Everyday work frequently involves coordinating and collaborating with others, but the structure of collaboration is largely invisible to conventional desktop applications. The information is not shown as a result of a traditional, but outdated, separation between computer applications for individual tasks and those that support collaboration. In my dissertation, I argue that this separation needs to be broken down by building systems that better acknowledge the roles and relationships of other people within computer systems.

A first step in this process is to understand how those relationships are enacted. I present “Soylent,” a tool to collect and visualize the social networks and temporal fluctuations implicit in a single user’s email. Soylent user tests lead to a notion of patterns, recurrent structures of interaction that were common between different groups of users. These patterns, in turn, led to the design of two tools that help show user interaction histories and recent events, “TellMeAbout” and “Enhanced Email for People.”

These two tools are used to demonstrate the mechanisms of a workscape that is better connected to social roles and histories.