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Technological and Social Mechanisms for Coordinating Communication

Laura Dabbish

Laura Dabbish is a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University
Communication interruptions make work sociable and interesting, and they support flexibility and knowledge transfer in the workplace. But interruptions also delay task completion and degrade performance, with negative consequences for organizational effectiveness. Thus an important research question is: How can we maintain connectivity while reducing disruption associated with interaction?

In this talk I will describe work examining the following mechanisms for coordinating pair-wise communication: notification method, increased visibility of a partner's task state, and social consequences. Notification method affects the significance of an interruption. A poorly timed message might cause the recipient to lose focus at a critical moment. Increased visibility of a partner's task state allows collaborators to coordinate interaction by taking into account the impact of their actions on their partner's performance. Social consequences of interruption can also affect the behavior of collaborators. This work provides a set of practical guidelines for the design of electronic communication systems, as well as an increased understanding of attention in workplace communication.

Laura Dabbish is a doctoral candidate in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University with an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from the University of
Southern California. She studies Human-Computer Interaction and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, focusing on the design and use of communication technologies. She is interested in understanding and addressing problems of attention, interruption, multi-tasking, and overload in the modern workplace. She has been supported in this work by a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Research Fellowship.

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