The rise of collaboration

March 28, 2010

“Yochai Benkler dubs it ‘the wealth of networks.” Howard Rheingold’s term is “smart mobs.” It’s the idea of technology-enabled collaboration … and it’s making us all smarter.”

This is how TED Talks introduce their new theme “The rise of collaboration“, a great compilation of videos on the topic of collaboration and why it makes the world better. Knowledge visualization is primarily collaborative, as its aim is typically to share knowledge, take decisions in group, brainstorm or communicate actions and plans. It can be done in group work, like when you use a mind map in a meeting (what is called co-located synchronous), or remotely, like Google maps where everyone can contribute, any time.

The role of visualization in the rise of technology-enabled collaboration is threefold. Firstly, as the quantity of information on the web is rising exponentially, visualization can help to aggregate this knowledge and display an overview for an easier comprehension and navigation of the content. Secondly it can help to understand the amount of the contributions (i.e. visualizing the quantity of contributions per user). Finally it can be used to map a domain, by allowing different users to add their contributions to a common visualization template (i.e. a geographical map, a knowledge map or a visual metaphor) to create a shared picture (and understanding) of the topic…

…. the rise of collaboration visualization!

Virtual Worlds

March 22, 2010

Virtual worlds are serious business. Their use in companies is still rather limited but very promising. They are used to host shareholder meeting (like ArcelorMittal), sell virtual goods and share knowledge. This last aspect is thus far greatly neglected but visualizing information and knowledge in group has the potential to make the collaboration more focused, memorable and productive. Andreas Schmeil gave an illuminating guest lecture on the topic in the course of Visualization in Business Communication, at the University of Lugano. Virtual Worlds – like Second Life – can provide a unique experience for collaborative work and collaborative learning. It seems that the challenge is still in the creative design of virtual experiences that provide added value and go beyond the (boring) reproduction of the real world.

Visual communication across cultures

March 14, 2010

As the (business) world becomes more and more flat (Friedman, 2006, p. 376), visual communication can be particularly helpful for getting a message across various cultures, thanks to its ability to convey a message with
symbols and pictograms that can be – often – universally understood. However, the impact of cultural differences on visualization interpretation is frequently overlooked.

In this presentation I draw an overview of our forthcoming book chapter on the topic of Cross-cultural differences in the reception of visualization. It’s based on a thematic analysis of literature from various fields (Psychology, intercultural studies, business, visual communication) and my experience in Asia during the recent research stay in Singapore (NUS).

I’m currently still working on the topic: your feedback is welcome! 🙂

Knowledge visualization with a Group Support System

March 10, 2010

This image is the result of using visualization to share knowledge in class.
I’ve used lets-focus, a business mapping software, over a network. Master students were working in groups; each group had a laptop with the (empty) template above – called perspective diagram. They were asked to brainstorm on the topic of Visualization for Presentations: advantages/good practices, disadvantages/problems, issues and open questions.
Then I asked them to send their ideas (icons and text) to my computer through the network. When they sent a contribution it was visualized in real time on my computer, which was connected to the class projector, therefore everyone could see the development of the visualization. Each group was assigned a color, so that the owner of each contribution was identifiable. It also helped to motivate groups to contribute equally (visual pressure). The ideas sent by the students were then commented and placed into the context of the discussed topic and of the course.
The game worked out very nicely, it seems a promising way to enhance teaching. Firstly it lets the students experiment an innovative tool that can be used in organizations for knowledge sharing and brainstorming. Secondly it engages student to participate actively in class, learn from their peers and re-elaborate their knowledge by visualizing it.
The results are very promising, I believe there is a great potential of application for this kind of visual groupware, both in organizations and in education, on which I would like to experiment more in the future!

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