space featuring immediately updated visual information, and using a shared space featuring delayed visual updating. Having the shared visual space helps collaborators understand the current state of their task and enables them to ground their conversations efficiently, as seen in the ways in which participants adapted their discourse processes to their level of shared visual information. These processes are associated with faster and better task performance. Delaying the visual update reduces benefits and degrades performance. The shared visual space is more useful when tasks are visually complex or when participants have no simple vocabulary for describing their environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-517
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Computer-supported collaborative work
  • Discourse
  • Shared visual space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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