How Private is Private?: Effects of Degree of Information Sharing on Group Ideation
Many Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) applications go to great lengths to maximize transparency by making available participants' actions and respective application states to all others in real-time. Designers might intend to enhance coordination through increased transparency, but what other outcomes might be influenced by these choices? We developed two versions of a CSCW application to support a group idea generation task for collocated groups. One version had diminished transparency in comparison to the other. We studied the effects of this varied transparency on the groups' generativity and collaboration. We found that in modulating transparency there was a trade-off between generativity and collaboration. Groups with diminished transparency felt that their groupmates built on their ideas more, but groups with increased transparency were more generative. These findings are tentative but suggest that the full story of group vs. solitary, private vs. public manipulations of technology, at least in the area of idea generation, is not yet sufficiently theorized or understood.