G. Stahl, A. Zemel, J. Sarmiento, and M. Cakir. Shared referencing of mathematical objects in online chat. In S. A. Barab, K. E. Hay, and D. T. Hickey, editors, Proceedings of ICLS2006, the 7th International Conference of the Learning Sciences, volume 2, pages 716–722, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, June 27-July 1 2006. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. [url]
This paper stress the centrality of joint referencing to collaboration. The author tested ConcertChat, an explicit referencing chat environment (Muhlpfordt & Wessner, 2005), in the case of virtual math teams. The participants had to discuss a geometrical concept of a non-traditional geometry and came out with a set of questions. The researcher studied the chat log to analyze how they interacted using the particular chat system.
In the example propose, we can see that the explicit referencing do not solve completely the issue of ambiguous utterances. However the study does not stress the comparison of the tool with a standard chat tool so it is not possible to see quantitatively how much this is true and in which conditions.
Interestingly, the authors compare this communicational medium with face-to-face conversation: “…In a face-to-face setting, the participants could have pointed to details of the drawing, could have gesturally described shapes, could have traced outlines or shaded in areas either graphically or through gestures with ease. Converationaly, they could have interrupted each other to reach faster mutual orientation and burdensome due to the restricted nature of the software environment. …”
The paper opens with a nice passage of Vygotsky, which describes pointing as an example of how gesture become meaningful artiacts for individual minds through socual interaction.