Exploring the Use of Wikis for Information Sharing in Interdisciplinary Design
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Interdisciplinary design presents challenges in design collaboration due to the difficulty in communicating and coordinating among disciplines. Many tools have been developed and used to support information sharing in design, and the use of Web technology is becoming increasingly important for the sharing of information within design teams. Wikis have been claimed to support collaboration and information sharing. To assess this claim, the following questions could be addressed: (1) Do wikis really support design collaboration? (2) To what extent do wikis support information sharing in interdisciplinary design? And (3) Do wikis really encourage more sharing among design team members? In this dissertation I investigate these questions through an exploratory empirical study and examine how wikis might be used to support information sharing in interdisciplinary design. Specifically, the research objectives of this dissertation are to: (1) Study how interdisciplinary design teams use wikis; (2) Identify best practices for the effective use of wikis; and (3) Examine how wikis might be enhanced to better support information sharing in design projects. To achieve these research objectives, I studied five software design teams from three organizations that used wikis as their primary information sharing and management system. Drawing on two conceptual frameworks, the 3-T framework and Cognitive Work Analysis (CWA), I collected qualitative and quantitative data, using participant observation, semi-structured interviews, document review, and wiki review. This dissertation enhances our understanding of how members of design teams share information among disciplines and how they use wikis to support such sharing. This dissertation uncovers and explores the conceptual issues of information sharing including information collection, information-sharing needs, and information-sharing processes. The findings reveal that the software design teams used wikis as their central information-sharing tool, largely because it seemed to provide a mechanism to link heterogeneous information from various sources into one place. The key findings of this dissertation research are as follows: (1) Wikis were used primarily to support transporting and transferring, that is, giving access to and delivering content of information items; (2) Wikis had the potential to support translating and transforming, that is, discussing and handing off information items, but teams appeared to have difficulty utilizing features that would enable these forms of information sharing; (3) Software design teams did not fully utilize the wiki's key features such as adding category tags to wiki pages, which makes it easy to browse related wiki documents, and using a discussion page associated with each individual wiki page to record related discussion; and (4) The use of wikis appeared to be influenced by many social and technical factors such as organizational environments, the nature of the design project, project team members' experiences and attitudes, and the specific kinds of wiki platforms that were used. Based on these findings, I discuss new requirements for how wikis might be designed to better support information sharing among disciplines during software design. These dissertation findings also provide practical implications, first, for organizations and project teams that would like to adopt wiki technology to support software design and development projects and, second, for practitioners who design or develop wiki technology. Expanding on the dissertation's focus on wiki technology, its findings provide broader implications, particularly for interdisciplinary design collaboration, distributed design collaboration, and agile development. Finally, the dissertation findings contribute to the body of knowledge in the fields of information behavior, knowledge management, wiki research, and design research.
- Information science