The key contributions of this thesis are: a greater understanding of how to harness tabletop affordances to support small-group work and collaboration; the effectiveness of tabletops compared with other forms of single display groupware; the power of computer-supported collaborative scripts; and validation of the work in real settings. These contributions are presented as a series of carefully designed user studies. Each explores a key dimension to create new forms of support for collocated individuals to work together.
The thesis is in two parts. The first part presents a set of foundational studies that explored rich collaboration at interactive tabletops. This includes: comparing a tabletop with a non-digital whiteboard, with adults brainstorming in a lab setting; comparing a tabletop to both an interactive vertical display and traditional index cards, run as part of a university design class; and comparing a tabletop with an interactive whiteboard as part of a museum visit by children, where they collected content using tablets and built a shared poster at different groupware devices.
The second part of the thesis reports exploration of ways to scaffold people in learning to collaborate more effectively. This was motivated by findings in the foundational studies as they highlighted difficulties people faced in coordination and complying with recommended methods. This presents a series of studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of: computer supported collaborative scripts for tabletop brainstorming; support for reflection to learn about brainstorming; and a final study which moves beyond in-the-lab prototypes to an in-the-wild multi-session tabletop setting, with a focus on the mechanisms required to support the needs of students and teachers.
In summary, this thesis provides a body of research that provides a foundation for new ways to harness the affordances of tabletops to provide new forms of support for a rich class of small group collaborative activities.