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Distributed Work: Current Reality and Promise

This chapter describes today's distributed work landscape, exploring current uses, benefits, limitations, potential enhancements, and opportunities for expansion. Its purpose is not to describe an exhaustive set of applications and scenarios, but rather to aid in exploring the need for further technological research aimed at enhancing distributed work. Although the initial discussion focuses on the representative activities of information processing and communicating at various levels, it is clear that jobs vary in the extent to which they require complex handling of data, people, and things (see U.S. Department of Labor, 1991). Dealing with people and objects requires tools that are different from those for dealing with information. U.S. industry has developed a rich palette of mail and telecommunications applications to enable communication among people at a distance. However, even in regular telephone communications, improvement is needed for some typical distributed work tasks. In comparison, there are even fewer techniques for dealing with objects at a distance.

ASPECTS OF DISTRIBUTED WORK ENABLED BY COMPUTING AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY

The last 15 years have seen a proliferation of information technologies and communications applications that let people do their



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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work 2 Distributed Work: Current Reality and Promise This chapter describes today's distributed work landscape, exploring current uses, benefits, limitations, potential enhancements, and opportunities for expansion. Its purpose is not to describe an exhaustive set of applications and scenarios, but rather to aid in exploring the need for further technological research aimed at enhancing distributed work. Although the initial discussion focuses on the representative activities of information processing and communicating at various levels, it is clear that jobs vary in the extent to which they require complex handling of data, people, and things (see U.S. Department of Labor, 1991). Dealing with people and objects requires tools that are different from those for dealing with information. U.S. industry has developed a rich palette of mail and telecommunications applications to enable communication among people at a distance. However, even in regular telephone communications, improvement is needed for some typical distributed work tasks. In comparison, there are even fewer techniques for dealing with objects at a distance. ASPECTS OF DISTRIBUTED WORK ENABLED BY COMPUTING AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY The last 15 years have seen a proliferation of information technologies and communications applications that let people do their

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work work while overcoming some of the limitations of space and time. Corporate databases, electronic libraries, and information servers help people retrieve, process, and store the information they need to do their jobs, regardless of location. Facsimile, electronic mail, and audio-and videoconferencing now routinely supplement long-standing communications media such as face-to-face meetings, postal mail, and the telephone, keeping people in touch with their fellow employees and with their clients and customers. The traditional media also have changed: many telephone systems now include voice mail, the U.S. Postal Service offers overnight delivery, and formerly widespread telex service has been largely replaced by other communications technologies. Home-based resources, too, have been augmented: national surveys have shown that doing paid employment from the home is the best predictor of having a computer at home (Dudley et al., 1993). Information Processing Declines in the cost of computing hardware and the concomitant growth in the use of computers for both routine and strategic purposes in organizations mean that much of the information that people need to do their jobs is in computerized form at some point during its life cycle. And once information is in computerized form, it becomes possible for people to access it with comparatively few logistical constraints on where they are and when they do so. Much of the information available to remote personnel is generated as a by-product of an organization's routine transaction processing, rather than created specifically for the purpose of supporting distributed work. For example, computerized reservation systems for the airline industry were developed to allow a highly distributed work force of travel agents to gain up-to-date information about flight schedules and prices. A variant of this reservation system combined with nationwide data networks such as CompuServe now allows average citizens to access the same information on their personal computers at home. Similarly, by using database technology combined with call distributors and other telecommunications services, some customer service representatives are able to do their work independent of location. Service representatives working for a telephone company, for example, can access recent bills, customer credit history, and databases of help information so that they can resolve billing conflicts, collect past-due accounts, take new service orders, and answer customer questions. Many workers can also have at their disposal information beyond that created by a single organization. For a fee, individuals and

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work firms can access any of the thousands of commercial databases containing a vast array of information, including the full text of legal cases; financial information about firms from various sources, including Securities and Exchange Commission filings; consumer and business credit information; patent filings; stock quotations; the full text of national and regional newspapers; and research articles in virtually every scientific and technical field. An increasing number of databases (especially for government-generated or government-owned information) are also becoming available on a no-fee basis via the Internet. Moreover, recent developments in information publishing and retrieval have made increasing amounts of information available on public networks such as the Internet and America OnLine. For example, a tool developed by researchers at CERN in Geneva, the World-Wide Web, links documents and files connected by the Internet. The information in the Web is based on a hyper-text mark-up language protocol that makes it possible for individuals and organizations to publish information on the Internet that is cross-linked both internally and to external documents. For example, selecting, or clicking on, a highlighted word within a document can initiate retrieval of its definition, or related information, from within that same document, or even from a document at another location on the network. This capability allows the user to browse easily through related pieces of information, or groups of related documents, without regard to the physical location of the information. This and other new techniques for information retrieval on computer networks (including the easy-to-use Mosaic interface to the World-Wide Web) have stimulated the supply of available information by improving access to it, but they have also led to increased network traffic. Taken together, the availability of company and other databases, commercial database services, and the networks that connect them mean that many people can be much less reliant on centralized, physically co-located corporate resources to do their jobs. Lawyers do not need the corporate law library if an electronic library is available, and service representatives need not be tied to file cabinets of paper invoices. It is clear that people use electronic archives of information when they work away from a conventional work site. Yet there are practical limits on the extent to which people can work away from a conventional work site, remote from peers and supervisors, merely by relying on electronic archives. The major consideration is the availability in electronic form of the information people need to perform information-intensive tasks. Sales representatives for mail-order companies have in electronic form most of the

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work information they need to take an order—product and inventory information, for example. Yet other information that they might need to aid a customer, such as the exact color of a product and whether it clashes with the color of another item, might require accurate pictures that are not easily stored or searched for in currently available conventional databases. While searching for textual information (e.g., skirts in size 7) is easily done, searching for nontext information (e.g., blouses compatible in style with a skirt) is still a problem. Even much text-oriented information that employees need to handle transactions may originate from outside their company and therefore not be readily available in electronic form; thus letters of complaint or explanation that accompany a mail-order return may not be available when the customer next calls up to discuss the status of an order. Even if the information-intensive tasks that people perform were adequately supported by networked electronic archives, retrieving and processing of information account for only a portion of most people's duties. Audio and Video Communications Audio Speech plays an essential role in our work lives due to its power, expressiveness, and richness in interactive conversation. Numerous studies (e.g., Kraut et al., 1990; Ochsman and Chapanis, 1974) comparing voice and other communications media have repeatedly identified speech as the primary channel for cooperative problem solving. Except in specialized cases, speech plus any medium is better than any other combination of media without speech. Thus, one traditional way for remote workers to keep in touch is to use the telephone. The voice telephone enables real-time communication, supporting interactivity between people that allows them to rapidly get feedback from each other during the course of a conversation. This feedback improves their ability to communicate clearly (Kraut et al., 1982; Clark and Brennen, 1991). Although the telephone is an old technology (the first call was completed in 1876), several recent developments have contributed to its importance in supporting distributed work. The first is simply the reduction in costs and the related change in cultural attitudes that have made long-distance telephone calls a much more frequently used business tool now than in the past. The second trend is the growing availability of mobile communications that make it much easier to contact workers while they are traveling. Historically, drawbacks

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work to the radio services used by police dispatchers and others who communicate with mobile workers have been their limited geographic range, their high cost, and their very limited availability. In traditional telephony a constraint has been the fact that a telephone number represented a fixed location, not a person. Thus one person attempting to contact another placed calls to the locations where the recipient was most likely to be, and hoped for the best. Recently, however, both switched and store-and-forward services for mobile workers have become available nationwide. National switched services include paging and the mobile telephone, which signals its presence to local relay cells so that any calls to that mobile telephone number can be routed to the cell then in contact with the mobile telephone. Store-and-forward services include electronic mail and voice mail, which allow a sender to leave in a repository a message that can subsequently be picked up and attended to by the recipient over local or wide area data networks, including the nationwide telecommunications network. A third trend in telecommunications that enhances telephony's support for distributed work is the introduction of what had been business services or equipment, repackaged for the residential market by communications companies and equipment manufacturers. For example, telephone companies now offer call waiting, call forwarding, three-way calling, calling number identification, and voice mail for the residential market. Relatively inexpensive telecommunications hardware for the home both supplements and competes with the services now embedded in the communications network. Multiline telephones, answering machines, and fax machines are now easily affordable. Both optional communications services and stand-alone devices are disproportionately purchased by people who work from their homes (Dudley et al., 1993). Video and Audio-Video Video telephony is another communications development that has implications for distributed work. Video telephones were first demonstrated in 1927 (Ives, 1930). Since then, the telecommunications industry has attempted to solve the technical problems that prevented video telephony from enjoying widespread use. Recent improvements in algorithms for video compression and powerful new microprocessing chips will increase quality and reduce the cost of videophones and conferencing equipment to levels that small businesses and consumers can afford. These developments, along with industry agreement on standards for the interoperability of compression

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work and decompression devices for digital video (codec devices) and the availability of communications services at data rates that support reasonable-quality video transmission, promise to make video telephony and videoconferencing more widely used services in the future. It seems reasonable to think that a video connection should be especially good at enabling distributed groups to work as if they were in a face-to-face meeting. Yet a substantial body of research literature suggests that the visual medium does little to improve conversation when the main goal is the exchange of information. However, video connections do seem to have greater value for handling complex, ambiguous, or conflictual tasks and for tasks in which the social component is important (see Williams, 1977, for an early review and Fish et al., 1992, and Tang and Isaacs, 1992, for more recent discussions). Compared to audio-only conversations, audio-video conversations are more personalized, less argumentative, and broader in focus. Groups engaging in audio-video conversations tend to like each other more and are more likely to reach consensus easily; in negotiation or persuasion sessions, the negotiation is gentler and agreements tend to be influenced by the personalities of the bargainers, rather than resting exclusively on the merits of the argument (Williams, 1977). In addition, in field trials, new applications of video connections have emerged that go beyond conventional interpersonal communication, including the use of videophones to access multimedia information services and to maintain organizational awareness. The use of videoconferencing for accessing broadcast materials is common in both business and education settings (LaRose, 1983, cited in Svenning and Ruchinskas, 1984). Users of experimental video telephony systems can place calls to television channels to see the news and other entertainment, and to video cassette recorders to access stored information. By placing calls to corporate lectures and presentations and thus attending these events remotely, users reduce their risk of wasting time, since they can politely turn off an unproductive session or attend to the broadcast and their desk work simultaneously. People have also used video for benign surveillance—to maintain awareness of what their colleagues are doing even when they are not immediately communicating with them. In video telephony field experiments, users have maintained long-lived calls to "public" places—lobbies or lunch rooms, for example—just to know what was going on at remote sites. In addition, they have maintained long-lived calls to work partners—for example, people with whom they were coauthoring a document—in order to have easy access to them, but

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work without engaging in sustained conversation. In effect, when they anticipated frequent but unscheduled conversations, they used video to create a shared office for a time. These novel uses were enabled by video; they rarely happen on the voice telephone. Computer-mediated Communications Typically, in conventional organizations members acquire much of their technical knowledge and a substantial amount of incidental information by bumping into interesting people or situations (Allen, 1977; Kusterer, 1978; Lave and Wenger, 1991). Members who are at the periphery of an organization have fewer opportunities to converse spontaneously with colleagues and to observe others working or in interaction with each other. Isolated members can thus be at a disadvantage in knowing about their work environment (e.g., Hesses et al., 1993). Current Uses of Electronic Mail Electronic mail seems to be an especially useful medium for supporting distributed work because it is able to overcome many disadvantages of working at a distance, especially for isolated members of an organization. Like other asynchronous media, such as facsimile and voice mail, electronic mail allows people to leave messages that are available almost instantaneously regardless of distance but that do not require the sender and recipient of the message to be simultaneously available. In addition, communications sent by electronic mail tend to be processed and archived more easily than communication exchanged using more ephemeral media (e.g., face-to-meetings and telephone calls) or media that are harder to search (e.g., voice mail). Electronic mail as a written document supports a form of memory for distributed work groups, allowing personnel to keep up with communications that have gone on in their absence. Third, because of the ease of sending messages to multiple recipients through on-line bulletin boards and distribution lists, communications sent by electronic mail tend to have more recipients than communication through other media (Kraut and Attewell, 1993; Finholt, 1994), thus facilitating the spread of organizational information. Several studies have shown that individuals working at an organization's periphery use electronic mail more than those at the core of the organization (Kraut and Attewell, 1993; Finholt, 1994). Compared to those who do not use electronic mail, members of distributed groups who use it regularly tend to know each other better

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work and to be more uniformly involved in the group's projects (Eveland and Bikson, 1988). When isolated members use electronic mail more, they tend to be more informed about their organizations (Kraut and Attewell, 1993; Finholt, 1994) and tend to be more successful. For example, Hesses et al. (1993) have shown that oceanographers who used an electronic mail network for project communication published more articles and had greater professional recognition than did nonusers and that the benefits of network use accrued most to the scientists who were geographically isolated (i.e., away from the coasts) or who were less senior. Potential Uses of Electronic Mail for Distributed Work Communications technologies are more valuable the more ubiquitous they are. Much of electronic mail's potential for distributed work has not yet been realized, because its use is still significantly concentrated within high-technology organizations and the academic community. The use of electronic mail by unaffiliated individuals and small businesses, and the ability to communicate with people who are not on large networks, is still limited. However, it is growing with the expansion of commercial network providers. What truly distinguishes electronic mail from other communications media is that electronic mail messages are computational objects. That is, messages are sent and received in a form that can be directly processed by computer. In theory, it is possible to use information retrieval techniques to search through an organization's archives of electronic mail, or use filtering mechanisms to allow intelligent agents to separate important messages from the routine or irrelevant. In practice, however, most commercial electronic mail software packages have only rudimentary searching and filtering capabilities. It is also possible to anticipate forms of computer-augmented communication that will improve traditional human-to-human communication, rather than merely allowing it to take place at a distance. For example, with some addition of database capabilities, products like Lotus Notes use electronic mail to form the basis for work flow processing. Once designed, certain types of messages can automatically route themselves through the various steps in an organizational process, collecting comments and approvals along the way. This type of application can also be used to consolidate and record organizational knowledge and may be particularly important for distributed organizations and work teams. Currently, however, few people apply computation to electronic messages, even when these capabilities are available (see Lai et al.,

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work 1988; Flores et al., 1988; and Borenstein, 1992, for examples of systems for computer-augmented human communication). Despite the recent development of ''intelligent" electronic mail systems with some searching, filtering, and work-flow-processing capabilities, most electronic mail is apparently still read directly by humans, without the aid of these information-handling tools (Bullen and Bennett, 1991). Additional multidisciplinary research in this general area might improve the ability of software to mimic the filtering, sorting, and processing functions of individuals who have learned to use electronic mail as a central part of their work. Information Sharing and Use of Remote Facilities Although the capability to enable remote sharing of expensive instrumentation and facilities has been limited to date, its potential benefits are considerable. Some of the possibilities for using computing and communications technology to facilitate remote field work in oceanography, control of remote instruments in space physics, or real-time sharing of research results in molecular biology have been suggested in National Collaboratories (CSTB, 1993). Other distributed and mobile workers will also find it advantageous to be able to control physical devices remotely. For example, the University of California at San Diego recently made an electron microscope available to scientists over the Internet. Users can control many of the functions of the microscope while receiving high-quality images in real time. Applications of this nature need not, however, be limited to the scientific research realm; specialized industrial or medical imaging and testing equipment might also be controlled, and the output viewed, remotely. In general, the value of this capability is highest when either the physical assets or the individuals with the needed knowledge are in short supply, or when the equipment must be operated in a hazardous environment. Remote control and utilization of data require reliable networking with sufficient bandwidth to support interactive responses between the equipment being controlled and the user receiving the images or other data stream. Expansion of this type of application will require changes to the devices to be controlled, sophisticated distributed control software systems, and creative user interfaces. A particularly challenging application might be to develop a remote control application that would allow scientists to control experimental devices over a wireless personal communication system device or over cellular networks.

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work THE REALITY OF TODAY'S DISTRIBUTED WORK Although distributed work includes telecommuting, it also encompasses activities such as working while mobile, field work, and computer-and telecommunications-assisted education and collaboration. What could once be done only in an office or lecture hall, for example, can now often be accomplished from other sites. Mobility has significant advantages, such as increased temporal and locational flexibility in working and learning, but also disadvantages, for instance, that the time and effort spent to utilize technological capabilities may sometimes seem to outweigh the benefits. At times, what can be envisioned as a productive approach to doing work well is not supported by currently available communications technology and infrastructure. The Mobile Worker—A Composite The work experience of "Richard," A prototypical modern mobile executive in a large, multinational organization, simultaneously illustrates the capabilities that today's technology enables and underscores many of the limitations that people undertaking distributed work or telecommuting must face today. What Richard does can be divided loosely into two categories: (1) "manifest" work activities, performed primarily alone, such as information retrieval and perusal, reading, editing, and document preparation; and (2) communication and related activities involving other individuals. As with many managers and executives, at least half of Richard's time is devoted to communications. There is, of course, an enormous overlap between the two categories, and both tend to be interrupted frequently by external demands. Richard works in a number of locations, including his office, additional company sites, his home, customer sites, his car, hotel rooms, airplanes, and airports. To support his work and communication needs, Richard relies on an office computer, a home computer, a portable computer, modems, printers, facsimile machines, electronic mail, telephones, and voice mail, and from time to time he accesses his office computer from computers in other offices. On a few occasions, while negotiating a complex deal, he has used a pager. Because his job is so communication-intensive, much of Richard's computer use is for sending and receiving electronic mail. He estimates that less than 20 percent of his computer use is for his manifest work activities. To accomplish those tasks, he relies heavily on paper

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work because of its portability and ease of manipulation; paper can be carried from place to place, skimmed, studied, and/or marked up with ease. Given Richard's activity mix, work locations, and the devices on which he relies, what are the main problems he encounters in accomplishing his work? The main problem Richard is constantly encountering is the lack of integration between his computers and the other devices he uses, and even among the software programs used on his computers. The output from one tool or device can not always be easily input to another. For example, Richard uses four separate electronic mail systems to obtain global coverage but cannot combine them to receive mail in one place. He has a similar problem with his calendar and appointment information, which cannot be easily transferred among systems or made easily accessible to others who are at remote sites. In the office he still must print complex pages or pages containing graphics and physically carry them to the facsimile machine for transmission. This lack of integration inconveniences and irritates Richard and slows his work. Richard also encounters difficulties related to the complexity of installing, gaining access to, and using tools and devices. He tends to use a small subset of the functionality available in software packages and in complex devices such as facsimile machines. Richard is not fond of interface changes and unexpected incompatibility among systems, and so he often chooses not to upgrade software until his system administrator insists. The other problems he encounters range from relatively minor but annoying circumstances—such as the difficulty of locating electronic mail addresses, the occasional unreliability of electronic mail delivery, and uncertainty about the extent to which a note by electronic mail should be polished and formal like a letter, rather than informal like a voice mail message—to broader, less defined concerns about issues like privacy and security. Richard's use of a laptop computer illustrates many of the above problems and some additional issues as well. He has yet to discover a simple, foolproof method of keeping the programs, information, and files on his laptop synchronized with those on his office and home computers. Technical support is an even greater problem for the laptop than for his home computer: the portable computer is generally used both away from the office and during off hours when the office is closed. Even worse, he often does not know what electronic files he will need when he goes to a meeting away from his home office, and he would prefer to be able to connect to his office and access electronic information from the meeting site with equipment

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work located there. He thinks that, ideally, he should be able to access his electronic mail and files, exchange electronic information with others physically present at the meeting, and set up a remote information world without having had to carry anything at all to the meeting. In short, he wishes that the computing environment at his various meeting sites would enable him to obtain all the computer-based information support he could get at his office if he were physically present there. Richard still feels that the laptop is too obtrusive for taking notes during really important meetings. He has considered getting a personal digital assistant just for use in such circumstances, but he doesn't want yet another device to carry and he has heard that the handwriting recognition is poor. Richard therefore typically relies on pencil-and-paper notes and tries to type up the important ones to save on the portable computer for easy referral. He is intrigued by the use of computers during meetings for tasks such as brainstorming but is concerned that he will not be able to communicate his ideas as effectively as he does when speaking. Richard has used his computer a few times to prepare presentations. He found that it required a great deal of time to get everything colored, spaced, and sized properly for visual appeal, in contrast to the times when he used the company's graphics department. Modem use is essential during Richard's time away from his office. However he rarely finds that he can just plug the modem in and use it, especially when he is traveling internationally. He often cannot access his electronic mail when he wants to, or feels that he wastes time in getting connected. His success in sending facsimiles from hotel rooms using his own portable computer is even lower. And at the moment, his portable computer cannot receive and display facsimiles. Richard's problems with printers are "simple." His home printer does not have the quality, speed, or reliability he would like. A printer is rarely available when he is traveling and when one is available, he often has trouble connecting to it and getting his software to print documents properly. On some occasions, he has resorted to sending himself a fax, in essence using a facsimile machine as a printer. People sometimes joke that Richard has a telephone attached to the side of his head. He still relies heavily on the telephone and voice mail for communication. He identifies fewer difficulties with telephone use than computer use. The problems he encounters are the quantity of numbers he needs to remember and the expense and occasionally the poor quality of cellular telephone use. Because Richard frequently works from home and sometimes while on vacation,

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work he wants to be accessible without letting people know where he is. Instead, he finds all too often that he leaves three or four telephone numbers with someone when he wants to be reachable. He has occasionally used a pager when he wanted to ensure that he could be reached immediately. Richard has found that voice mail is a necessary addition to telephone communications. He likes the informality and personal nature of voice mail but sometimes must rerecord a message to convey the desired tone. He wishes he could be notified more easily of waiting messages, especially important ones. He also wishes he could skim, prioritize, filter, and save the text of messages, just as he can with electronic mail. Yet the convenience and availability of telephone use, compared to computer use, mean that Richard uses voice mail much more heavily than electronic mail. He is occasionally concerned about the privacy of voice mail, especially given the ease of forwarding it within his system. But at the same time, he wishes that his company would integrate all its voice mail systems so that he could forward messages to anyone in the company. Expense also is an issue, especially to the management in Richard's company. He would like to explore some new technologies, such as ways of connecting his various communication devices or the use of videoconferencing to reduce his travel and allow impromptu meetings, but he is unable to justify the cost. He is nervous about increasing the number of technological devices he needs to know how to operate or use, even though he imagines that it would be great to call a meeting quickly and use videoconferencing to have it, rather than having to plan it far enough in advance that everyone can schedule it and travel to a common site for it. Richard is concerned that skills that he has refined over his career will become less effective with the introduction of other ways of accomplishing work; in particular, his ability to dominate conversations is well refined and has contributed to his success. He also wonders about his ability to manage his work time and personal family time. It sometimes seems that his manager now has unlimited expectations regarding Richard's availability since there are now fewer technical boundaries no matter what the hour of the day is or where he is located—even when he is on vacation. Although the discomfort that many managers feel at supervising people who are connected but not often visible has been cited as a significant problem with mobile work, major problems also exist for the mobile worker regarding the management of work and family boundaries. There are thus several general problems Richard encounters in his use of multiple devices and communication channels. One is that the amount of technical expertise needed for effective use far exceeds

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work his desired level of knowledge. Much of what he does is too time-consuming, and the lack of integration and interoperability is a constant source of frustration. Solutions may exist to some of Richard's problems, but he is not aware of them or he is hesitant to implement the significant changes to his work habits that would be required. He also feels that he now must do himself much of the work that used to be done by his assistant. With important communications being transmitted via so many different media, he particularly misses the ability his assistant used to have to filter and prioritize calls, messages, and written information. In summary, Richard wants significantly better integration of devices, services, and interfaces regardless of whether he is in his office or mobile. He needs better ways to manage and integrate the ever increasing flows of information arriving on multiple media from multiple sources. In the long term, he wants a ubiquitous computing environment such as that being explored at Xerox PARC (Weiser, 1993) so that he can largely dispense with "hoofing around" so much technology and so many information sources himself. Distributed Education Much like mobile work, education currently makes use of several technologies to achieve some locational independence, and could use even better tools to increase educational effectiveness. The United States, Great Britain, and many European countries have a long tradition of offering distance learning using paper, television, and more recently, computer-augmented instruction. Commercial and public television has been used to broadcast college-level courses for decades, and corporate teleconferencing and closed-circuit networks have been used for broadcasting training materials since their earliest days (see, e.g., LaRose, 1983). The National Technological University broadcasts more than 25,000 hours of educational material and short courses to more than 130 corporate clients per year (NTU, 1994). In a typical distance education application, a lecture is specially organized for noninteractive, video delivery and is broadcast to subscribers, who view it as it is transmitted or record it for later playback. These broadcast lectures are often supplemented with a telephone connection, so that members of a remote audience can ask questions or make comments to the lecturer. In a variant of this model, Stanford University's School of Engineering (Gibbons et al., 1977) has videotaped regular college lecture courses and then shown them unedited to students from industry in off-campus locations. The tapes are shipped to remote sites with homework assignments and examinations.

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work An on-site tutor guides the students through the lecture, encouraging them to stop frequently for questions and discussion. In the 1980s and 1990s, electronic mail and bulletin boards and other tools have been added to the more traditional video media to support interaction among students and between students and instructors (Hiltz, 1993). The use of technology to support distance education has obvious benefits. It allows experts to be more productive by distributing their expertise to a wider audience. It supports students who are physically removed from schools and universities or who are isolated from a critical mass of other students who share their educational needs. Using asynchronous technology like videotapes also allows students to study at times convenient to them. Similarly, they can stop and start the instruction at will, which can be an advantage in trying to understand material that is especially difficult or that is presented in a language other than a student's own native language. Despite these advantages, the current technology to support distance learning places substantial constraints on the educational enterprise. It is no surprise that current distance learning applications typically use a lecture style of instruction, since the technology is conducive to this model of information transmission. Whether live or on video, today's lecture setting is characterized by the isolation of the instructor, a low degree of social interaction, a low level of attention to individual students, and a declarative model of learning. For example, while at a lecture, students generally cannot make use of archived information, and interaction typically is limited to a few questions and answers. The pace of information delivery is not under the student's control; it must be modulated by the teacher in response to his or her assessment of average student readiness or understanding. While the content of most educational material is declarative, the goal of much educational instruction is to impart procedural knowledge, the basis for doing rather than describing. Educators and others can imagine the value of remote instruction that incorporates features of the workplace, thereby enabling substantial interaction among students, access to personal archives, and hands-on experience with work objects like models, experiments, or instruments—for example, a remotely taught collaborative design course in which industrial design students work with human-factors specialists and software engineers to build a wearable computer (Smailagic and Siewiorek, 1994). Unfortunately, the capability for remote participants in distance learning to have highly interactive discussions to plan and develop a design is not supported well by current communications technologies or applications. Neither audio-nor

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work videoconferences deal well with multiple voice channels, or with the starts, stops, and interruptions that characterize animated group discussions (see, e.g., O'Conaill et al., 1992) Similarly, while electronic mail and computerized bulletin boards are good for involving many participants and for keeping records of a conversation, they do not handle well the give-and-take discussions that many groups need to have when clarifying ideas. Some experiments using more interactive technology such as two-way video for distance learning are now under way (e.g., National Geographic's Kid's Net for geography and ocean sciences education). These experiments emphasize collaborative learning and in the process are developing tools for distributed work that are specialized for educational settings, especially for the K-12 age groups. However, techniques for operating equipment and instruments at a distance, for receiving output, and for sharing output among multiple students are in their infancy. Collaborative Work—The Need for New Products Linked to Underlying Databases or Objects One of the reasons for the success of electronic mail is its similarity to current work practices: it resembles other forms of message sending and information circulation. However, many of the most successful collaborative projects are based on a model that has a closer technological match in physical objects or database technology. For example, when people work together they often co-locate and share writing, drawings, physical space, and mental space. They communicate through gesturing at a shared image or section of text. They suggest changes that can easily be seen, evaluated, and further changed by colleagues (Whitaker and Geelhoed, 1993; Fish et al., 1992). Unfortunately, most group and distributed work products still depend on easy-to-accept electronic mail-based models of work augmented by some shared-screen capabilities. Products, like Lotus Notes, based on underlying databases are now only beginning to be developed and marketed. Facsimile transmission allows remote workers to quickly transmit and share static documents but not to jointly manipulate them during the course of a conversation. Several software packages and technology being developed for audio-and videconferencing over the Internet allow people whose computers are on a common data network to jointly view and manipulate computer files and computer screens. Unfortunately, unlike telephones or fax machines, which

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work have a level of standardization such that virtually any fax or telephone in the world can communicate with any other, these file-and screen-sharing programs are not standardized and do not interoperate. Therefore these applications work only with careful planning and agreement among people who use compatible combinations of hardware and software. Although current products have facilitated writing and composition for many individuals, much collaborative writing and revision continue to be done primarily by people who are either temporarily or permanently co-located. The still painful nature of collaborating in such tasks via electronic mail is evidenced by the various editing "protocols" that have evolved from the use of current word processors and electronic mail to coauthor or revise a document: to circumvent the main goal of the design of word processors—making changes visible as soon as possible and always keeping what is displayed on the screen as close as possible in form and appearance to the final output—authors collaborating via electronic mail often must differentiate new text from old text, or comments on existing text, by changing the appearance of the new text or marking existing text with a ">" mark at the beginning of each line. By using these somewhat contrived conventions, they can better communicate changes and discuss them before agreeing on a final version. Emerging products such as PREP, developed at Carnegie Mellon University, and Shredit, developed at the University of Michigan, hold promise for facilitating writing and editing by geographically distributed groups. What distributed authors need—and what the market is only slowly starting to provide—is reengineered programs that can leverage database technology to support collaborative building of documents, diagrams, presentations, and other application objects. In other words, the conventional word processor, designed for individual use and highly evolved for layout and production of paper documents, needs to be rethought and recast as a group writing tool. It must have all the power of a great word processor, but it must also be built with distributed database technology to support work at a distance in which the document is shared in an environment of heterogeneous hardware, software, and network systems. THE POTENTIAL FOR INCREASED DISTRIBUTED WORK Distributed work, including telecommuting, is almost certain to increase in the next decade. Even using a comparatively narrow definition of telecommuting, the U.S. Department of Transportation

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work (1993) has estimated, for example, that, the current number of telecommuters is about 2.0 million and will grow to between 7.5 million and 15 million by the year 2002. Although the exact extent of the increase is difficult to predict, the following factors will be important contributors to an expanded potential for distributed work: If you wire it, they will come—As long as the National Information Infrastructure includes two-way connections, the expected growth in telecommunications capacity for the home and for potential satellite office sites will make the services needed for effective telecommuting and distributed work more widely available and probably less expensive on a unit basis. As higher-bandwidth networks and high-capacity telecommunication links become more widely available, for example, opportunities will increase for the appropriate use of high-quality audio and video links to enable the work of distributed project teams. The real estate imperative—Corporate America is starting to realize that the term "fixed overhead" need not apply to office space. As staff sizes are reduced, employees are relocated to customer sites, and some employees choose to engage in distributed work for their own reasons, an increasing number of companies will consider reducing costs by reducing the size of their facilities, including high-overhead meeting rooms. Moving beyond working at home to remote work—The United States is catching up to worldwide interest in satellite offices, rural telework centers, and other hybrid work sites intermediate between the home and the central office. To the extent that these options overcome real or perceived problems of telecommuting from the home, and to the extent that they offer job-creation possibilities, they will become more prevalent. This development will shift the focus of both distributed workers and policymakers away from a model involving 10 people, each working at home 20 miles from the office 2 days a week, to one of 100 people working in a rural telecenter 500 miles from the office 5 days a week. The scope, the stakes, and the potential economic benefits are much larger. Life beyond bureaucracy—Whether the eventual result is a virtual corporation, a series of strategic alliances, or massive "outsourcing," we are moving into an era in which the traditional, full-employment corporation that does its own work with its own employees may become the exception instead of the rule. Removing the boundaries of the traditional organizational chart is likely to alter the assumption that centralization of the work force is inherently a good idea.

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Research Recommendations: To Facilitate Distributed Work It may be that the most agile and competitive organizations in the next few decades will be those with the best networks—networks in the broad sense of interconnected people, telecommunications, information resources, suppliers, production capabilities, and customers. Distributed work tools that facilitate collaboration, reduce travel, and track complex projects across several organizations will be in great demand to support such an organizational structure. The nation will benefit through improved competitiveness, and individuals will benefit as locational barriers to employment are reduced. However, researchers and policymakers will need to pay considerable attention to integrating the new work styles and technologies in a way that yields optimal social and economic benefits while minimizing market disruptions.