eSF: An E-Collaboration System for Knowledge Workers

eSF: An E-Collaboration System for Knowledge Workers

Marco C. Bettoni (Swiss Distance University of Applied Sciences (FFHS), Switzerland), Nicole Bittel (Swiss Distance University of Applied Sciences (FFHS), Switzerland), Willi Bernhard (Swiss Distance University of Applied Sciences (FFHS), Switzerland) and Victoria Mirata (Swiss Distance University of Applied Sciences (FFHS), Switzerland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9556-6.ch008
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The aim of our chapter is to contribute to a better understanding of E-Collaboration, especially its intimate connection with knowledge and knowledge processes. We begin by presenting a knowledge-oriented understanding of E-Collaboration and an architecture of an E-Collaboration system (people, processes and technology) based on that understanding; then we describe the eSF system (an implementation of this architecture within our team), our experiences with it and what we have learned about the success factors of E-Collaboration.
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2. A Knowledge-Oriented Understanding Of E-Collaboration

Our experience with the practice of E-Collaboration suggests that knowledge processes play an essential, relevant role in it. This is in line with the considerations of other authors who claim that knowledge processes serve as the basis of any form of cooperation (Endress & Wehner, 1996; Vollmer & Wehner, 2007), that knowledge should be considered as one of the key elements of E-Collaboration (Kock, 2005) or that the construction of shared knowledge constitutes one of its key processes (Dillenbourg & Fischer, 2007). Unfortunately we do not see knowledge mentioned in most definitions of E-Collaboration and are lacking models of E-Collaboration with adequate emphasis on knowledge processes.

Kock (2005) suggested a broad definition of E-Collaboration as “collaboration using electronic technologies among different individuals to accomplish a common task”. Let us start from here and see if we can extend and adapt this definition in a way that allows to have knowledge explicitly mentioned in it. The first part - “collaboration using electronic technologies” - explains simply what the “E-” means; the second part - “among different individuals to accomplish a common task” tells something more about “collaboration”: that different individuals are involved and that they work together on a task. In this way, it is not possible to distinguish between “collaboration” and “cooperation” and the two terms are interpreted and defined (also in theory and dictionaries, for example Merriam Webster) as if they were synonyms. But practice demonstrates that collaboration and cooperation are not synonyms; for example, the term E-Cooperation is used much less than E-Collaboration and the discipline of CSCW (Computer Supported Cooperative Work) has not evolved into E-Cooperation and only includes some of the E-Collaboration research. The distinction that we make between “collaboration” and “cooperation” focuses on the relationship between work and people: cooperative work is accomplished by a division of labour among participants in which work is split into pieces and each person is responsible for a portion of the work (Roschelle & Teasley, 1995:70); in collaboration, instead work and responsibility remain a unit. How?

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