In order to frame some key concepts of my research, I fine tunned some definitions of specific words, which are terms of art or have several vernacular nuances. The list below may grow or change as the discussion with colleagues and collaborators unfolds.
A smart artifact is a programmed agent that autonomously acts in the world by adapting its own structure while preserving its organization. Every smart artifact is designed with one or many program-of-actions. In doing so, its designer defines the artifact’s organization and structure. The structure of a smart artifact is twofold. First, its hardware, which is composed by a set of sensors and affordances that perceive both, the state of the artifact, and other social actors within its context. Its affordances afford or constrain its interaction with other actors. Second, its software, which is aimed to determine which are the most suitable actions that support the activity into which it is involved.
To mediate is to act in between two interacting parties. The difference between a media artifact and a mediating artifact is that the former just carries action, it does not transform the interaction between the parties. Whereas the latter actively impacts the flow of action by articulating new meanings into the interaction process.
An adaptive signifier is a cognitive affordance that represents in real time the current interaction of a social group. Its goal is to facilitate the members of such group to think or know about their activity flow. Its dynamic representations are intended to convey a fabricated meaning in its interpreters’ minds. Adaptive signifiers are instances of smart artifacts.
Cooperation and collaboration
The definition of cooperation and collaboration are not unified across literature. Some authors define the action of working together as cooperation while others define it as collaboration. They usually overlap or are used as synonymous. To clarify in what sense I am using those words, I will provide my own definitions based on my observations of people interaction in my pilot experiments with mediating artifacts.
Collaboration is a coordinated social process in which two or more actors or collectives align their program-of-actions aiming to achieve similar goals. It is mutually presumed an altruistic interest to contribute to the achievement of each other’s goal.
For example, bees collaborate to build a beehive which host their offspring.
Cooperation is a coordinated social process in which two or more actors or collectives gear up their disparate program-of-actions pursuing their best possible outcome. Parties in a cooperative interaction have a symbiotic interaction because their success benefits one another.
For example, bees and flowers have a cooperative relationship because in the achievement of their individual goals, nutrition and pollination, both benefit from each other’s actions, even though bees and flowers have dissimilar goals.
Coordination is the mutual and timely fulfillment of expectations between social actors. Coordinated action allows individuals in the group to make plans based on the given circumstances and to expect actions from others accordingly. For instance, a dancer expects that his partner matches his movements in order to perform a dancing step.
Coordination can be elicited in cooperative or collaborative interaction. Agents naturally don’t look at how to coordinate but at how to accomplish their own goals. If the agents pursue disparate goals, the coordination process facilitate cooperation, whereas if the agents have aligned goals or a single collective goal, coordination facilitates collaboration.