Criterion: Adaptability
Exemplar: The PARC Media Space
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Adaptability is a critical criterion in determining the potential success of a groupware application. Applications that allow users to adapt the technologies to their own needs and uses allow social behaviours to rule interactions as appropriate and provide the opportunity for codevelopment of the technology and the work activity. In particular, it means not building a set of procedures and structures into the technology that dictate group behaviour. At one point in the history of the Xerox PARC Media Space, monitors were configured so that one could not see the display screen without also being on camera. While this offered a good basis for ensuring reciprocity in viewing, it also constrained the camera position. The technology had taken on the responsibility for enforcing the rule that "If you can see me then I can see you". In fact, the group had used the technology in many interesting and useful ways precluded by such a ruling. Participants moved cameras to bring attention to something they wanted to share (a view outside of a pretty day, a whiteboard illustration of a discussion underway); participants glanced at monitors from a variety of positions to stay aware of remote sites; participants situated cameras for interesting office overviews.
To meet the adaptability criterion, we must allow users as much control over the technology as possible. This is not to say that applications should leave all decisions to users but rather to provide configurations that can easily be changed. For example, privacy is certainly an important issue in groupware applications. Looking at it from the adaptability point-of-view suggests that the technologies support the users in establishing their own modes of behaviour. Most of us would find it silly to enforce locked doors in all workplaces despite the fact that an open office offers the possibility of intrusion. Groupware applications should offer tools rather than rules.

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