The University of Sussex

A study of the graphical mediating representations used by collaborating authors

Charles C. Wood

Though they have access to sophisticated authoring support systems many authors use conventional media for the earliest stages of generating and organising ideas. This paper gives an overview of a study of six pairs of collaborating authors who were videoed in a prewriting task, and also underwent a structured post-interview concerning their use of external representations in the study and in their everyday work. Pairs were studied in order that the behaviour was more externalised, that there were natural verbal protocols and in order that the interlocutor rather than the researcher could interpret these protocols. The analysis focuses on the part that the mediating representations play in the cognitive task and in coordinating cooperative cognition. The properties of the marks produced and the affordances of conventional media are considered. The study is interpreted within a "shared cognitive" framework which draws on insights from Distributed Cognition, Socially Shared Cognition, Situated Cognition, and most importantly from Soviet psychology. It is suggested that the mediating representations perform two important and highly related functions. First, they support "idea sketching" which is a form of reflexive communication where the individual mediates her own creative cognition through external representations. Second, they mediate cooperative cognition, providing the common grounding necessary to coordinate shared thought.

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