COLLABORATION THROUGH TECHNOLOGY - A HISTORY OF CHOICES
Walk into any Fortune 500 company and talk to an employee. Chances are he or she is scheduled to be involved in a meeting within the next four hours. Meetings are prevalent in corporate America because collaboration is critical to organizational success. Collaborative skills are critical for most corporate employment positions. This makes common sense in the information age. As the amount of available information increases, the individual is less able to digest it all to make the most intelligent decision when faced with a problem or opportunity. A corporation’s collective knowledge is spread out among tens, hundreds or thousands of individuals. The better all desired corporate knowledge is mapped to different job positions, the better the chance the organization has of proactively optimizing its course of action. As a result, corporate knowledge is dispersed through individuals with specialties such as law, finance, engineering, human resources, and marketing. When a problem or opportunity comes to light somewhere within the organization, the course of who collaborates with whom makes a difference in the resultant action taken by that organization. There is a best possible action that is more probable of coming to light if the right people collaborate to discuss the solution. The same forces of collaboration are there when organizations collaborate with other organizations to promote an industry or develop a mutually beneficial technological standard.
Technology has always been involved in enabling better collaboration. Technologies are being developed faster than ever before. Collaboration has made faster project timelines possible. As an example, take a look at how the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) standard took shape in such a short time frame. VRML is a computer language that defines three dimensional (3D) models. Or, as an even more current example, take a look at the Living Worlds standard being promoted to standardize how we interact with VRML worlds and provide a more consistent 3D cyberspace. The Living Worlds standard setting process is a case study in collaboration. Venture capitalists have strongly suggested a deadline by which the 3D cyberspace community show a viable market for their technologies in order to obtain ongoing venture capital. At the Earth to Avatars conference in San Francisco in October 1996, the technologists chanted in unison, “a one billion dollar industry by the year 2000” as a goal for building multi-user worlds and communities. In order to have a shot at that goal, those involved realize they need to collaborate to decide the norms on which the technology will be built. There is no time for each individual or organization to follow their own course of action for two years and then try to market their solution. In fact, those involved with Living Worlds are trying to map the knowledge needs of Living Worlds to different organizations. Of interest is the speed and decisiveness blaxxun interactive demonstrated in changing their business direction to focus solely on multi-user servers. They had been developing a competent and compelling VRML client, Cybergate. Now, they trust Netscape Communications Corporation (NCC) and Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI) to develop the technology for the 3D viewer. The Living Worlds consortium includes companies and individuals with specialties across many knowledge bases. Anthropologists speak of how Living Worlds must provide an appropriate culture for participants. Physicists speak of how shared virtual worlds must follow basic laws of physics in order to attract visitors. Financiers advise what is necessary in order for people to be willing to spend money in cyberspace. All these folks are collaborating because they have something to say and because it is easy to do so.
The ease in which we collaborate today has dramatically affected the frequency in which we do so. Technology has made it easier. Telephone lines have interconnected us worldwide. Computer networks have interconnected us through our computers. We speak of ‘off-line’ meetings where information is discussed through voice mail messages, answering machine messages, and computer databases. There is no specific meeting time in which a collaborator must be present. Instead, there are deadlines by which your word need be voiced in order to have an effect on a decision.
The ability of an organization to take advantage of collaborative technologies seems to be dependent on its culture. Many of the studies on the return on investment of collaboration enabling technologies are as inconclusive as studies on management styles. For certain organizational cultures, collaborative technologies have made a tremendous difference in organizational success. In fact, those organizations quantify returns on collaborative technology investment of over 200%. The technology seems to do best within a collaborative culture although the level of computer and language skills of each collaborator is a key determinant also. Looking out at society today, I see more information and improving computer skills. It is only natural to project those trends into the future and expect more collaboration and more ‘off-line’ meetings. It makes sense to research the technologies that will enable collaboration tomorrow.
What aspects of a technology make it supportive of collaboration? The review that follows will be discussed in relation to the characteristics of collaboration friendly technologies outlined in Table 2.1. These characteristics are the characteristics I have found mentioned most often in various white papers that support the need for collaborative technologies.
Table 2.1 – Characteristics of Collaboration Enabling Technologies
Efficient allows immediate sharing of communication
Organized allows information to be shared in a logical manner
Timely keeps information content current and appropriate
Available can be used 100% of the time
Access easy to get access to
Time Independence collaborate at any time
Place Independence collaborate anywhere
Self-Documenting tracks the history of communication as a by-product
Emotional captures the emotion of the collaborator
Imaginative captures the imagination of the collaborator
Brainstorm Enabling supports new idea generation
Iterative allows iteration toward better ideas and understanding
Indexed allows past communications to be easily reviewed
Scaleable allows many to collaborate simultaneously
Precision allows for a precise representation of facts
Immersive captures the full attention of the senses
Some of these characteristics are largely subjective. For example, rating a technology in terms of its ability to support emotional communications is not an exact science. When I do rate a technology based on a subjective characteristic, much of the rating is my solely my opinion from using the technology on multiple occasions.
The remainder of this chapter looks at the history of technologies that have helped foster collaboration between human beings. We should not ignore the human aspects of collaboration. Before I review the technologies that help us collaborate, I must mention the collaborator. Collaboration is a skill just as negotiation, arbitration, communication, and persuasion are skills. Humans can be taught to enhance these skills. Child development researchers have found that we develop collaborative skills early on in life, yet learn to discredit some of those skills to survive in a competitive world. To prepare for work at a collaborative organization, our youth require an education that is consistent in providing opportunity to collaborate and that rewards collaborative behavior when demonstrated appropriately. There is a balance that can be developed such that the individual is both personally enterprising, yet organizationally collaborative. So, the logic follows that a collaborative individual will do well in promoting a collaborative organization which will take advantage of collaboration-enabling technologies.
I will include collaborative skill building technologies in my collaboration enabling technologies review. Much successful game playing requires collaborative skills (Parker Brother’s board game Risk being a well known example) and therefore I will include technologies such as Multi User Dimensions (MUDs) as part of my review. They enable people to interact in a shared experience which can be for entertainment, education, or group communication.
I will review eleven technologies that enable collaboration. The timeline in Figure 2.1 depicts them all in terms of the year they were developed. Each technology added a new capability to technology assisted collaboration. Paper, telephone, Email, MUDs, video games, DIS, Lotus Notes, Inter Relay Chat, Greenspace, and Avatar Based Multi-user worlds all have had a significant impact on making technology more useful for collaboration. I will also review video conferencing which has been around since the day of the first video telephone which failed miserably.
Figure 2.1 Collaboration Enabling Technologies Timeline
According to the Mead Corporation, ancient Egyptians invented the first substance that crudely resembled paper around 4000 B.C. “Papyrus”, as they called it, was a woven mat of reeds, pounded together into a hard, thin sheet. Afterward, the Ancient Greeks used another paper-like substance made from animal skins. Paper as we know it today was invented by Ts'ai Lun, a Chinese court official, in A.D. 105.  Paper was important to the evolution of collaboration as it enabled communication among multiple people who no longer had to be in the same place at the same time in order to communicate. Paper was the first significant improvement to the collaborative process since language had evolved and was used for effective communications. Paper facilitated the evolution of the written word and improved dramatically our knowledge of history by creating the medium for its archival. Paper today is still a significant part of many collaborative processes. It is inexpensive, durable, expendable, recyclable and continues to evolve. Still, the most sophisticated collaborative teams use paper to review information on the bus, on the beach, and in reports created for a mass audience. Individuals without computer skills continue to be given the option of reviewing paper output and providing paper input to a collaborative process.
Evaluation of paper. Paper falls short as an efficient or organized collaboration technology. Multiple copies of the same basic facts are produced and rearranged in order to provide a different sequencing. Written text is sequential and requires additional indices in order to be randomly accessed. Paper indices provide an appropriate page number, but a collaborator still has to physically turn to the referenced page. Paper is not necessarily timely. As improved or updated copies of a paper-based information source are created, the older paper documents still physically exist and become sources of inferior information. Paper is readily available and widely accessible. Paper provides a time independence to collaboration, but is place dependent as paper consists of physical atoms that must exist within the collaborator’s eyesight. The author can use paper anywhere, but the reader is clearly restricted in obtaining access. Paper has been used often solely for its self-documenting ability. A blank sheet of paper provides an outlet for emotion, imagination, and brainstorming, yet relies on the written skills of the collaborator. Paper is a poor medium for iterative tasks and requires significant work to be indexed. Paper is not very scaleable although a paper copier can quickly produce copies of results of the collaboration process. Paper can be used to create precise communications, but it is a 2D medium that has trouble representing three dimensions. Reading words on paper and writing on paper are not especially immersive experiences, yet the act of reading and writing does seem to occupy the mind’s attention such that the other senses are ignored to some extent.
Alexander Graham Bells successfully demonstrated his telephone invention on March 10, 1876. The telephone advanced the spoken word as paper had advanced the written word. At the time, through a postal service, the written word could be shared among collaborators who never had to meet. The telephone advanced that unique luxury to the spoken word and added an additional benefit of a more instantaneous collaboration.
Evaluation of the telephone. The telephone is a more efficient technology than paper with respect to immediacy. Over long distances, information can be shared as fast as electricity can travel the distance by wire. Yet, the telephone does no more than paper to organize information as information is provided sequentially. The timeliness of information shared by telephone is only as current as the last conversation. Telephone availability is near 100% in most first world countries, yet still growing in third world countries. Telephone access has increasingly improved since 1876 although accessibility started especially slow in its early days. Accessibility is taking another leap with the advent of the cellular telephone. Unlike paper, the telephone requires some time dependence although voice mail has eliminated much of that requirement. The place independence of the telephone is related to its accessibility and the increasing development of the number of cellular phone “cells” that carry the communications is changing the place dependence scale. For a live conversation, the initiator can be anywhere a telephone is available, yet the recipient must be in a place that is aware of the ring of the initiator. In many cases, this is a significant shortcoming.
The telephone is not naturally self-documenting. Conversations can be recorded, but even then need to be reviewed sequentially. It is more difficult to review recorded voice documentation than a paper based document. The telephone captures the emotion and imagination of the collaborator, yet only through verbal communication. Voice inflection can make emotion more obvious than the paper-based written word. The telephone has no specific advantage for iterative communications and is a poorly indexed technology. Teleconferencing has improved the scalability of the telephone, but its scalability still falls short of ideal. The telephone lacks the richness to efficiently communicate precision and is especially weak on visual images. The telephone is hearing immersive, but ignores the other senses. Yet, it complements the partial visual immersion of paper well as the number of occurrences of phone calls made to discuss a paper document suggests.
The idea of email arose in the early multi-user systems and research laboratories of the late 1960s. The United States Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency had developed ARPAnet, (which in 1969 became the Internet ), and it was expanding quickly. In the business sector, email easily suited host-based systems in which large numbers of users were connected by terminals. Proprietary host email systems such as IBM®'s Professional Office System (PROFS) or DIStributed Office Support System (DISOSS) and Digital Equipment Corporation's (DEC) All-In-1 or VMSmail were popular tools of the time. Email is a widely used communications and collaboration tool because it enables people or mail-enabled applications to exchange multimedia information, workflow, and electronic data interchange transactions.
Evaluation of electronic mail. Overall, electronic mail combines many of the benefits of paper and the telephone. First and foremost, email is a more efficient technology than paper. Email can be organized more easily than paper or telephone correspondence as it is in an electronic format that the computer can use to organize. Still, email does not naturally keep information any more timely than paper or the telephone. Computer based services can communicate information changes by maintaining mailing lists and each recipient can permit the latest incoming message to replace the last transmission. Paper based subscriptions provide the same service but require the recipient to replace the last transmission manually.
Availability of email has been problematic to this point, but there is no real reason it shouldn’t be as available as the telephone. Access is currently more difficult than the telephone, but again there is no technical reason for its inferiority. Email is exceptionally time independent and gets closer to complete place independence daily. Email is as emotional and imaginative as paper as they both rely on the written word, yet typically, email is less brainstorming enabling than paper when anonymous messaging is not available. Still, email lacks the voice emotion capabilities of the telephone. Email can be set up to be more iterative and indexing than paper or the telephone. Again, logical computer processes can be used to maintain iterations and a randomly accessible index over time. Email is very scaleable compared to the telephone or paper as it takes advantage of the client/server benefits of computer networking technologies. Email is no more precise than paper or the telephone and no more immersive than paper.
Jarkko Oikarinen wrote the original Inter-Relay Chat (IRC) program at the University of Oulu, Finland, in 1988 . He designed IRC as a client/server program. IRC differs significantly from previous synchronous communication programs. Fundamental to IRC is the concept of a channel. Original chat programs had no need of channels since only two people could communicate at one time, typing directly to each other's screen. Other chat systems have been developed with similar features to IRC. Basically, chat is the text based equivalent of the telephone. Chat technology is similar to a teleconference in that, unlike with paper and email, the telephone and chat allow for more interactive collaborations as any collaborator can start communicating information at any time during their use of the technology.
Evaluation of chat. Chat is very efficient as it passes every written thought to each subscriber to the channel immediately. Chat is extremely unorganized and often described as chaos. The collaborators that use chat can set up some protocol ahead of time, but chat does effectively nothing to enforce it. Chat’s timeliness rating is similar to the telephone’s. Availability and access are similar to email. Chat is more time dependent than email because it is real-time, yet no more place dependent. Chat tends to be more emotional than email not through its form, but because it is so immediate and emotion is raw, often overcoming typical inhibitions of the communicator. Chat’s biggest benefit over other technologies is in its brainstorming potential because anonymity is assured and new idea discussion can be quick and rapid.
Chat could be as iterative and indexed as email, but the supporting computer processes have not been developed nor applied to chat to date. Chat is as scaleable as email because of its client/server nature. Yet the more concurrent users, the more chaos creeps in to the collaboration process. Chat is no more precise than email, yet tends to be more immersive than email because so much is happening so quickly and that intensity of communications requires more attention.
Video conferencing is a collaborative technology where multiple cameras and microphones provide simultaneous voice and images of collaborators such that the collaborators can see the images of all other cameras except the one focused on themselves. All collaborators hear all voice transmissions. Video conferencing is used often used to replace travel when collaborators feel the need to see one another while collaborating.
Evaluation of video conferencing. Video conferencing is similar to chat in many respects, but tends to be more organized as collaborators gain access to more communication feedback from other collaborators. Video conferencing provides voice and gesture feedback as collaborators can see and hear one another. The enhanced feedback comes at tremendous expense as simultaneous voice and video require significant bandwidth while chat bandwidth requirements are trivial. Video conferencing tends to limit the intensity of the emotional response from each collaborator and severely limits the brainstorming anonymity of chat. Video conferencing is also more difficult to scale to many different locations. Video conferencing can provide a more precise representation of 3D information as the camera can move around within a 3D space. Video conferencing provides partial immersion of more senses than chat, but the experience seems less immersive than an intense chat session. Video conferencing is currently more place dependent than chat but, with infinite bandwidth, need not be so. Similar to email or chat, the computer can be used to organize and index collaborative information. Although algorithmically more difficult to index video than text, the Motion Picture Experts Group’s latest video standard being researched (MPEG4) is attempting to index video by the significant events that appear on camera.
Multi User Dimensions (MUDs) and Object Oriented MUDS (MOOs)
MUD1 was the first proper, workable multi-user adventure game using text based communications over a computer terminal. MUD1 was written by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle at Essex University in England on a DECsystem-10 mainframe. Trubshaw began in Autumn 1979, and Bartle took over in Summer 1980. Initially, the game was playable only by students at the university and guests using the university’s system. After a year or so, however, external players began to direct-dial from home using modems, and the game's popularity grew.  MUDS and MOOS are still very popular for social and game-based collaboration.
Evaluation of MUDS. MUDS and MOOS can be considered chat with a context. Usually, a MUD collaborator has a sense of presence in a 3D environment which helps focus communications on his or her surroundings. The MUD is housed on one or more computers that contain the details of the world as well as act as the chat server. Because of the context provided by the world database, communications tend to be more organized than with chat. The communication is just as efficient as the telephone. Since the computer makes changes to the database over time, MUD based information is more timely than the telephone. MUDS tend to be less available or accessible than email or the telephone because concurrent use is usually restricted in order to keep up the quality of service.
MUDs are as time and place independent as chat and can be self-documenting if some logging service is provided on the world computer. MUD collaboration can be as emotional as chat. In fact, quite an elaborate subculture has arisen in the MUD community such that text based norms have been promulgated that creatively attempt to make up for the lack of voice and gesture feedback of keyboard-based transmissions. MUDs are an extremely imaginative collaboration technology as collaborators are often allowed to add rich 3D based text additions to the world database. Collaborators must use their imagination to see the world they are investigating. Brainstorming is limited by the fact that the MUD usually already has its context determined by its choreographer, but a collaborator is provided the benefit of anonymity.
MUD scalability is not limited by technical considerations, but by the sense of community. A larger, faster computer or bank of computers can always be used to house the MUD, yet more collaborators tends to disturb the sense of peace of the MUD experience. MUDs provide a collaborator a means for specifying a third dimension, but only as precisely as words can detail it. MUD participation is extremely immersive as the mind is occupied by creating a picture of the world from a text based description. No aural or haptic immersion is involved.
Version 1.0 of Lotus Notes was developed from 1984 to 1989 through the design and programming efforts of Ray Ozzie, Len Kawell, Tim Halvorsen, and Steve Beckhardt, the first three of which had developed a strong vision of groupware from having worked with the Plato system at the University of Illinois in the mid-1970s. At the Computer-Based Education Research Lab there, an electronic newsgroup-like computer program called gnotes, run by users in remote places sitting at a Plato terminal, allowed users to share group messages. Although Plato terminals were attached to a mainframe, the environment had the feel of today’s PC networks. 
Groupware such as Lotus’ Lotus Notes organizes collaborators’ ‘off-line’ discussions, creating discussion threads, multiple indexing, and time stamping. Groupware databases are becoming more graphical as images are easily inserted into the body of the text. There are common sense arguments supporting ‘off-line’ collaboration over face to face meetings such as the following:
· Participation independent of location to save travel time and conflicts
· More time to think about new information before responding thereby better response quality
· Consideration of most relevant information first in order to think top-down
· Ability to skip details of issues not relevant to a participant in order to save time and resources
· Participation when feeling more participative and energetic
· Revision of thoughts before presenting them in order to avoid miscommunication
Evaluation of groupware. Groupware is as efficient as email, yet significantly more organized as a typical groupware database contains more than just a few dynamic indices to the database’s documents. These views as they are called are easily created by available sorts and filters and provide a sophisticated search capability. Timeliness is improved over other technologies as only one copy of a document exists in the database at any time and is updated to remain current. Groupware, like email, continues to become more available and accessible. Both can be considered as 100%. Groupware is both time and place independent and does a great job of self-documenting the collaborative process. In fact, a selling point of groupware is its benefit of tracking historical collaboration for later use in confirming details or revisiting a decision point which was influential in success or failure. The documentation process then helps others learn how to collaborate.
Groupware is similar to email in its emotional, imaginative, and brainstorm enabling ability. Because of its organization ability, iterative collaboration is better served by groupware than all other collaboration enabling technologies. Groupware is scaleable through its client/server architecture. Groupware allows for a precise representation of facts through text and images, but is not yet considered a 3D medium. Groupware is as immersive as paper-based information sources.
Networked Video Games
Video games were born when the first computer display was used to represent information in a graphical format and a user interactively moved the image with a goal in mind. Video game evolution has been constant since that point. Video games evolved rapidly in the “golden years” of video games at the beginning of the 1980s. In 1980, the video game Defender became the first video game with a virtual world where activity was happening outside of the physical view of the player. Also in 1980, Battlezone became the first truly interactive 3D environment used in a video game and Bezerk added the first spoken vocabulary of 30 words. Finally, in 1981, the video game Warlords became the first collaborative game where cooperation with other players actually helped a player gain a higher score.
Since then, video games have been networked over long distances and the graphical displays have continued to become more impressive. Video game technology is very efficient, organized, and timely as the computer controls all three aspects. Video games are as available and accessible as other network computing technologies, yet often require higher bandwidth resources than email or chat. Since the game typically changes often and instantaneously, there is a high time dependence although the place independence improves at the rate of new network bandwidth roll-out. Video games are not usually self-documenting, but can become so with added overhead. Video game users can demonstrate emotion through the characters they represent. Their playing piece typically demonstrates human-like, non-verbal communication. Video games can capture the imagination of the player, yet with such exact graphical output, usually are very literal. Imagination is more associated with immersion in the game playing environment where the player imagines being the playing piece in the scene. Video games are usually not brainstorm enabling. Video games can be built to be iterative toward better understanding and can be indexed along the way such that a saved game condition can be loaded and revisited. Video games can be scaleable through a client/server architecture. A precise 3D representation of data can be represented using video game technology and video games can become an immersive experience of all the senses.
Video games will continue to push collaborative technologies through their money making potential. Today’s networked video games like Doom and Quake make millions for their creators as children and adults are willing to pay significantly for their entertainment.
Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS)
According to the DIS Steering Committee:
“The primary mission of DIS is to define an infrastructure for linking simulations of various types at multiple locations to create realistic, complex, virtual "worlds" for the simulation of highly interactive activities. This infrastructure brings together systems built for separate purposes, technologies from different eras, products from various vendors, and platforms from various services and permits them to interoperate. DIS exercises are intended to support a mixture of virtual entities (human-in-the-loop simulators), live entities (operational platforms and test and evaluation systems), and constructive entities (wargames and other automated simulations)” .
In many regards, DIS can be considered a video game technology. DIS is considered a significant standard for potentially networking hundreds of thousands of users together in a virtual world based simulation. DIS architecture is different than a typical network game server. The first successful DIS prototype started development in 1983 and was unveiled in 1989.
Evaluation of DIS. Compared to video games, DIS is different on the emotional scale as the human form is never controlled by a collaborator. Non-verbal communication is limited. Collaboration is through voice discussions of strategic choices of action. DIS is more scaleable by nature of its design. Since the DIS standard is evolving toward improvement on all the collaboration scales, the interest lies mainly in what it will become.
Greenspace is a 3D virtual environment platform developed by the Human Interface Technology Laboratory at The University of Washington. Greenspace technology is based on multicast, collaborative, object-oriented classes driving 3D stereo visual display, spatial sound, speech recognition and synthesis, position tracking, touch and gesture input with force feedback.  Although all design goals have yet to be met, the technology encompasses the ultimate in fully immersed virtual collaboration. The key to Greenspace is the position tracking of the body of a collaborator in order to represent the collaborator’s actions in the virtual world. The first phase of Greenspace was demonstrated in November of 1993 while the second phase was demonstrated in 1995.
Evaluation of Greenspace. Since the collaborator actually becomes a virtual human, non-verbal communication is enhanced over the typical video game. Multicasting permits Greenspace to be more scaleable than today’s video games. All other aspects of Greenspace rank similarly to the video game collaboration evaluation.
Avatar based Multi-user Worlds
True 3D multi-user worlds based on VRML became publicly available in 1996 from many different sources including blaxxun interactive, Intel Corporation, and Sony Corporation. Avatar based multi-user worlds are a combination of chat and the Greenspace ideal. Built with lower bandwidth requirements, multi-user world technology relies on many of the aspects of chat and MUDs that have made them successful as collaborative tools. Multi-user worlds allow for text based communications and unique identification of the user in the world through an avatar. Behaviors need not be human, yet the avatars provide some form of non-verbal communication that can be interpreted by a human. Like MUDs, they can be quite social in nature. Voice based chat is rapidly being incorporated into multi-user virtual worlds.
Evaluation of multi-user worlds. Multi-user worlds are as efficient as chat, and are as organized and timely, but with a different purpose. Multi-user worlds are organized around a very visible three dimensional information space. Any changes to the three dimensional state of the shared world are updated in a timely manner. Availability and accessibility are similar to MUDs as are the time and place independence ratings. Multi-user worlds do not have any explicit self-documenting feature, but the self-documenting ability can be built within the computer process with overhead. The inclusion of an avatar allows the collaboration to be more emotional than with MUD technology, but significant work is still needed to make useful avatar behaviors a reality. Multi-user worlds are more literal than MUDs which can be interpreted as being less imaginative. Yet, for communicating truly unique 3D images, multi-user worlds can capture the imagination of the collaborator. The brainstorming ability of multi-user worlds is dependent on the tools available within the world.
Multi-user worlds can provide iterative collaboration of 3D design in pieces, or all of the world can be replaced with a new geometry to communicate a better idea or understanding. Since multi-user worlds are Web-enabled, objects can be brought in from any Web server to aid communication. Multi-user worlds are not as immersive as Greenspace, but can become so as the technology develops.
Technology has been enabling collaboration for centuries now. As time passes, the best features in one collaboration enabling technology are appearing in the others. For example, the benefit of place independence provided by email is being extended to telephones through cellular technologies. Or, as another example, avatars are being added to networked computer programs to enable non-verbal communications in a virtual world. Some of the features of collaborative tools are actually in competition with each other. For example, MUD users mention how they appreciate the personal interpretation they are afforded by being provided a text only communication medium. Their interpretation is personal because the pictures they create are solely inside of their head. As we move to Greenspace environments, the picture is very literal. A literal picture has some powerful benefits, but the trade-off is always a loss of personal interpretation, something our society often defends as personal freedom.
In collaborative technologies of today, convergence is the key. A collaborative environment taking advantage of a multi-media enabled computer can pick and choose the best aspects of each technology reviewed in this historical perspective. As computer bandwidth and processing speeds improve, collaborators will expect all of the best collaboration enabling aspects of technology in the same collaboration tool.