BOOTNAP: Criteria for Collaborative Task Domain Selection

We need to choose a task for two people to collaborate on through the computer. The collaborators will have voice and/or text typing and/or ability to point and draw and use diagrams, plus whatever manipulations are needed (if any) specifically for the task. Some desiderata for a good task are:
  1. Easy to get computer support for. Hopefully there is already software to display and allow manipulation of whatever task-specific elements are required (if any).
  2. Complexity. The task must be complex enough to generate interesting discussion and collaboration. It shouldn't be something so simple that one participant can easily just go off and solve it by himself without any thought.
  3. Need for Planning. This is related to the previous criterion, but more specific. The task should be something where thinking about what to do (and therefore talking about it) can be useful rather than just doing it.
  4. Potential for Misunderstanding. Since we are studying grounding, there should be some potential for grounding to fail and require repair. This is obviously related to the previous two criteria, but we also want the discussion to have some points of ambiguity where participants could have different ideas of what is being said/referred to/ etc.
  5. Graphical Dimension. The participants should be able to manipulate something. Either the solution itself or the process of arriving at it should be representable in a graphical form. On the other hand, we'd prefer not to have something that absolutely requires graphical representation if we are going to examine how grounding is affected by diagrams.
  6. Formalizability. The final phase of the project is to actually design a computational system to be one of the collaborators, using protocols discovered from the first phases. Thus, we need to pick a task that's not too "fuzzy", so that a computer collaborator would have a chance at somewhat normal interaction.
  7. Feedback. It should be possible to run something, or test the solution that is arrived at, so participants can be satisfied that they've actually solved the problem successfully.
  8. Reality. The task should preferably be something fairly natural - that people might actually do and find useful, rather than a very artificial task that seems less like communicating over the computer and more like doing some weird computer thing.
  9. Fun. The task should be somewhat enjoyable, so collaborating seems more like fun, than just a difficult or boring chore that will lead to unnatural reactions from subjects.
  10. Joint goals. We want this to be a true collaboration rather than a competition. Though we might allow different initial knowledge to help "force" interaction, we want there to be one joint goal for both participants rather than (even partially) competing goals which would lead more to negotiation than collaboration.

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David Traum