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Computer supported cooperative work, also referred to simply as CSCW, is a term used to describe a collaborative working environment. While such involves the use of collaborative software, computer supported cooperative work actually seeks to describe the sociological and psychological impact of sharing work responsibilities electronically in addition to the human-computer interaction that must take place in such an environment. Employees participating in CSCW may do so at a shared physical location or workers may engage in such activities remotely.
Frequently referred to as e-work, computer supported cooperative work enables employees to collaborate on work-related tasks via shared computer networks, software and processes that offer real-time updates, edits and information. Workers are also able to interact with one another through group meetings and may maintain a constant connection to one another while working, whether they are in the same location or working at opposite ends of the globe. Technological advances, such as teleconferencing software, real-time chat platforms and other shared software products known as groupware can seamlessly support these efforts.
While many people summarize the concept of a computer supported cooperative work environment as simply utilizing groupware, individuals who study such environments assert that the true definition of a CSCW situation involves much more. By observing group work environments that use a collaborative innovative network, researchers also observe the sociological and psychological impact these environments have on individual workers. In particular, researchers are interested in how such cooperative work environments help foster or hinder personal interactions among employees. How employees communicate with others via tools such as an electronic meeting system or chat software as opposed to how the same employees would interact in person is also of interest to researchers.
In addition to the social and psychological observances of a computer supported cooperative work environment, researchers and employers are also interested in how such environments tend to impact productivity and output. This is of particular curiosity since workers who engage in CSCW often do so from home and satellite locations. Such has also prompted a rise in off-site working centers that are designed specifically for telecommuting and location independent workers. In many instances, improvements in productivity that may be related to CSCW have been noted. As the technology used in computer supportive cooperative work situations continues to improve, many expect the number of telecommuting employees and independent work locations to do the same.