From Individual Representations to Group Cognition
More than we realize it, knowledge is often constructed through interactions among people in small groups. The Internet, by allowing people to communicate globally in limitless combinations, has opened enormous opportunities for the creation of knowledge and understanding. However, a major barrier to taking advantage of this opportunity remains the lack of adequate groupware. To design more powerful software that can facilitate the building of collaborative knowledge, we need to better understand the nature of group cognition—the processes whereby small groups develop their understanding. We need to analyze interaction at both the individual and the group unit of analysis in order to understand the variety of processes that groupware should be supporting. This chapter will look closely at an empirical example of knowledge being constructed by a small group and suggest implications for groupware design. It will first analyze the chat interaction as the expression of individual thinking and then re-analyze it as the sequential unfolding of group exploration of a math problem that no individual in the group was able to solve on their own.