Group Cognition

From Acting with Technology

Group Cognition

Computer Support for Building Collaborative Knowledge

By Gerry Stahl

Exploring the software design, social practices, and collaboration theory that would be needed to support group cognition; collective knowledge that is constructed by small groups online.





Exploring the software design, social practices, and collaboration theory that would be needed to support group cognition; collective knowledge that is constructed by small groups online.

Innovative uses of global and local networks of linked computers make new ways of collaborative working, learning, and acting possible. In Group Cognition Gerry Stahl explores the technological and social reconfigurations that are needed to achieve computer-supported collaborative knowledge building—group cognition that transcends the limits of individual cognition. Computers can provide active media for social group cognition where ideas grow through the interactions within groups of people; software functionality can manage group discourse that results in shared understandings, new meanings, and collaborative learning. Stahl offers software design prototypes, analyzes empirical instances of collaboration, and elaborates a theory of collaboration that takes the group, rather than the individual, as the unit of analysis.

Stahl's design studies concentrate on mechanisms to support group formation, multiple interpretive perspectives, and the negotiation of group knowledge in applications as varied as collaborative curriculum development by teachers, writing summaries by students, and designing space voyages by NASA engineers. His empirical analysis shows how, in small-group collaborations, the group constructs intersubjective knowledge that emerges from and appears in the discourse itself. This discovery of group meaning becomes the springboard for Stahl's outline of a social theory of collaborative knowing. Stahl also discusses such related issues as the distinction between meaning making at the group level and interpretation at the individual level, appropriate research methodology, philosophical directions for group cognition theory, and suggestions for further empirical work.


$47.00 X ISBN: 9780262195393 250 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 44 illus.


  • In this bold and brilliant book, Stahl integrates three distinct fields of knowledge: computational design, communication studies, and the learning sciences. Such an interdisciplinary effort is both timely and necessary to foster innovations for human learning. This book shows how small-group cognition can be the underlying building block for individual and collective knowledge building.

    Sten Ludvigsen

    Professor and Director of InterMedia, University of Oslo

  • This book, which synthesizes research by a leading thinker in computer-supported collaborative learning, offers a thought-provoking and challenging thesis on the relationship between collaboration, technology mediation, and learning. Its scope is broad, encompassing philosophy, AI, and social science, and it is bound to stimulate the kind of productive debate that Stahl argues is core to knowledge building.

    Claire O'Malley

    Professor of Learning Science, University of Nottingham

  • This groundbreaking book reflects on the decade of research that led Stahl to the timely notion of group cognition. Those interested in collaboration will find here a plethora of insights into the relationship between design, communication, and learning.

    Barbara Wasson

    Department of Information Science & Media Studies, University of Bergen

  • Gerry Stahl's new work targets a vitally important issue facing a 21st-century knowledge-based economy: How can group cognition be fostered as a new unit of analysis for research and design of computer systems crafted for building collaborative knowledge? There are many golden nuggets in this volume that will help advance the collective intelligence available on the planet for finding and tackling hard problems, from educational systems to informal workplace learning.

    Roy Pea

    Stanford University