Brainstorming Immersively: Of Streams, Position, & Coordination

August 30, 2009

Friday was the 8th installment of the ThinkBalm Innovation Community‘s Brainstorming series.  I’ve consistently found ThinkBalm immersive events incredibly beneficial, particularly in refining my understanding of enterprise use of immersive technologies.  This one was no exception.

It was a focused, vigorous 1 hour discussion lead by Erica Driver & Sam Driver (ThinkBalm) on the topic of “How to write an immersive technology business case.”  We used my newly released BrainBoard version 1 as our primary collaboration orchestrator.  At the close of the session, Erica gathered evaluation feedback from the participants by using the Attitudometer.

Brainstorming Area

Here are some observations & thoughts from my experience:

I saw some fascinating non-verbal problem solving and coordination

Erica & Sam structured the discussion agenda with 3 points.  Thus, contributions appearing on the board were placed under one of the 3 points.  The initial setup was to use the 4 quadrants on the main board to sort the user generated notes for each of the 3 points.  Any miscellaneous notes would be sorted into the 4th quad.  The supplemental board was placed on the side just in case we needed more room.  Well, we needed it.  Due to the sheer number of user notes, we quickly moved the 3rd and miscellaneous points to the supplemental board, leaving the main board for the 1st & 2nd point notes.  I bold & italics “WE” for emphasis…All this was conducted without verbal coordination.  It happened organically (or digitally, I guess).  Several individuals visually observed the need for more room, and coordinated a solution using visual observation and interaction.  And all this without breaking the momentum of the ongoing discussion.

Simultaneous voice & text = better discussion communication

My computer was not playing nice that day, thus I could hear participant voices, but no one could hear mine (a fact that my wife humorously pointed out might have been a good thing).

However, the curse was actually a blessing.  I was reminded yet again that although voice is a powerful & flexible communication tool, it is inferior to text for synchronous multi-person contributions.  I found myself following the stream of voice discussion, while simultaneously contributing relevant thoughts & ideas into notes on the BrainBoard.  I could see several others doing the same thing, their thoughts popping into existence onto the board.  This visual/textual discussion stream at times tracked the vocal, qualitatively and quantitatively expanding & enhancing it.  At other times, it branched away from the vocal, following the rabbit-like course of thought in a separate exploration of the core discussion topic.

This approach to brainstorming allows multiple contribution roles

Brainstorming Main BoardI also found the way in which I contributed to the discussion changed over the course of the hour.  It seemed that in the first half, I followed the voice discussion rather closely, contributing many textual notes to the board without too much concern for their position on the board (or position relative to other notes).  My role seemed to be primarily to add thought.  As we moved into the 2nd half, I found myself spending more time reviewing & sorting the notes.  I started grouping similar notes together, looking for patterns that would inform the ongoing discussion.  The act of positionally sorting the notes during the discussion seemed to help me connect the concepts together into a working, developing understanding of the overall context.

I would be fascinated to learn what impact the repositioning/sorting of the notes had on other participants’ understanding of and contributions to the discussion.

Immersive/virtual environments enable positional relevance in discussions

Utilizing voice and text simultaneously enabled multiple discussion streams to which participants could contribute.  Having these streams in an immersive environment, where the participant contributions exist disparately and spacially as notes on the BrainBoard, allowed for their position to become relevant.  For example, you contribute a thought in a note.  You move that note to a position on the board.  As more contributions are added, someone moves your thought next to another thought.  Seeing the two thoughts placed closely together causes an insight in yet another person, who notes their contribution on the board.


Terminology Tossed Salad (3DTLC pt 1)

April 25, 2009

Hands down, no doubt, the best conference I’ve attended.  Since there were so many stimulating talks, questions, & conversations, I will attempt to synthesize my observations topically in the next few postings.

Terminology Tossed Salad:  What do we call this technology?  Is it Virtual Reality, Virtual Worlds, Immersive Internet, Immersive Technology, 3D Virtual Environments, Multiple User Virtual Environments?  Keynote Joe Little (BP), prefers 3D Virtual Environment (3DVE), the ThinkBalm team prefers “Immersive Internet“, although most individuals’ default is still virtual worlds.  I have a problem with the terms “virtual worlds,” “virtual reality,” and “virtual” for that matter.  All have baggage that cloud the clear perception and potential of the technology.

First, the “virtual”.  I’m a huge sci-fi fan (but was humbled at the ThinkBalm Innovation Community meetup by the sci-fi prowess of Mark Oehlert & Sam Driver…I am in awe).  Sci-fi is a double-edged sword to immersive technology.  It sparks the imagination and feeds the possible, but it brings with it the entire genre.  It’s entertainment, it’s accessible only by those with advanced technological skills, it’s speculative & not practical, it’s not real.  Basically, it’s niche entertainment for nerds.  To some, the term “virtual” brings images of “Tron” or “Lawnmower Man” or any number of low budget 80’s alien or mind-control films.  A collection of entertainments that reinforce the “unrealness” of the virtual.  Link that term with any other, and you still bring the associated baggage.

As far as “reality” goes, isn’t it all real?  We don’t call talking on the phone “virtual” or “simulated” interaction.

I choose to use the term “immersive”.  It brings with it a sense of presence, space, of surrounding oneself in something.  You can immerse yourself in a sport, in a hobby, in work, in an environment.  It’s focuses on the person experiencing and the potential for the subject being experienced to impact that person.  The degree of immersion is important, since the greater the sense of presence, the greater the engagement in the subject becomes.  Immersive technology is thus any technology utilized that incorporates the 3 dimentional in creating an experience of presence.


MetaHappenings: PeaceFest 08

August 10, 2008


Date: Friday, August 15th – Sunday, August 17th
Time: 10am-Midnight (CST)
Location: At over 30 different sims within Second Life

What: “A global, interfaith, cross-cultural effort to create lasting peace through mobilizing support for and learning with real-life peace organizations. All proceeds from PeaceFest ‘08 will go to benefit Amnesty International, UNICEF, World Conference of Religions for Peace, Uthango Social Investments, and Kids for Peace.

This event represents a true cross-over from real-life to Second Life and back again as we bring real-life speakers in-world to discuss peace-related initiatives in our global open and free SL forum. Musicians and speakers will be streamed into SL while panel discussions and performances are streamed back out.”

Personal Notes: I’ll be working at a few of the Saturday events. If you have a Second Life account, log-in and stop by. I believe this SLURL will get you there.


MetaHappenings: Diplomacy, Business, and Islam in Virtual Worlds

July 20, 2008

Date: Monday, July 21, 2008
Time: Noon SLT, 2pm CST
Location: Within Second Life (SLURL)

Metanomics is a speaker series sponsored by Cornell University and conducted within Second Life. Monday’s event, featuring Rita J. King and Joshua S. Fouts of Dancing Ink Productions, addresses, “the roles virtual worlds can play in globl diplomacy and business.”


Meta Happenings: SL Virtual Worlds Business Panel

July 16, 2008

Friday, July 18th
Time: 2pm CST
Place: Within Second Life, Nokia Island, SLURL

“We invite all aspiring Second Life entrepreneurs and those already in business that want to learn the down-and-dirty on how business really operates within the metaverse to come and hear what we have to say. The event will be held as an informal, moderated panel discussion with direct audience Q&A to get *YOUR* questions answered by some of the best people in the business, all in a euro-friendly time frame. Please feel free to bring friends as well, and also feel more than welcome to send your questions to Hydra Shaftoe beforehand.”


MetaHappenings: Upcoming Cisco Talk on Learning 2.0

March 11, 2008

When: Noon PST on March 13, 2008

Where: In Second Life, click here for map.

What: (taken from Cisco website)
This TechChat features John Connell, Education Strategist and Business Development Manager at Cisco. During this TechChat Connell will discuss the concept of “Learning 2.0,” in which social technologies are brought to bear on the central issues and relationships in learning. John will share his thoughts about the future of education in a world where the onset and permeation of digital technologies are transforming the way we live, work, and learn.