mas890: community maintainable (online) spaces
fall 2002
professor v. michael bove, stefan agamanolis
official course webpage
personal course webpage
course description
this seminar explored concepts of spatial and temporal remoteness, and how they relate to computationally-mediated collaborative activities, especially expressive and creative activities beyond the scope of traditional ``cooperative work’’ research. we focused on community issues including anonymity, privacy, presence, and togetherness, as well as the design of environments that can evolve with the users’ needs. particular emphasis was given to time and the impact of time zones and network latencies. the course briefly covered technical issues ranging from the construction and operation of modern communication networks to the limitations of popular input and output devices as interfaces between the physical and virtual environments. the course itself was an experiment in its own subject matter as it was held simultaneously at both the MIT Media Lab and Media Lab Europe and students in both locations collaborated on assignments and class projects.
readings and texts
S. Bly, S. Harrison, S. Irwin, “Media Spaces: Bringing people together in video, audio, and computing envrionments.”
M. Weiser, “The Computer for the 21st Century.”
W. Buxton, “Telepresence: integrating shared tast and person spaces.”
V.M. Bove, “Will Anyone Really Need a Web Browser in Five Year?”
H. Jenkins, “Interactive Audiences?: The ‘Collective Intelligence’ of Media Fans.”
T. Standage, The Victorian Internet.
C. Geetz, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretative Theory of Culture.”
J. Hollan and S. Stornetta, “Beyond Being There.”
W. Mitchell, E-topia.
A. Lightman, Einstein’s Dreams.
I. Calvion, Invisible Cities.

pick one person you don’t know from the close end and one person from the far end. schedule a “date” and get to know those persons through whatever means you wish. keep notes -- you will need them for discussion and for the next assignment. write one page or so on each of the people you meet and your experience.
look over the notes of the person who met you last week. focus on and compare the technologies and the interfaces involved in each interaction. what did the other person get right about you and what did they get wrong? why?
pick a collaborative activity that common wisdom dictates is necessary to perform face to face or in close proximity to the other persons involved. arrange and engage in this activity with the counterparts of your choice, or observe others engaging in this activity (be sure not to invade privacy). create a photo essay, a short video, or another type of media to describe the activity. what kinds of interactions happen between the humans? what kinds of things enhance or detract from the experience? then, envision how the activity might be accomplished “at a distance” -- make drawings or use other media to illustrate your ideas, and complement these with some written remarks.
pick a single human behavior, or a behavior displayed in the environment perhaps not caused by a human. focus tightly on this behavior and describe it in extreme detail. where and when is it exhibited? what causes it? how is it displayed? how is it noticed? what effect does it have on other people or on the environment? use more than words to describe your investigation -- drawings, photos, video, audio... then, design a system (or systems) to convey this behavior to a far away place.
pick a collaborative activity that common wisdom dictates is necessary to perform synchronously (that is, at the same time) with the other persons involved. observe the activity or engage in it yourself, and describe it in detail in the media of your choice. then, envision how the activity might be performed in an asynchronous manner. design a system to support this new form of the activity. how does the asynchrounous activity differ from its synchronous counterpart? why might it be valuable in its altered form?
final project
Pick or invent a collaborative activity, or a component of an activity, that you would like to design and build a system to support.