Computer Supported Cooperative Work

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As Computer Supported Cooperative Work or Computer Supported Collaborative Work ( CSCW , German  computer-based or computer-based group work ) is an interdisciplinary research field of computer science , sociology , psychology , anthropology , economics computer science , economics , media studies referred and various other disciplines that deals with group work and cooperation and deals with the information and communication technologies supporting group work; the central research subjects of the CSCW are the cooperation between people and their supportability with computers .

Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) is the name of the research area that examines on an interdisciplinary basis how individuals work together in work groups or teams and how they can be supported by information and communication technology. The aim of all efforts in the CSCW area is to investigate group processes using all available means of information and communication technology and thereby to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of group work. The term Smart Collaboration puts the focus on knowledge-intensive cooperation processes . It thus establishes a connection to the interdisciplinary field of knowledge management . In more recent developments, the discipline has also turned to communication and cooperation scenarios beyond the world of work (e.g. online communities in the leisure and home sector).

The aids for cooperation within groups and teams are called groupware (for weakly structured work processes) or workflow management systems (for strongly structured work processes); this includes both hardware (e.g. cameras, displays) and software .

In research on CSCW, three closely related research areas are distinguished (according to Hasenkamp 1994):

  • developing an understanding of collaboration and coordination
  • the development of concepts and tools to support processes involving the division of labor
  • evaluating these concepts and tools

Colloquially, the terms CSCW, groupware and workgroup computing are often used synonymously.


The term CSCW was coined in 1984 by Irene Greif and Paul Cashman at a workshop at Endicott House (MA).

The first international conference took place in Austin , Texas in 1986 (CSCW '86). The date and location of the next CSCW can be found on the official website.

In the odd years, the ECSCW (European Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work) is organized in Europe:

The conference papers are available online.

The beginnings of CSCW research go back to work from the early 1980s, which is also known as the euphoric phase .

At the end of the 80s, there was disillusionment due to a lack of acceptance; this time is also known as the hangover phase .

In the 1990s, the pragmatic phase began, in the course of which practicable and usable solutions were developed that rely less on the automation of cooperation processes and more on flexible support.

A variant of the CSCW approach is Computer-Supported Cooperative Learning (CSCL).

System categories

There are different types of systems. Basically, these are divided into the following types:

Conference systems

Conference systems are designed so that several participants, who are mostly in distant locations, can discuss a common problem. Information and document access enables all participants to view information. Most of the time, anonymity is guaranteed as a feature in such systems , so that, for example, voting can take place anonymously.

Conference systems can be divided into 3 categories:

  • Conference center:

The conference system is located centrally, usually in a room or office. Special audiovisual tools enable good presentation technique and information processing. It should also be possible to transfer documents.

  • Teleconferencing:

This type of conference is the easiest to use or set up, as it can be set up as a telephone conference between several listeners via ISDN, for example . Distributed video conferences are also possible in this sector .

  • Electronic meeting systems:

Electronic meeting systems (EMS) enable synchronous or asynchronous interaction between the meeting participants, which is supported and structured by specific tools such as brainstorming, voting or discussions. Meetings are structured and controlled by a moderator using an agenda. Posts are usually anonymized. Results automatically logged. For synchronous meetings, EMS are often supplemented by telephone conferences or web conferences (screen sharing).

  • Computer conferences:

Computer conferences enable distributed asynchronous interaction between the individual participants. Individual chat rooms can be set up for different communities of interest , in which the group participants can exchange ideas. The best known type of computer conference is probably Internet usenet news .

Multi-user editors

Multi-user editors refer to systems that enable the simultaneous (synchronous) and / or time-shifted (asynchronous) editing of texts, images or other content by several users. While synchronous systems work in particular with the technology of a shared work area (shared view) according to the WYSIWIS ( What You See Is What I See ) principle, asynchronous systems support cooperation in particular through comments (annotations) and the traceability of changes through versioning.

Examples of synchronous multi-user editors are so-called interactive whiteboards , editors such as Subethaedit or the online office applications from Google Drive . An example of an asynchronous multi-user editor is the MediaWiki editor used to create this text .

The focus of multi-user editors is (status: 2007) on the creation of texts. However, software is now available with which other types of media can be created and modified in cooperation, for example openCanvas 1.1b or other paint chat applications for synchronous creation of images. Software solutions already exist for asynchronous video creation.

One area of ​​application is collaborative writing .


Electronic documents that contain links ( hyperlinks ) to other media such as graphics, sound or video. They enable multimedia information presentations and access by means of links ...

Coordination systems

They enable the individual participants in a group to coordinate the steps required to solve a task. They model the data flow, the function, the interaction or the communication within an organizational structure. These systems form a basis and have a large number of modules that support networkers in developing and managing a network.

Space-time matrix

The time-space matrix (CSCW matrix according to Johansen) represents the first classification approach of the CSCW tools. It is the most well-known classification and illustrates the different challenges that can be overcome by computer-aided group work. This applies with regard to space and time: Does the cooperation take place in one place or the participants are in different places or the participants work synchronously (at the same time) or asynchronously (at different times).

The space-time matrix

If the group members are in the same place at the same time, one speaks of a face-to-face interaction. This type of interaction can be supported, for example, by computer-aided session moderation, presentation software or a projector (coll.: "Beamer").

You can work continuously by staggered work . A group appointment calendar or a project management system can help here.

However, if the team is working together at different locations at the same time, tools such as B. Instant messaging and screen sharing can be used or a telephone / video conference can be set up.

If the team members are in different locations and work at different times, e-mail systems, blogs , bulletin boards , version management or wikis are used to communicate and coordinate.

Workgroup and workflow computing

The second possible classification is the distinction between workgroup computing and workflow computing . The following table provides an overview of the characteristics and differences between the two deployment concepts.

Workgroup computing Workflow computing
Coordination model Solving a common problem Division and solution of sub-problems
Number of participants Low High
Spatial distribution of those involved In one place / in different places In one place / in different places
Temporal distribution At the same time / at different times So far: at different times
Degree of structuring of the tasks Medium / low So far: high
Repetition frequency Medium / low So far: high
Importance of organizational rules Low High
Organizational reference group Organization-wide processes
Integration in the overall organization So far: low Yes
Connection to company information processing So far: no Partly
Primary goal So far: flexibility So far: efficiency
Active control and tracking of work progress So far: no Yes

With this classification approach, however, it must be noted that despite the theoretical separation into workgroup and workflow computing, both concepts are very closely linked.

Workgroup computing

Workgroup computing means supporting team or group work that requires a high degree of cooperation. The focus is on communication, coordination and the joint processing of challenges for the fulfillment of a task. The group members can work geographically and temporally independently of each other. Special tools are required to make this possible. These tools are commonly referred to as groupware . The term social software is also often used for internet-based groupware .

Groupware describes the combination of different software that enables computer-aided group work. The focus is not on the division of labor, but on the joint provision of services. For example, several people can create a common document at the same time. The software takes over the coordination of the group members.

Workgroup computing supports three basic areas: computer-aided meetings , tele-collaboration and information sharing .

Computer-aided meetings

The aim of computer-aided sessions is to increase the efficiency of sessions. The potential of cooperation is better exploited and thus higher productivity is achieved.

This is achieved through various options that virtual work brings with it. For example, contributions to a collaborative solution can be anonymized. Such anonymity generally leads to increased openness in hierarchical organizations.

In addition, through the use of computer-aided sessions, work can be carried out in parallel, which significantly increases the productivity of a large group. Significant time reductions compared to conventional meetings can be achieved, and larger groups are made possible, since all members can work on a document at the same time. At the same time, greater participation and more democratic decision-making processes are achieved.


The term tele-cooperation means supporting the cooperation of people, regardless of their location. It does not matter whether the collaboration is synchronous or asynchronous . Location-independent cooperation can be made possible, for example, by e-mail services, telephone and video conferences or virtual communities .

Information sharing

Another important component of workgroup computing is information sharing. It offers the possibility to exchange and share information and data. The group members involved access a community environment. It is not only possible to exchange information, but also to create or edit it jointly. Well-known examples from everyday life are Google Drive , Dropbox or private wikis .

Workflow computing

Workflow computing places the workflow as such at the center of computer-aided group work. The concept describes the coordination of activities based on the division of labor and the dynamic flow of processes. The focus here is consequently not on solving a common task, but rather on coordinating the successive subtasks. So the technical support does not take place with the interaction of a group, but with work processes and the associated flow of information. This reduces throughput times for digital goods or general processes. Work progress can be automated and, above all, controlled through workflow computing. That is why the handling of processes is faster, more reliable and without media discontinuity .

See also


  • Michael Bächle, Arthur Kolb: Introduction to business informatics. 2nd, updated and expanded edition. Oldenbourg, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-486-70241-5 .
  • Uwe M. Borghoff , Johann H. Schlichter: Computer-aided group work. An introduction to distributed applications. 2nd, completely revised and expanded edition. Springer, Berlin et al. 1998, ISBN 3-540-62873-8 .
  • Cora Burger: Groupware. Cooperation support for distributed applications. dpunkt-Verlag for digital technology, Heidelberg 1997, ISBN 3-920993-60-8 .
  • Roland Gabriel , Friedrich Knittel, Holger Taday, Ane-Kristin Reif-Mosel: Computer-aided information and communication systems in companies. Technologies, applications, design concepts. 2nd, completely revised and expanded edition. Springer, Berlin et al. 2002, ISBN 3-540-66513-7 .
  • Tom Gross, Michael Koch : Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. Interactive media to support teams and communities. Oldenbourg, Munich et al. 2007, ISBN 3-486-58000-0 .
  • Heiko Häckelmann, Hans Joachim Petzold, Susanne Strahringer : communication systems. Technology and applications. Springer, Berlin et al. 2000, ISBN 3-540-67496-9 .
  • Ulrich Hasenkamp, Stefan Kirn , Michael Syring (Eds.): Computer Supported Cooperative Work. CSCW. Information systems for decentralized corporate structures. Addison-Wesley, Bonn a. a. 1994, ISBN 3-89319-648-X .
  • Kai Riemer, Susanne Strahringer (Ed.): ECollaboration (= HMD. Praxis der Wirtschaftsinformatik. Vol. 46, H. 267). dpunkt-Verlag, Heidelberg 2009, ISBN 978-3-89864-599-7 .
  • Bernhard Schmalzl (ed.): Work and electronic communication of the future. Methods and case studies to optimize workplace design. Springer, Berlin a. a. 2004, ISBN 3-540-00949-3 .
  • Gerhard Schwabe, Norbert Streitz, Rainer Unland (eds.): CSCW compendium. Instructional and manual for computer-aided cooperative work. Springer, Berlin a. a. 2001, ISBN 3-540-67552-3 .
  • Bettina Schwarzer, Helmut Krcmar : Business Informatics. Basics of business information systems. 4th, revised edition. Schäffer-Poeschel, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-7910-2895-8 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Clarence Ellis, Simon Gibbs, Gail Rein: Groupware: Some Issues and Experiences: Perspectives on a changing World. In: Communications of the ACM. Vol. 34, No. 1, 1991, ISSN  0001-0782 , pp. 39-58, doi : 10.1145 / 99977.99987 .
  2. ^ ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing ( English ) CSCW. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  3. ^ Proceedings . Archived from the original on March 27, 2017. Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved February 12, 2019. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. Heiko Hackel et al .: communication systems. Technology and applications. Springer, Berlin et al. 2000, p. 485 f.
  5. Ulrich Hasenkamp, ​​Michael Syring: CSCW (Computer Supported Cooperative Work) in Organizations - Basics and Problems. In: Hasenkamp et al. (Ed.): Computer Supported Cooperative Work. CSCW. 1994, pp. 13-37.
  6. Bächle, Kolb: Introduction to Business Information Systems. 2nd, updated and expanded edition. 2010, p. 30.
  7. ^ Schwarzer, Krcmar: Wirtschaftsinformatik. 4th, revised edition. 2010, pp. 242–245.
  8. ^ Schwarzer, Krcmar: Wirtschaftsinformatik. 4th, revised edition. 2010, p. 250 f.
  9. ^ Schwarzer, Krcmar: Wirtschaftsinformatik. 4th, revised edition. 2010, p. 246 f.
  10. Gabriel et al .: Computer-aided information and communication systems in companies. 2nd, completely revised and expanded edition. 2002, pp. 139-141.