The scope of activities supported by CSCW systems is described, and CSCW systems which support communication, meetings and writing are discussed. More specifically, the potential for improved computer support of the writing task is investigated. It is concluded that models of the writing task and writers are not yet sufficiently accurate to be embedded in normative computer programs or systems; individual writers and writing tasks are extremely varied. Leading on from the studies of both existing systems and writing theories, requirements for generic CSCW systems, single author support systems and multiple author support systems are presented.
The design of CSCW systems which support asynchronous collaborative authoring of structured documents is investigated in this thesis. A novel approach to design and implementation of such systems is described and discussed. This thesis then describes MILO, a system that does not feature embedded models of writers or the writing task. In fact, MILO attempts to minimize constraints on the activities of collaborating authors and on the structure of documents. Hence with MILO, roles of participants are determined by social processes, and the presentational structure of documents is imposed at the end of the writing process.
It is argued that this approach results in a workable, practical and useful design, substantiating the view that 'minimally-constrained' CSCW systems, of which MILO is and example, will be successful. It is shown that MILO successfully meets the stated requirements, and that it compares favourably with existing collaborative writing systems along several dimensions.
The limitations of the work presented in the thesis are discussed, leading to suggestions for future work which will remedy deficiencies and extend the work which has been undertaken.
of this thesis' contribution to CSCW in general, computer supported collaborative
writing, and Human Computer Interaction (HCI) is discussed.
My PhD supervisor was Professor Harold Thimbleby, who offered a great deal of excellent advice and support.