Towards computer supported cooperative design

Turner, Susan (1999). Towards computer supported cooperative design. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis first reviews the literature about the nature of cooperative design activity and its technological support. It is noted that knowledge of how designers work together in real-world settings is less than complete. Moreover, after over a decade of developments in Computer Supported Cooperative Work, the state-of-the-art in collaborative technology does not fully support such activities. Two substantial case studies are presented. The first draws upon fieldwork with designers at a large, distributed engineering design company, where a pilot study of collaborative technologies was carried out, focusing on the organisational context for such interventions and the reasons behind the qualified success of the experimental technology. In the light of the lack of use of synchronous tools in particular, a second case study was carried out. This was a complementary analysis of face-to-face co-working in a series of meetings held by a small design group. The results of both pieces of fieldwork are analysed in the context of existing studies of designers in both real-world and laboratory settings. This leads to the identification of a number of important characteristics of cooperative design, some newly identified, others confirming or extending the results of existing work. They include the identification of tension between traditional engineering design culture and the underlying assumptions of new technology; the intrinsic difficulties in sharing some types of design artefacts; and the way in which design entails an interweaving of individual and group activity, with consequences for resource exploitation, distributed cognition and workspace navigation in group sessions. The findings are integrated into an organising framework for cooperative design, with emphasis on the support of coworking designers distributed across multiple sites. Current technologies are reviewed against scenarios based on the framework and recommendations are made for further work.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions