This was a paper session on large display-based tools with three talks. The first was the reason I chose this one from the three available sessions, though the second turned out to be the most interesting to me. The paper titles are below with the details in the extended entry.
Collaborative Knowledge Management Supporting Mars Mission Scientists from Irene Tollinger, Michael McCurdy, Alonso Vera, and Preston Tollinger of NASA Ames Research Center (Vera is also at CMU), which described the MERBoard project.
Augmenting the Social Space of an Academic Conference from Joseph McCarthy, and David Nguyen of Intel Research; and David McDonald and Suzanne Soroczak of the U of Washington; and Al Mamunur Rashid of the U of Minnesota.
The Introduction of a Shared Interactive Surface into a Communal Space by Harry Brignull, Geraldine Fitzpatrick and Yvonne Rogers of the U of Sussex; and Shahram Izadi and Tom Rodden of the U of Nottingham, which described their work with Dynamo.
The first talk, Collaborative Knowledge Management Supporting Mars Mission Scientists, described a system the researchers developed to help improve collaboration around information and ideas generated by the early-2004 Mars explorer mission.
Among other things, the talk looked at the questions of whether shared work would be useful and whether it has value after creation. This applies to MERBoard and any other collaborative work environment, such as IRC. The presenters provided data that seemed to show utility of the concept. They suggested that people found content useful after it was generated, but that more research and analysis needed to be done to determine the true value of collectively-created information. As to whether "group content" is useful at all, they found that a quarter of the content was "collectively owned" rather than being single-owner content.
The other topic that was mentioned near the end of the talk was the idea that the type of shared content is important to determining its lifespan. Essentially, one of my favorite ideas of context comes into play to determine whether and how people find information useful over time. They also want to explore the idea of whether this kind of environment changes work practices.
The second paper, Augmenting the Social Space of an Academic Conference, described an experiment from Intel Research Seattle on Proactive Displays that they tested at a Ubiquitous Computing conference last year.
The idea is to provide conference attendees an RFID chip and give them a profile that displays in two public environments. One displays information about a speaker when they step up to a microphone to ask a question. The other was set up in the coffee area and displayed more personal information in order to give participants an opportunity to learn serendipitous information about one another.
As the presenter talked, I couldn't help think of all the discussion that has happened around presence and location indicators, as well as work around social network tools. A few of the questioners hit on familiar topics too. Beyond the general privacy issue, a psychologist from Toronto talked about the idea that what we reveal to whom is very much dependent on who they are and other contextual information that would need to be partially embedded into these systems before they become ubiquitous to public environments. They suggested that they might be able to try this in the home, digital workplaces and digital third places (coffee shops) to expand the collaboration opportunities. The question period turned up a lot of additional features and possibilities for such a system.
The final talk, The Introduction of a Shared Interactive Surface into a Communal Space, described a system whereby people could share and collaborate via some large-screen displays. Their example area was a high school break room for the oldest students (English system: 6th Former's), where the students were mostly using it to share pictures and show off digital movies. They only had the system embedded in the break room for two weeks, so it is difficult to say what the long-term implications would be. The students didn't want to lose it, so they were obviously enjoying it. I would be interested to see how this kind of thing might develop over the longer periods. Maybe it could be used in a shift-change room to record what is happening to extend the conversations around what is happening and problems / opportunities that the facility is facing in a given time period.