Generation Code 2020

Library Lab

Experiments with “TeleTinkering” in the Library: How do we playfully create together while apart?

Video calls today focus on conveying the faces and voices of participants to one another, which is a natural evolution from voice alone. But for creative work, users often report a feeling that something is missing and express a preference for in-person meetings.

In the 1980s the researcher Donald Schön noticed that practitioners whose work dealt with complex problems often used reflective practices like sketching to imagine new solutions. Schön called this process “a conversation with the material.” It can be seen in many different realms – from a child building a spaceship with LEGO bricks to a software designer experimenting with different interfaces.  When we are designing or tinkering together, the conversation isn’t just between a designer and her own ideas.  A good group design process makes use of the group’s collective creativity by inviting everyone to reflect and join in on the conversation with the material, enabling a kind of shared cognition.

But today’s video call systems don’t give the material a seat at the table, much less a voice in the conversation.  Participants often lift up models or sketches so they can be seen by the camera.  But that has different affordances than showing the material in hand at all times, enabling other participants to look whenever and wherever they are curious.  So currently I’m exploring how to better enable collective creativity in online video conferences by trying different ways to capture and represent the actions and products of each participant’s hands, as well as their faces.

Amos Blanton is working on a PhD project entitled “Experimenting, Experiencing, Reflecting: Collective Creativity in the Library” in the Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University, in collaboration with Dokk1/Aarhus Public Libraries.

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