An empirical study on improving the understanding of email records by augmenting with information on context

DS 75-6: Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED13), Design for Harmonies, Vol.6: Design Information and Knowledge, Seoul, Korea, 19-22.08.2013

Year: 2013
Editor: Udo Lindemann, Srinivasan V, Yong Se Kim, Sang Won Lee, John Clarkson, Gaetano Cascini
Author: Loftus, Craig; McMahon, Chris; Hicks, Ben
Series: ICED
Institution: 1: University of Bath, United Kingdom; 2: University of Bristol, United Kingdom
Page(s): 169-178
ISBN: 978-1-904670-49-0
ISSN: 2220-4334


Email fulfils an important role in facilitating distributed communication in engineering design projects and contributes to the persistent records of the project, but the nature of email communication may mean that records are difficult to understand by those who have not been involved in the projects. This paper presents an investigation into the effectiveness of augmenting emails with contextual information as a mechanism for improving such understanding. The work was part of an investigation into the effectiveness of email as a project communication method including the study of a large corpus of emails from a merchant ship design project and of the team that produced them. The work involved taking samples from the corpus and exploring the ability of readers with and without background contextual knowledge to understand and answer questions on the samples both as original email records and augmented with hyperlinks to contextual explanations. The experiments showed improvement in the understanding of the augmented emails by those with and without contextual knowledge. The experiment design is presented and the findings and their implications summarised.

Keywords: Communication, design informatics, information management, email use in design


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