Visual Languages for Cooperation


12.1 Visual Languages For Cooperation Can Assist Group Work

Visual languages for cooperation are formalized graphical representations for forms of group work like brainstorming or cooperative task structuring. A visual language for cooperation assists group members by giving them a way of visualizing an aspect of group work so they can better understand and perform it. One useful fact about expressions in formal visual languages is that the text-and-graphics in the expression are carefully laid out in spatial arrangement according to well defined rules.

12.2 Visual Languages For Cooperation Can Be Processed In A Computer Performance Medium

vmacs is a graphics editor intended for use as a performance medium and supports the spontaneous generation of text-and-graphics, including expressions in visual languages for cooperation. vmacs is also a processing medium for interpreting expressions in visual languages. By taking advantage of the well defined spatial regularity in such expressions, vmacs can first parse them to recover underlying structure and then employ that structure to guide semantic interpretation and perform useful actions. In this way, the visual language expression becomes a means for the computer to understand and assist intellectual teamwork.

12.3 Visual Languages For Cooperation SHOULD Be Processed In A Computer Performance Medium

The visual languages for cooperation described in this chapter serve two masters, being both comprehended by humans and processed by computer. But to take full advantage of the power of these languages, their use must be embedded in a computer system for doing everyday work. As a performance medium, vmacs is first and foremost a comfortable place for a knowledge worker to spend her day. It has a good ``fit'' as she goes about her business of manipulating text-and-graphics in various guises and modes. Because the vmacs performance medium is general purpose, it can follow and support the intellectual team member as she crosses and recrosses traditional category boundaries like: individual agent, group member, report writer, artwork sketcher, public presenter, technical task performer, and electronic mail communicator. In order to support intellectual teamwork, a system must support the members of the intellectual team in all their work.