BOOTNAP: Social Grounding in Computer Supported Collaborative Problem Solving

When we solve a problem with a colleague or a friend, we often use a piece of paper to draw a diagram or sketch. Such diagrams help us to build a shared representation of the problem and to repair communication breakdowns. Can we design equivalent artefacts to enrich human-computer collaboration? To answer this question, we propose to study the role of social grounding in human-human collaborative problem solving and to integrate functionally equivalent mechanisms into an interactive inference engine for human-computer collaboration. Our research will contribute to the theory of collaborative problem solving and lay the psychological foundations for new generations of interactive computer systems. We will proceed in three stages.

  1. Develop or adapt a computer-supported collaborative system.

    The system will be designed for creating the experimental settings necessary for stage 2 and stage 3. The reasons for mediating human-human collaboration are (1) to use the communication channel as an independent variable controlled by the computer system, (2) to coerce (to some extent) human partners to use interaction techniques that can be used in human-computer collaboration.

  2. Study the role of social grounding in human-human collaborative problem solving.

    Efficient collaboration requires that each partner understands what the other meant to a criterion sufficient for the current task. Social grounding is the process by which two partners try to reach the mutual belief that the other has reached this understanding criterion (Clark & Brennan, 1991). This goal can be achieved by various linguistic mechanisms, depending on the media used for communication. This project focuses on two issues: (1) how people use external references (drawing a diagram, pointing to an object) during social grounding and (2) the role of grounding mechanisms in problem solving. Three experimental settings are proposed in our research plan.

  3. Develop a human-computer collaborative system

    The goal is to develop human-computer interaction techniques that are functionally equivalent to the gestures observed in human-human social grounding. The difficulty is not to support gestures such as drawing or pointing. The challenge is to integrate these gestures within the reasoning process performed by a knowledge-based system. These gestures can be used for changing the problem state representation, guiding the rule selection, determining how to instantiate a variable, ...

Go back to BOOTNAP Overview.

Take a look at the more detailed BOOTNAP Project Proposal.

David Traum