“Affordance” was introduced to HCI by Donald A. Norman in the late 1980s and quickly became one of the field’s key concepts, widely used by researchers, educators, and practitioners. In particular, in terms of collaborative working, affordances have been used as tools to understand and describe the different characteristics of media. However, affordances of media would not play the same role every time. Even the same affordance can cause different collaboration behaviors and phenomena depending on the context used. In this reason, to use media effectively, we need to understand media affordances and their influences on specific contexts. Especially, design problems tend to be large and complex, and include various characteristics of activities. Accordingly, it is critical to exploit appropriate media and their affordances at the stage of collaborative design process to solve design problems. However, there are few projects that directly address how media affordances affect the collaborative design process. The aim of this research project is to reveal the influences of media on the collaborative design process. More specifically, we identify compelling media affordances for design collaboration from a comparative study of online document tools and face-to-face interaction, and analyze their effects on designers’ interaction and each design problem-solving activities. By doing so, we will provide implications for designing appropriate media to support effective design collaboration.
Online document collaboration tools, such as Google Docs, offer designers different ways of communicating and working collaboratively compared to face-to-face interaction. In this paper, we attempt to explore the possibilities and limitations of using an online document collaboration tool for design problem-solving activities. A design workshop study was conducted to compare using Google Docs during a design task to face-to-face collaboration. As a result, we found different influences of exploiting an online document collaboration tool and face-to-face interaction on the design process, and identified the properties that afford different characteristics of design problem-solving activity. Based on these findings, we discuss the implications of using an online document collaboration tool and face-to-face interaction for collaborative design.