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Computer-enhanced Communication Environment for an International Conference Centre


Report prepared at the request of: International Congress Centre (Berlin)


Summary: This report describes a computer-based system for message exchange, directory production, participant feedback, programme arrangement, and topic mapping in support of one or more confe- rences. As such it introduces a completely new approach to par- ticipant communication in conferences. The report gives a detailed general account of the types of computer input, processing and output problems which need to be faced in any further discussion of systems design, hardware requirements, costs and any phased development of the system over time.

Overview
Annex 1: Input formats: general approach
Annex 2: Input form layout: general considerations
Annex 3: Messaging input sheet contents
Annex 4: Directory input format
Annex 5: Directory code table creation
Annex 6: Processing
Annex 7: Feedback input, processing and output
Annex 8: Arrangements input, processing and output
Annex 9: Mapping input, processing and output.
Annex 10: Output formats: general approach
Annex 11: Directory output formats
Annex 12: Modularization and systems possibilities
Annex 13: Reproduction and addressing
Annex 14: Delivery of output
Annex 15: Confidentiality
Annex 16: Exhibitions.
Reference texts ( by the author)
-- Meeting failure and participant frustration
-- Meeting types old and new
-- Facilitative techniques for participative meetings
-- Utilisation d'un programme d'ordinateur
-- Enhancing conmunication at a large conference/festival
-- Conference facilitation by computer-aided sharing
-- Interrelating viewpoints in complex meetings.

Overview

The concept for this communication environment arises from an aware- ness that, despite the considerable increase in the number of meeting held there is an undercurrent of concern that meetings are not as fruitful as participants are often led to suspect. There is a ten dency to treat participants as passive "consumers" of contributions. The dynamics of meetings of over 15 people are still largely based on procedures current at the beginning of the century although the techniques available permit much more flexible meetings if that is considered desirable.

Very briefly, some of the principles on which this new approach are based may be indicated as follows :

  • participants should feel confident that they mill quickly be able to locate the people with whom they need to talk
  • participants should feel confident that they are making best use of their time
  • organizers should feel confident that they are helping to make best use of the human resources assembled for the meeting
  • participants should feel confident that it is a meeting for their benefit rather than for the benefit of the organizers or speakers.
  • fluid, responsive meeting dynamics enable issues to emerge and crys- tallize much more rapidly ; there is a need to be able to re-sche dule, re-orientate and re-conceptualize rapidly (rather than wait for the following meeting)
  • small group and coalition formation around emerging issues needs to be matched by a new level of integration within the conference, par ticularly where interdisciplinary issues are concerned.

These and related principles are implicit in the design of the different options discussed below.

Design

This report deliberately avoids discussion of details (e.g. field lengths) except in so far as they affect the basic concept. However the many aspects of the application have been extensively described where relevant.

1. Input: The input philosophy may best be understood from :

Annex 1: Input formats: general approach Annex 2: Input form layout: general considerations. The main form of input is associated with the message exchange concept : Annex 3: Messaging input sheet contents. Another main form of input is associated with directory production : Annex 4: Directory input format.

Both this and the massaging depend on codes described in:
Annex 5: Directory code table creation.

The special kinds of input for feedback, arrangements and mapping are discussed below.

2. Processing: A general view of the processing problem is given in:

Annex 6: Processing. Some special processing requirements are discussed in: Annex 7: Feedback input, processing and output Annex 8: Arrangements input, processing and output Annex 9: Mapping input, processing and output.

3. Output: The general output philosophy may best be understood from:

Annex 10: Output formats: general approach The question of directory output may be found in : Annex 11: Directory output formats. The special kinds of output for feedback (Annex 7), arrangements (Annex 8) and mapping are discussed as indicated.

4. Modularization and systems possibilities: These questions are discussed in :

Annex 12: Modularization and systems possibilities. This includes the question of phased development and possible use of on-line terminals.

5. Non-computer portions of the system: These matters, and their relationship to computer operations, are discussed in :

Annex 13: Reproduction and addressing
Annex 14: Delivery of output.

6. Confidentiality: This important issue is discussed in:

Annex 15: Confidentiality.

7.Exhibitions: The special case of exhibitions as an extension of conferences is discussed in :

Annex 16: Exhibitions.

Next steps

On the basis of this report further discussion is required to clarify whether the concept as described reflects ICC interest in this matter. At the same time the systems and hardware implications need to be studied to determine how programs might be modularized, and how module and hardware development might be phased in the light of the cost implications.

ow module and hardware development might be phased in the light of the cost implications.


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