Sunday, February 17, 2008

Colloquium on "Challenging Groupware: Emerging configurations for distributed interaction"

Gabriela had spotted this colloquium titled "Challenging Groupware: Emerging configurations for distributed interaction" and we agreed that it seemed very interesting from our point of view, both because of the topic and because of the people giving presentations. Eventually it was decided that I would have the privilege to attend the event and I consequently traveled to London and the colloquium venue Commonwealth Club on the 12th of February (incidentally the same date as Gustav III becomes the King of Sweden back in 1771...)

The event was organized by MiMeG Research Node of the UK ESRC National Centre for e-Social Science, including Jon Hindmarsh and Dylan Tutt (both of King's College London). Some of the speakers were Christian Heath (King's College London), Tony Tang (University of British Columbia), Paul Luff (King's College London) and Gloria Mark (University of California, Irvine).

The purpose of the colloquium was to highlight and discuss issues "raised as a result of distributed collaborations, that are becoming increasingly important in the context of social and organisational developments, such as the emergence of global firms and scientific collaboratories."
In his introductory talk, Christian Heath argued for the importance of understanding three aspects in particular in groupware research: peoples mutual perception of objects, supporting participation and co-participation, and the integration of all resources (digital as well as tangible) in the collaboration and interaction. He also made the point that - even today - social scientists in this area know little about the organization of the interaction and that this field is dominated by social challenges as well as technical.

In line with this, the focus of the talks encompassed evaluations of concrete technical solutions (such as Kenton O'Haras overview of HP's HALO Collaboration Environment), more generic conceptual investigations of collaborative interaction (such as Tony Tang's talk about the dynamics of sharing a display in a small group) and macro-perspectives on issues highlighted by groupware research (such as Paul Luff's overview of their research on creating media assemblies and Gloria Mark's talk about the trend of new collaboration paradigms in today's world).

All in all, it was a very interesting event to attend. Although most of the content was not directly applicable for what we are doing, there were many overlapping areas and highlighted issues that can inspire our own research direction. Lastly, I believe that Cambell Catering here at UL could have learned a lot from the Commonwealth Club catering...the light lunch snacks were exquisite, nutritious, and very filling... No greasy sausages or deep fried chicken legs as far as the eye could see! :-P

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