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Privacy and Ownership in Digitally Mediated Collaborative Text Authoring

This PhD project studies collaborative editors and version control systems under the lense of Common Interactive Objects (CIOs). The emphasis is on how the design and functionality of these tools influence and support the dynamics at play in users' sharing and witholding of contributions to joint work. One particular study is on Google Docs and how awareness mechanisms designed to support collaboration influence users' experiences of working in a shared digital space as well as how this manifests in their writing patterns

Several notions are explored in this work, but the outset is in privacy and ownership. Privacy is in this case to be understood as everyday interpersonal boundary regulation rather than as control or limit of an information flow. Exploring this understanding of privacy in relation to collaborative editors and version control is firstly an additional perspective on the role and implementation of various kinds of awareness. Secondly, it contributes to understanding CIOs in general, as commonality entails negotations of sharing and witholding. Privacy behaviors as well as the experience of privacy are central to these dynamics.

Similarly, ownership is naturally conceived in the production of common pieces of work. Users may not perceive the distribution of ownership in the same way and this leads to negotiations regarding both ownership and privacy, resulting in a form of emergent territoriality. Such negotiations affect both the common object of work as well as how the tool as a common interactive object is used in order to moderate control over (parts of) the common object of work.

The work undertaken in this PhD project thus aims to improve our understanding of how tools for collaborative construction of text mediate and influence practices of text production. It further aims to contribute a more general understanding of privacy and ownership as dimensions of common interactive objects.