In the area of CSCW -- using computers to support small group communication -- Japan is behind the United States in both the depth and breath of research. The research that does exist focuses heavily on video-telephony applications, which many consider to be a low-payoff topic, at least in the realm of business communication. Within the area of video telephony, there is innovative research on ways to represent shared workspaces. In Japan, research on asynchronous communication and on applications that structure communication is much less evident than in the United States.

The most obvious gap in the Japanese research portfolio on CSCW involves empirical research on the ways that groups operate and on the impact of CSCW technology on group performance and process. Approximately one-third of U.S. research published in CSCW conferences and journals is empirical. (A much larger proportion is empirical if one includes basic research on communication, groups, and organizational processes conducted in U.S. universities without any concern for its technological implications.) The Japanese are not developing theory to help guide CSCW development. Nor do they have a tradition of research that feeds back systematically collected data on the user's experience with new group technology to refine the technology itself. This failure to rely upon empirical studies probably reflects the human-resource base for doing HCI research, which Professor Foley refers to in Chapter 1. Japanese industry has not drawn upon cognitive and social scientists, and Japanese academics have not been as concerned with applied questions as have comparable social scientists in the United States.

In terms of a national information infrastructure, the United States is ahead of Japan in both research and commercial practice. Growth in use of the Internet and the spread of home computers are driving HCI development in both countries, but because of the differences in infrastructure, they are driving development more in the United States than in Japan. However, all indications are that Internet activity in Japan is accelerating.

Published: March 1996; WTEC Hyper-Librarian