The Laboratory Team’s research work concerns the analysis and modelling of cooperative
activities created by mediated intellectual tasks by ITC (Information and Communication Technologies). Fundamentally, the objective is to understand better the functioning and implementing conditions of collective cognition distributed within organised human activities and in particular in the new environment in which these activities are mediated by computer and telecommunication networks.
Cooperative intellectual activities are studied on different scales, in different contexts and according to different disciplinary perspectives. For example, the cooperation processes are studied on the scale of small designer groups within a computer department, in the context of transversal processes bringing together several entities in large professional organisations but also within the framework of setting up public, national or international associations seeking to promote for example new legislation and using Information and Communication Technologies to increase the influence of public opinion on governments.
One of the Team’s main research hypotheses is to consider that the forms of collective cognition of groups and organisations engaged in projects depend vastly on cooperation technologies which are put into place by these groups. These cooperation technologies are the result of a very close association between, on the one hand, a set of artefacts put at the group’s disposal to bring together, memorise knowledge and transmit information via different media, and on the other hand a set of collective conventions and organisation methods from know-how as diversified as face-to- face rules of etiquette, the use of standardised forms in written communication or, in a more abstract way, calling upon and making good use of collective moral values to settle a difference of opinion.
The research carried out is mostly in the context of Computer Supported Cooperative Work, a research trend calling upon disciplines as varied as sociology, psycho-sociology, linguistics, psychology and cognitive ergonomics, management, information systems, artificial intelligence(knowledge and distributed artificial intelligence engineering), software engineering or decision-making aid.
Among the numerous factors which can contribute towards explaining the emergence of this trend, are indisputably the profound changes which have taken place on the industrial scene of developed economies. Production rationalisation starting with Taylorism and Fordism has reached a new phase today. The increasing speed of innovation makes the rationalisation effort go right through to the design phases themselves, to the search for new products and new manufacturing processes. This is where a new difficulty appears: these design processes are much more abstract than production processes as intellectual activities are predominant here. A new economy is settling in dominated by knowledge exchanges and production of knowledge. Finally, service development, notably in its immaterial and relational dimension is taking on a wider importance.
Thus, one of the major phenomena which are currently disrupting the function of most organisations today is the preponderant part taken by intellectual work, relational aspects and the more often collective nature of this activity. Cooperative work, in this context meaning collective work on a common object, that cannot be or it is not wished to be standardised rigourously, is today much in evidence in most projects for change. However, there do not yet exist any principles and methods for logical management, which creates a situation in which the old organisational rules still live side by side with ever increasing difficulty with work practices which do not correspond.
In addition, traditional Information Systems, which were already at the heart of the modern company, are both overtaken and reworked with the thrust of the introduction of Information and Computer Technology: new exchange networks (Intranet/Internet), groupware applications(forum, shared databases via WEB servers, voice mail, workflow, videoconferences and telephone conferences, etc.).
These technologies are largely concomitant with new forms of cooperative work .The ICT and new organisational, managerial, even socio-political paradigms evolve together in reciprocal influence processes which are difficult to separate.
In this complex environment which is evolving fast, the Laboratory’s scientific programme seeks to analyse the co-determination of new forms of collective intellectual activity and technological innovations to reach methodological requirements both in the organisational field of activities and in the design of support system.
In order to satisfy this transdisciplinary issue, the Team is made up of as many computer science researchers as human sciences researchers (in psychology, information and communication sciences, linguistics, sociology, management, philosophy).
The current areas for experimentation and transfer are the following:
• Project memory: PSA Peugeot-Citroën, Institut Français du Textile et de l’Habillement
• Skills maps: Airbus,France Telecom,
• Communities of practice: Renault,Cap Gemini
• Cooperative catalogues : Yellow Pages for Open Source Software, Sharing of pedagogical resources on the theme ‘Documents and knowledge’
• Collaboratories and document-sharing: DNA sequencing of the xanthonomas bacteria, the banquet in iconography of vases of Paestum,
• Social aid: Troyes Healthcare Network (Alzheimer), Diasporas
Tech-CICO assesses and improves methodological and software tools such as:
* groupware,forums and wikis
* Digital documents, annotation and semantic networks
* Conversational analysis
* Story telling