Using visual information for grounding and awareness in collaborative tasks

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


When pairs work together on a physical task, seeing a common workspace facilitates communication and benefits performance.Whenmediating such activities, however, the choice of technology can transform the visual information in ways that impact critical coordination processes. In this article we examine two coordination processes that are impacted by visual information - situation awareness and conversational grounding - which are theoretically distinct but often confounded in empirical research. We present three empirical studies that demonstrate how shared visual information supports collaboration through these two distinct routes. We also address how partiular features of visual information interact with features of the task to influence situation awareness and conversational grounding, and further demonstrate how these features affect conversation and coordination. Experiment 1 manipulates the immediacy of the visual information and shows that immediate visual feedback facilitates collaboration by improving both situation awareness and conversational grounding. In Experiment 2, by misaligning the perspective through which the Worker and Helper see the work area we disrupt the ability of visual feedback to support conversationl grounding but not situation awareness. The findings demonstrate that visual information supports the central mechanism of conversational grounding. Experiment 3 disrupts the ability of visual feedback to support situation awareness by reducing the size of the common viewing area. The findings suggest that visual information independently supports both situation awareness and conversational grounding. We conclude with a general discussion of the results and their implications for theory development and the future design of collaborative technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-39
Number of pages39
JournalHuman-Computer Interaction
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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