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Medium versus Mechanism: Supporting Collaboration through Customisation

Dik Bentley, Paul Dourish
The study of cooperative work as a socially-situated activity has led to a focus on providing 'mechanisms' that more closely resonate with existing work practice. In this paper we challenge this approach and suggest the flexibly organised nature of work is better supported when systems provide a 'medium' which can be tailored to suit each participant's needs organised around the detail of their work. This orientation towards 'medium' rather than 'mechanism' has consequences for cooperative system design, highlighting a need to allow participants to adapt details of policy currently embedded in the heart of the systems we build. We describe an approach which allows users to perform such 'deep customisation' through direct manipulation of user interface representations.
Proc. ECSCW '95 European Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, 10-14 September 1995, Stockholm, Sweden.