E6998-004 — Topics in CSCW:
Media Spaces and Internet Communities

Class location: Engineering Terrace 259
Class hours: Thursdays, 6:50 pm - 8:40 pm
Course Web Page: www.webcollab.com/columbia.

Instructors: Alison Lee and Catalina Danis
Instructors' Office hours: Thursdays 4:30-5:30 in 460 CS.
If you are unable to attend office hours, please make an alternative appointment through email. (alisonl"@"cs.columbia.edu) or (cdanis"@"cs.columbia.edu).

Teaching Assistant: Qi Xu, Shapiro 721, 939-7117, (qxu"@"cs.columbia.edu).
TA's Office hours: Mondays & Wednesdays 5:00-6:00 in Shapiro 721.

CS Prerequisites and Degree Requirements

Any CS course numbered in the W41xx or E61xx series, or permission of instructor. Java programming experience and familiarity with Web and Web technologies assumed. This course fulfills the Collaborative Work elective area for the PhD program.

Non-CS Graduate Prerequisites

Non-CS graduate students are welcomed and strongly encouraged to take this course. Non-CS graduate student interested in studying the social, behavioral, design, and/or applications development aspects of collaboration technologies, you must contact Alison Lee or Catalina Danis first. After securing the instructor's permission, a non-CS graduate student may register for 3 points of COMS W4901 Section 014 Projects in Computer Science (for graduate students). This course is not open to undergraduate students. Familiarity with World Wide Web is assumed.

Course Work

Please note that different requirements exist for E6998 and W4901 students. Course work consists of the following elements:

Assigned Readings

All readings will be drawn from materials available either publicly on the Web or distributed in paper form one week before the associated class.

All students are responsible for the "Assigned Readings" listed in the syllabus. With the exception of the first class, materials must be read before attending the class and a 1-2 paragraph write-up for each reading must be submitted.

Weekly Write-ups

All students will complete a weekly write-up for each of the assigned readings. Each write-up consists of no more than 2 paragraphs and no more than 400 words. The goal of these writeups is to have the students read and think about the readings. These writeups are not summaries of the papers. For each reading, students can pick one question from the following list or formulate their own. State this question as a title in the writeup for the particular reading. Then, answer the question in no more than 2 paragraphs and no more than 400 words.

These writeups must be submitted to each student's own BSCW workspace by 8 AM on Thursday morning — on the day of the class during which the readings will be discussed. If the timestamp on this file reads later than 8 AM, the writeups are considered late and a grade of 0 will be given (with NO EXCEPTIONS).

Possible Writeup Questions:
  • What are the two or three thought-provoking issues raised by the paper and explain your choice?
  • How is the paper relevant to your project?
  • Critique the workplace study used in the paper in terms of its effectiveness in answering the research question set out by the authors.
  • What are the potential social consequences (e.g., privacy, user acceptance, abuse, adaptation beyond intended use) of introducing the system described in the paper to a real-world setting?

This course work is worth 20% for both E6998 and W4901 students.

Course Project

E6998 Students

A research or design with programming project is required for E6998 students. The project must be done in a multi-person group, with a minimum of 3 people. The project will be divided into several milestones due at particular points during the semester. Students may select from:

A list of possible semester projects can be obtained from the instructors. Alternatively, students may propose a specific, well-defined project. All projects and the composition of the group must be approved in advance by one of the instructors.

This course work is worth 40% for E6998 students.

W4901 Students

W4901 students must "consult" on a group project and write a term paper. They will interact with E6998 students in a consulting role to assist in studying, designing, and developing useful application projects. This role involves participation as "methodologists", "designers", and/or "end users" for the projects.

The term paper consist of three components:

  1. Place the group project in the CSCW context by reviewing and discussing the relevant literature associated with the chosen group project.
  2. Critique the group project from the standpoint of its contribution to the body of CSCW knowledge/systems.
  3. Discuss the consultant's role in the group project.

The term paper will also have associated with it, several milestones due at prescribed points during the semester.

This course work is worth 60% for W4901 students.

BSCW Assignments— W4901 Students Only

W4901 students must complete two small assignments related to BSCW (the course shared workspace environment).

This course work is worth 10% for W4901 students.

Examinations— E6998 Students Only

Two short quizzes will be given at the end of class periods, after discussion for that day ends. These are intended only for E6998 students and are worth 30%.

No examination will be given during "e;finals week"e;. (The registrar may still schedule one; ignore this.)

Lectures and Class Attendance

Lectures will be given in seminar style, with active student participation expected. Class attendance is required. Attendance will be taken at every lecture except for the first. Any absence should be discussed with the instructor, in advance when possible.

This course work is worth 10% for both E6998 and W4901 students.


In line with the topic of the course, cooperative work, we will be using a Web-based tool from the GMD called BSCW (Basic Support for Cooperative Work) to host a shared workspace for fostering and supporting communication of public interest to students and instructors outside of class. Examples of types of interactions are:

  • Class news,
  • Class assignments,
  • Course notes,
  • Discussions of relevance to the class as a whole (e.g., logistics technical content, readings, projects, term papers),
  • Discussions among project group members and consultants,
  • Shared work of project group members and consultants,
  • Private workspace for each student's work.
The course BSCW system is accessible to registered students (Need the URL).

You can address personal questions (e.g., about grading or special concerns) regarding course work to the TA and other matters to the instructors through email. We will try to answer email within 24 hours. Phone calls and drop-in visits are limited to office hours. If you are unable to attend office hours, please make an alternative appointment through email.

Computer Accounts

Computer accounts are required to:

  • Access and post to the course BSCW system,
  • Do production work if you elect to do a programming group project.

Students may use any computer accounts they like, provided they can:

  • Read and post to discussions in the course BSCW,
  • Access the course BSCW system to share work among project group members and consultants,
  • Access the course BSCW system to submit individual course work in each student's individual workspace,
  • Receive email regularly.

If don't have such a computer account, CLIC laboratory accounts are available for $45 to students taking this course. Details are available at https://www.cs.columbia.edu/~crf/accounts/cs.html

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© 1999 Alison Lee and Catalina Danis