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Fostering a Collaborative Understanding

When people from various backgrounds (and cultures) work together, it is inevitable that misunderstandings occur, i.e. texts (written or spoken) are easily interpreted in ways other than what the author intended. More often than not, such misunderstandings go undetected, and rightfully so, as in most cases it doesn't cause serious problems.

Editor's note

The following summary needs to be worked into this page:

(Agredo-Delgado, et. al., 2021)1 have tested a process for constructing a shared understanding in computer-supported collaborative work, where the construction part consists of 4 steps:

  1. each group member acquires an individual understanding of the subject
  2. each group member exposes his/her ideas and the others actively listen to them
  3. the group refines, builds or modifies the original ideas
  4. the differences of interpretation between the group members are dealt with in a constructive fashion, through arguments and clarifications.

In the context of eSSIF-Lab we expect people from such various backgrounds (and cultures) to work together in order to realize the eSSIF-Lab objectives. Because of their nature, we must expect misunderstandings to become problematic. In order to prevent them, and also to efficiently and effectively resolve those that do occur, we provide mechanisms to detect such misunderstandings, develop terminologies that reduce the likelihood of them occurring, and resolve problems/disputes that may occur around terms and definitions.

Using these mechanisms, the authors of this website have been able to generate this website in such a way that terms that have been defined for the context of eSSIF-Lab are highlighted. A term shows its definition when a user hovers over it. And when clicked on, it redirects to the page that explains the term in more detail. It is not compulsory to use these mechanisms. However, their use is strongly encouraged as the feedback we have received shows that they do contribute to a better understanding.

The mechanisms we provide include:


Many cultures have stories, similar to that of the Tower of Babel, that observe that the big feats, such as building a "tower, whose top may reach unto heaven", cannot be achieved unless there is linguistic unity. While this is generally recognized (the EU parliament building in Strasbourg resembles the Tower of Babel as depicted by the painter Bruegel), one can also observe that the part of the people that care about achieving a workable 'linguistic unity' lack easy-to-use means and tools.

The traditional tool for fostering common understanding is using glossaries or dictionaries, such as the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the Sovrin Glossary and the NIST Glossary. Other initiatives produce documents with explanations, e.g. the terminology for talking about privacy by data minimization by Pfitzmann and Hansen (2010), or the EBSI Terminology (login required).

Traditional tools usually come with drawbacks that reduce their practical usefulness in this electronic era. Dictionaries leave their user to decide which of the various meanings that a term may have was intended. Glossaries typically provide a single meaning for a term, but lack a specification of the scope/context in which it is applied or where it is authoritative. And documents rarely explain the ideas (concepts) behind terms they use.

The eSSIF-Lab terminology effort is an attempt to improve on this, by

eSSIF-Lab Terminology Engine

As the corpus is being used, we expect ideas for improvement

Here is how you may contribute to this terminology effort.

Here are some characteristics of the tools being supplied:

  • When a reader sees a highlighted term (meaning that it is documented), (s)he will see a short description when hovering over the term, and the complete description when clicking on it.
  • When an author writes a text in which (s)he wants to tag a term with its definition, (s)he simply writes \%\%text-to-be-tagged|referenceid\%\%, where referenceid is usually the term name. For details, please refer to the instruction for authors.
  • When an author wants to contribute to the Corpus of Terminology, i.e. s(he) wants to modify existing documents or create new ones, this is supported through templates and the guidance for authoring terminology documents.
  • The glossary will be automatically updated as contributions to the Corpus of Terminology are being merged into the master branch.



  1. Agredo-Delgado, V., Ruiz, P.H., Mon, A. et al. Applying a process for the shared understanding construction in computer-supported collaborative work: an experiment. Comput Math Organ Theory 28, 247-270 (2022).