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id gerardgabriel_phd
authors Gabriel, Gerard Caesar
year 2000
title COMPUTER-MEDIATED COMMUNICATION IN DESIGN
source PhD Thesis, Faculty of Architecture, University of Sydney
summary Up till now, architects collaborating with other colleagues did so mostly face-to-face (FTF). They had to be in the same space (co-located) at the same time. Communication was ‘spontaneous’ and ideas were represented, whether verbal or nonverbal, by talking and using ‘traditional drawing tools’. If they were geographically displaced, the interaction was then space affected as well as the probability of being time affected. In this case communication was usually mediated through the telephone, and graphically represented ideas were sent by Fax or posted documents. Recently, some architectural firms started using modems and Internet connections to exchange information, by transferring CAD drawings as well as design information, through e-mail and file transfer protocol (FTP). Discussing ideas in architecture, as a more abstract notion, is different from discussing other more concrete arguments using video conferencing. It is more important to ‘see’ what is being discussed at hand than ‘watch’ the other person(s) involved in the discussion. In other words the data being conveyed might be of more importance than the mode of communication. Taking into consideration recent developments in computer and communication technologies this thesis investigates different communication channels utilised in architectural collaboration through Computer Mediated Collaborative Design (CMCD) sessions as opposed to FTF sessions. This thesis investigates the possible effects these different channels have on collaborative design in general and collaborative design communication in particular. We argue that successful CMCD does not necessarily mean emulating close proximity environments. Excluding certain communication channels in a CMCD environment might affect the flow and quantity of synchronous collaborative communication, but not necessarily the quality and content of mutually communicated and represented design ideas. Therefore different communication channels might affect the type of communication and not necessarily the content of the communication. We propose that audio and video are not essential communication channels in CMCD environments. We posit that architects will collaborate and communicate design representations effectively although with some differences, since those two channels might cause interruptions and successful collaborative sessions can take place without them. For this purpose we conducted twenty-four one-hour experiments involving final year architecture students all working to the same design brief. The experiments were divided into three categories, FTF, full computer mediated collaborative design sessions (CMCD-a; audio-video conferencing plus whiteboard as a shared drawing space) and limited computer mediated collaborative design sessions (CMCD-b; with Lambda MOO used as a chat medium plus whiteboard as a shared drawing space). The experiments were video and audio taped, transcribed and coded into a custom developed coding scheme. The results of the analysed coded data and observations of the videotapes provided evidence that there were noticeable differences between the three categories. There was more design communication and less communication control in the CMCD-b category compared to the FTF and CMCD-a categories. Verbal communication became shorter and straight to the point in CMCD-b as opposed to spontaneous non-stop chat in the other two categories. Moreover in CMCD-b the subjects were observed to be more reflective as well as choosing and re-examining their words to explain ideas to their partners. At times they were seen scrolling back through the text of the conversation in order to re-analyse or interpret the design ideas at hand. This was impossible in FTF and CMCD-a sessions, since the subjects were more spontaneous and audio representations were lost as soon as they were uttered. Also the video channel in the CMCD-a category was ignored and hardly used except for the first few minutes of the experiments, for a brief exchange of light humour on the appearance of each subject. The results obtained from analysing the experiments helped us conclude that different communication channels produce different collaborative environments. The three categories of communication for architectural collaboration explored in our experiments are indicative of the alternatives available to architects now. What is not clear to architects is why they would choose one category over another. We propose that each category has its own strengths and difficulties for architectural collaboration, and therefore should be selected on the basis of the type of communication considered to be most effective for the stage and tasks of the design project.
series thesis:PhD
type normal paper
email gerard.gabriel@usyd.edu.au
full text file.pdf (4,294,564 bytes)
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last changed 2005/09/09 11:02
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