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Grant Title: Supporting Collaborative Design with Integrated Knowledge-Based Design Environments
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Gerhard Fischer, Raymond McCall
Period of Support: September 1990 - August 1993


Project Summary

The goal of this project is the development of a conceptual framework and a demonstration system for collaboration among members of design teams when direct communication among these members is impossible, impractical, or undesirable. This project addresses the long-term, asynchronous communication needs of project teams rather than the needs occurring in face-to-face synchronous communication such as project meetings. We address these needs with design environments that integrate knowledge-based and graphic construction components with issue-based hypermedia systems to perform the following functions:

These functions are especially important in modern technologically-oriented design projects. Such projects are increasingly large, complex, and long in duration. System design itself can extend over many years, only to be followed by extended periods of maintenance and redesign. Specialists from many different domains must work together. In such projects coordination and constructive collaboration are crucial for success yet increasingly difficult to achieve. Our system will enable designers to be informed within the context of their work on real-world design problems. With such systems, coordination does not take place in a separate phase and in a separate place - e.g., in meetings - but would be integrated into their individual work in their workplace. The systems we develop let users construct solutions to design problems, advise them when they are getting into trouble, and then provide directly relevant information.

We propose the development of a prototype design environment that instantiates this system architecture for a representative application domain: the design of communication networks within buildings, a domain requiring interdisciplinary project teams. The design environment will support the design both of buildings and of distributed computer communication networks. In both areas we will cooperate with nationally recognized domain experts. The proposed research project will build on our previous attempts to develop prototype design environments: the FRAMER system for the design of human-computer interfaces and the JANUS system for architectural design.

Our approach is based on an analysis of previous research on supporting collaborative design and differs from these in three major respects:

Our research will produce results at five levels:

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