Collaborative Computer-Supported Argument Visualization (CCSAV) has often been proposed as an alternative over more conventional, mainstream platforms for online discussion (e.g., online forums and wikis). CCSAV tools require users to contribute to the creation of a joint artifact (argument map) instead of contributing to a conversation. In this paper we assess empirically the effects of this fundamental design choice and show that the absence of conversational affordances and socially salient information in representation-centric tools is detrimental to the users' collaboration experience. We report empirical findings from a study in which subjects using different collaborative platforms (a forum, an argumentation platform, and a socially augmented argumentation tool) were asked to discuss and predict the price of a commodity. By comparing users' experience across several metrics we found evidence that the collaborative performance decreases gradually when we remove conversational interaction and other types of socially salient information. We interpret these findings through theories developed in conversational analysis (common ground theory) and communities of practice and discuss design implications. In particular, we propose balancing the trade-off between knowledge reification and participation in representation-centric tools with the provision of social feedback and functionalities supporting meaning negotiation.
Iandoli, Luca; Quinto, Ivana; De Liddo, Anna and Buckingham Shum, Simon (2016). On Online Collaboration and Construction of Shared Knowledge: Assessing Mediation Capability in Computer Supported Argument Visualization Tools. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 67(5) pp. 1052–1067.