Jun 20 2008

Navigation bar

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An Online Workshop as a Community of Practice: The navigation bar

The navigation bar shows on the left side of almost every page. (Persistent Web Crossing functions such as search, subscribe, scroll, and post are available on almost all pages, too.) Illustrated in Figures 3, 5, and 6, the navigation bar is a constant reminder of location (context) and of social resources and community presence. You are reminded of where you are in the workshop space by:

  • The icon at the top of the navigation bar (the Practice Lab has beakers on the entry page and the all of the Practice Lab pages, for example).
  • The page color is constant within each area.
  • The participant’s name and a link to their personal folder
  • A link to the workshop index, which is described below
image005Fig 3: Entry page for the Winter 2001 workshop

Although the navigation bar also has links to resources such as the workshop schedule and the workshop index, its main function is to provide a sense of the social resources that are available through the web conference and the “presence” of other community members. This access is provided by:

  • A drop-down menu that links to each participant’s “front porch” (described below), which is labeled “Go visit…”
  • A list of other participants who are “present” (i.e., have recently requested a fresh page from the server)
  • An HTML-based Instant Messenger for exchanging messages with other participants
  • A link to tech support

The current navigation bar incorporates access links that were available in the Caucus-based versions of the workshop, but they are now much more prominent. The Instant Messenger and “who’s here” list turned out to create an important sense of “presence” (suggesting who was working at the same time) and of the potential for connection.  We believe that a sense of presence has provided a sense of mutual accountability toward tasks as well as a sense of sociability where people can greet each other and find out what others are working on, what problems they are having, and what solutions they’ve found.

The link to the “private spaces” in the center of the circle of spaces is meant to suggest both that individual identity is the product of all the other kinds of engagement that are afforded in the workshop and that on some level the public life of a community rests on all the multitude of private exchanges.  It turns out that more than half of all the messages posted during the course of these workshops occur in the private spaces.

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