obligatory head shot

Alexander Feinman

This is my academic web page, complete with out-of-date academic picture, detailing PhD work as a part of GROUP, the Group for Research On Usability and Pragmatics, here at Brandeis University.

I have moved on and currently am a Senior Usability Specialist at The MathWorks, improving the usability of their internal tools.

(Alex Feinman)s that are not me:

  • Alex Feinman, who wrote a TAPI wrapper and ISO Recorder and bunch of other cool utilities for Windows.
  • Alex Feinman, who is involved with a Boston-based construction company.
  • Alex Feinman, a Russian meterologist.

There are also a bunch of Alex's I'm not, but that's usually easier to figure out. Also, if you're named Feinman and you don't already know me, we're not related -- the name was imposed on my family at Ellis Island a few scant generations ago, and as far as I know we are still in contact with all the descendents. But it is a nifty name. (It's pronounced Fine-man, not Feen-man.)

Research Topics

I am primarily interested in how people interact, and how to make that interaction work better using a computer. This boils down to computer-mediated collaboration, which means work in computer science, cognitive science, sociology, and a little psychology on the side.

I have created a method, Referential Structure Analysis (RSA), for analyzing group interaction in same-time / different-place groupware. By tracking the referential structure of the discourse generated by participants engaged in collaboration, the method gives an analyst redesign recommendations. The method uses the referential structure to indicate which representations are appropriate for information by selecting representations whose properties match the features of information flows discovered by examining the discourse.

I have investigated a number of domains for verifying the utility of our analysis methods. Our first domain is VesselWorld, a simulated task where three users must cooperate to clear a harbor of toxic waste. GROUP has collected upwards of 300 hours of usage data using VesselWorld. Our group is also exploring additional domains along such lines as:

  • collaborative coding domain where users must work together to code a simple programming project
  • distance learning
  • collaborative editing domain; a pair of users write and review an academic paper or news article
  • business travel; two or more users collaborate to plan a short business trip

Data from these domains was used to demonstrate the feasibility of RSA. Details are available in the papers below and the thesis, which includes a comprehensive history of the project and a number of examples. Feel free to contact me directly if you have inquiries about the method.

Selected publications


  • Feinman, A., Farry, M., Kilgore, R., and Pfautz, J. Designing Visualizations to Support Collaborative Environments. In "Proceedings of the 8th Symposium on Human Interaction with Complex Systems (HICS)", Norfolk, VA


  • Feinman, A. Toxic In Large Quantities: Personal Information in the Information Age. Interface: The Journal of Education, Community, and Values. Berglund Center for Internet Studies, Pacific University Oregon.


  • Feinman, A, Oexner, J., Das, S.K. Using Formalized Concept Maps To Model Role-based Workflows, CMC-2006, Costa Rica.
  • Feinman, A. From Discourse Analysis to Groupware Design Ph.D. Thesis, Brandeis University.


  • Feinman, A., and Alterman, R. Designing Representations for Groupware by Examining Discourse. Brandeis University Technical Report CS-05-26_
  • Feinman, A., and Alterman, R. Discourse Analysis Techniques for Modeling Computer-Mediated Collaboration. Brandeis University Technical Report CS-05-26_
  • Feinman, A., and Hickey, T. "Groupware". In Bainbridge, William Sims (Ed). Berkshire Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing Group, 2005. Note that despite repeated requests, that website does not list my contribution.


  • Feinman, A., and Alterman, R. Modeling Cognitive Load in Groupware. Technical Report CS-04-250, Department of Computer Science, Brandeis University, 2004


  • Feinman, A., and Alterman, R. Discourse Analysis Techniques for Modeling Group Interaction. Ninth International Conference on User Modeling, 2003
  • Alterman, R., Feinman, A., Landsman, S., and Introne, J. A Runtime Model of Common Ground. In press.


  • Alterman, R., Feinman, A., Introne, J., and Landsman, S. Coordinating Representations in Computer-Mediated Joint Activities. Proceedings of 23rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 2001.
  • Alterman, R., Feinman, A., Landsman, S., and Introne, J. Coordination of Talk: Coordination of Action. Technical Report CS-01-217, Department of Computer Science, Brandeis University, 2001


  • Landsman, S., Alterman, R., Feinman, A. and Introne, J. Vesselworld and ADAPTIVE. Brandeis University Tech Report CS-01-213; Presented as a demonstration at Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW-2000)
  • Introne., J., Alterman, R., Feinman, A., and Landsman, S. Extracting Procedural Knowledge from a Groupware for Planning System. TR-2000-??


  • Alterman, R., Landsman, S., Feinman, A., and Introne, J. Groupware for Planning. Technical Report CS-98-200, Computer Science Department, Brandeis University.


  • Feinman, A. Message Types in Discourse.
  • Contact me at afeinman, here at cs.brandeis.edu
    Last update: May 1, 2009