Collaboration is represented in many different kinds of activity: electronic management of document work-flow for a group-work project, sharing information and knowledge across an enterprise, task scheduling in a networked environment, and group activities such as electronic trading and commerce or distance learning. Current trends are directed towards supporting such collaboration via multiple integrated communication channels, such as the internet, telephone, fax and video.
Building a collaborative environment might appear to be simply a technical task involving the set up of appropriate communication protocols between several applications running on different devices. However, for a variety of social and technical reasons, most integrated collaborative environments are failing to give adequate support to real collaboration. For instance, the challenges to be faced in building an integrated environment for collaboration include: resolving conflicts of interest in a group activity, maintaining a synchronized flow of collaborative tasks, and respecting the agency and dependency that operates in communication between human agents. It is also of particular practical importance both to ensure that the cost of deploying a distributed solution is in proportion to its benefits, and to integrate the media for front-end data capturing and communication with those for back-end persistent storage of information.
In order to construct more effective integrated environments for collaboration, new principles for systems representation and analysis that can cope with the complexity of distributed human computer interactions and their consequences are of critical importance.
Distributed Empirical Modelling offers a new paradigm that can be applied to human collaboration. It can potentially simulate interaction in the real world, where many people collaborate to accomplish a group work project, share knowledge to enhance their educational skills, or compete to maintain a favourable position in a challenging trading environment.