The University of Sussex

PETRA: participatory evaluation through redesign and analysis

Susi Ross, Magnus Ramage, Yvonne Rogers

Compared with single user-computer interactions, evaluating CSCW is difficult. We argue for multiplicity - of theory, method and perspective - in CSCW evaluation. This allows us to address both theoretical concerns and practical design issues, and to incorporate the expertise and experiences of both evaluators and participants. We propose the PETRA framework, incorporating a theoritically-driven "evaluators' perspective" (ETA) to investigate the collaborative activity, and a practical, user-focused "participants' perspective" (ETR) to evaluate the interface of the supporting tool. Our particular instantiation of PETRA focused on collaborative writing, both in a face-to-face context, and supported by a computer-based group editor, ShrEdit. We investigated the development of shared understanding in the two different mediated settings; and used a PD-inspired rapid prototyping session to elicit participant reactions to and redesigns of the tool interface. Our ETA findings show that computer-supported shared understanding develops technologically, using social coordination as a repair mechanism; the ETR findings show that the collaborative tool must be particularly sensitive to issues of awareness, communication, focus and ownership.

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