May 23 2007

Changing the way we meet changes the outcomes of our conversations

But the way we meet is “fixed” in many ways and hard to change. Yesterday I spent the day with Shirley Williams’ research group (http://elgg.sse.rdg.ac.uk/ssswills/weblog/) at Reading University’s Computer Science department. When we were planning the afternoon session with Karsten Lundqvist, I asked, “What if we take notes during our meeting – in an IRC channel or a Skype chat session?” I’ve become very dependent on collective note-taking because so much of my work is distributed, collaborating with people who are many time-zones away.

Well, we tried it in the “Cybernetics Seminar Room” and the note-taking and use of technology in face-to-face settings itself became a subject of our conversation. A bit of a debate, it being a university research
setting and all. I guess it confirmed my conviction, however, about changing the form of our conversation – it so often is a practical thing to do. We didn’t actually specify what technologies to include in their project planning about MeAggregator (http://elgg.sse.rdg.ac.uk/ssswills/weblog/1448.html) which was one of the meeting goals,
but we did talk about longer-term strategies for listening to the intended users. It strikes me that this kind of project can, over time, really change students’ experience of being in a university.

The last time I’d spent any time with Shirley was in a bridge-building exercise in Second Life (http://elgg.sse.rdg.ac.uk/ssswills/weblog/1268.html). It’s very interesting to see how people change (or don’t) when they’re home, going on favorite walks after dinner, or whipping out a delicious pasta dish with prosciutto and asparagus.

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