On December 7, 2012 Alex Thayer defended his dissertation entitled “Understanding University Students’ Use of Tools and Artifacts in Support of Collaborative Project Work”. Soon after filing on December 28, Alex started work as a Senior HCI Research Scientist at Intel Corporation in Santa Clara. He is also now teaching a course on Game Design at UC Berkeley’s iSchool. Congratulations, Alex!
Dissertation Abstract
When designers collaborate on projects, they use an assortment of tools to generate a variety of
artifacts that help them complete their work. However, it remains unclear how university
students use tools and create artifacts as they collaborate on design projects. More importantly, it
is unclear how these students make tool-related decisions throughout their design projects, as
well as how the different types of work they perform influence their overall collaborative
process. Developing a greater understanding of these phenomena will help members of the
computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) community better understand the complex
structure of collaborative project work, as well as the role of tools and artifacts in both
structuring and being structured by students’ coordination practices. The current research project
explores university students’ use of tools and artifacts for collaborative project work by
observing the work practices and decision-making processes of the students in an advanced
interaction design class throughout an entire academic quarter. These students performed task
work, articulation work, and metawork as they consulted their personal toolbelts, decided which
tools to use, and then developed artifacts using those tools, all in order to create the necessary
deliverables and final design products for the course they were taking. Students’ decisions about
how to structure their task work influence their choice of tools, and those choices in turn
influence their processes of artifact creation as well as their performance of articulation work and
metawork. This dissertation documents the reflexive nature of that relationship among students’
tool-related decisions, artifact-related creative processes, and collaborative practice.