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Models of Work Practice: Some Preliminary Studies

William Newman, Alex Dennis, Marge Eldridge, Richard Harper
An ability to analyse solutions is an essential part of the skill base of designers of interactive systems. These four short papers present the results of research into the feasibility of constructing analytical tools for system designers, based on models of work practice. They illustrate a number of different modelling approaches. A paper by Newman and Harper suggests that models of users' responsibilities can be constructed with a view to making predictions about the acceptability of new systems. A paper by Eldridge and Newman models the effect of disruptions during the working day, and highlights the tendency of technology failures to cause irreparable damage to the day's agenda, a phenomenon they call "agenda benders." Newman, Eldridge and Harper describe a study of authoring work, in which they modelled the authoring process for a number of documents and identified several recurring process structures, all of which exhibited a tendency to be initiated by the authors at the last minute, just in time to complete the document when needed. In a final paper, Dennis and Newman have studied how interactions between an expert (e.g., a doctor) and a client are affected by the choice of supporting technology, and have identified some problems in conducting such studies.
Conference Companion, CHI '96, Human Factors in Computing Systems, 13-18 April 1996, Vancouver, BC, Canada, pp 216-224.