Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Library & Information Science


Dr. Victoria Rubin


There is surprisingly little written in information science and technology literature about the design of tools used to support the collaboration of creators. Understanding collaborative sensemaking through the use of language has been traditionally applied to non-work domains, but this method is also well-suited for informing hypotheses about the design collaborative systems. The presence of ubiquitous, mobile technology, and development of multi-user virtual spaces invites investigation of design which is based on naturalistic, real world, creative group behaviors, including the collaborative work of musicians. This thesis is considering the co-construction of new (musical) knowledge by small groups. Co-construction of new knowledge is critical to the definition of an information system because it emphasizes coordination and resource sharing among group members (versus individual members independently doing their own tasks and only coming together to collate their contributions as a final product). This work situates the locus of creativity on the process itself, rather than on the output (the musical result) or the individuals (members of the band). This thesis describes a way to apply quantitative observations to inform qualitative assessment of the characteristics of collaborative sensemaking in groups. Conversational data were obtained from nine face-to-face collaborative composing sessions, involving three separate bands producing 18 hours of recorded interactions. Topical characteristics of the discussion, namely objects, plans, properties and performance; as well as emergent patterns of generative, evaluative, revision, and management conversational acts within the group were seen as indicative of knowledge construction. The findings report the use of collaborative pathways: iterative cycles of generation, evaluation and revision of temporary solutions used to move the collaboration forward. In addition, bracketing of temporary solutions served to help collaborators reuse content and offload attentional resources. Ambiguity in language, evaluation criteria, goal formation, and group awareness meant that existing knowledge representations were insufficient in making sense of incoming data and necessitated reformulating those representations. Further, strategic use of affective language was found to be instrumental in bridging knowledge gaps. Based on these findings, features of a collaborative system are proposed to help in facilitating sensemaking routines at various stages of a creative task. This research contributes to the theoretical understanding of collaborative sensemaking during non-work, creative activities in order to inform the design of systems for supporting these activities. By studying an environment which forms a potential microcosm of virtual interaction between groups, it provides a framework for understanding and automating collaborative discussion content in terms of the features of dialogue.