Designing For Participation

Designing For Participation

Whether creating systems for classrooms or meeting rooms, AV designers directly affect the way people interact with each other. In the last decade, software architects have had increasing success creating "spaces" for group interaction on the web. As social internet expert Clay Shirky explains, email was the first to introduce social interaction into the internet with the "Reply All" button. Many years later, applications like Facebook seem to be

  • changing society as we know it. What are the implications of ubiquitous virtual interaction between people? The guy sitting next to you checking his Twitter posts during a meeting can erode our ability to communicate effectively with each other. How can AV designers leverage this new mode of communication?
  • About one year ago I signed up for Twitter, the site that allows you to send 140-character posts or "tweets" from your computer or cell phone, updating whomever subscribes to your feed about "what you are doing." Some writers whose work I admire were using it, and although it made absolutely no sense to me, I dove in to see if I could figure out why they would "waste their time."
  • Within about a week, I started to understand. I had found a comforting, quiet connection with friends who were in different parts of the world, and I was getting regular updates from my favorite authors and musicians informing me about their work, their day-to-day challenges, and what they had for breakfast—all of which I enjoyed. It also ended up being an excellent source of emerging technology news. My Twitter network has been expanding over the year, and I'm continuing to explore the business and personal use of this peculiar new form of communication.
  • I think a wider adoption of Twitter, or similar kinds of social software can improve the AV industry. Consider being connected via Twitter on your cell phone during the upcoming InfoComm show. If you were following 40 people who are also on the enormous show floor, you could more quickly narrow down how best to spend your time at the show by monitoring their "you've-got tocheck- this-out" tweets. The efficiency of this type of group behavior mimics the emergent behavior of an ant colony, which Steven Johnson describes in his book Emergence. Very lowlevel communication allows ants to focus on important things like finding food (140 characters is pretty low-level for humans).
  • Integrators could use Yammer, a closed Twitterlike app for businesses. An installation technician who was short on Belden 8451 cable could post a request on Yammer, which would be broadcast immediately to every other team member. Someone who had a roll nearby could respond and get it to him quickly. If one team got done early, they could inform every other team with a single post. Another team that was behind could easily get help from them with no management intervention required! A smarter, self-regulating organization would be the result.
  • One of the most interesting features of many of these social sites is the permanence of the information and interaction. Imagine how interesting it would be to read your great grandfather's Facebook pages. Working teams could greatly

benefit if the artifacts from their interaction were captured and kept permanently. What if a meeting room had its own Facebook-type data space so that the information—the slides, whiteboards, voice recording, and data messages sent from every meeting that ever occurred there—was captured in a multimedia stream (like Facebook) for future reference and searching. Action items could be a special kind of object in this type of environment that migrated into people's to-do lists or calendars. Videos that were used and data that was searched would also be attached to these meeting records.

When technologies appear to be headed toward ubiquity like Facebook and Twitter, there is something our industry needs to learn from them. These technologies are changing the way we spend our time and the ways our brains work. As designers, we must dive in and participate, even if it can sometimes appear frivolous. The social web is evolving at such a rapid pace, changes to our industry cannot be far behind.

Paul Chavez ( is the director of systems applications for Harman Pro Group.