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Trip Report from CSCW 2006

Shamsi Iqbal describes her experience at the recent ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work at Banff, Canada

Shamsi Iqbal describes her experience at the recent ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work at Banff, Canada

The 20th anniversary of the bi-annual meeting for the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) was held in Banff, Canada from November 4 – November 8, 2006. Banff, encompassing miles of spectacular Canadian Rocky Mountain landscape, provided the perfect setting for the occasion and the participation of 420 researchers from all over the world bespoke its significance.

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel: venue for the 2006 CSCW conference


After a somewhat circuitous journey to Banff late Friday evening, I set off towards the conference venue, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel early Saturday morning. Having the day off from my student volunteer duties, I used the opportunity to check out the grand hotel, dubbed as ‘Castle of the Rockies’ by some. The Scottish Baronial theme of the hotel was very much upheld through the architecture and interior decorations, offering an exciting prospect of discussing or demonstrating cutting edge technology in an old-fashioned artistic setting for the next few days.

The pre-conference session took place over the weekend. Saturday was the day for the workshops and the doctoral consortium. The day ended with a ‘Whirlwind tour of CSCW research’ – a tutorial offered by Jim Herbsleb of Carnegie Mellon University and Gary Olson from the University of Michigan, providing a comprehensive overview of the past, present and future of CSCW. The remaining tutorials took place on Sunday, covering a wide range of topics starting from broader topics such as uses of collaborative technologies across teams and communities to more focused topics such as collaborative tagging.

'Collaborative Interaction on Large Tabletop Displays’ from the University of Calgary was one of the most popular demos.


The main conference program began on Monday morning, inaugurated by an inspiring keynote speech from Peter Gloor - “Coolhunting through the swarm creativity”. He talked about importance of social networks and how their collective creativity can advance society as a whole including creation of new trends, technology, organization and collaborations. A series of papers on a range of topics from display, healthcare and collaborative systems were presented throughout the rest of the day.

A notable aspect with the papers presented was the conscious effort to incorporate social considerations in technology development or adaptation, indicating that not only the individual, but also the impact of and on the society as a whole is gradually becoming a focus of the CSCW community. The final session of the day was the Demo and Poster session. 32 demos and 42 posters were on display, generating considerable interest among conference participants. This included tabletop displays, visualizations to increase social and workspace awareness, multi-user input techniques and groupware systems. During this session, the awards for Best Papers and Best Notes were also handed out, followed by the ‘one-minute-madness’ presentations of the posters, a trend that has become a regular and well-appreciated feature of recent conferences.

Presenters continue to innovate during the one-minute madness session. Ruth Ablett from the University of Calgary directs audience attention towards her poster through an amazing Taiko performance.


Technical sessions continued on Tuesday. A panel discussion on Disaster Management brought to the forefront the behind-the-scenes planning and preparation for disaster management and how collaboration and technology can aid this process. Among many good talks, Paul Dourish’s presentation on how changes in the technological landscape have changed the definitions of space and place with reference to his decade old paper published at this venue particularly resonated with the audience. The final session of the day was a lively panel discussion by pioneers of CSCW including Irene Greif, Jonathan Grudin, Thomas Malone, Judith Olson and Lucy Suchman, reflecting on the 20 years of CSCW and predictions and aspirations about the future. The day ended with the conference reception at the Brewster’s Mountain View Barbecue, where after a long day conference participants got a chance to relax, mingle and enjoy as well as participate in some lively music and dancing.

The last day of the conference had surprisingly large attendance. Among the presented papers, Pamela Hinds’ presentation on the effects of social and work structure, communication networks on coordination of globally distributed teams, Toru Ishida’s presentation on effects of machine translation on multilingual chat sessions and Marcelo Cataldo’s presentation on design implications for collaborative and awareness tools (awarded Best Paper) were noteworthy. The talk of the day, however, was Bill Buxton’s plenary presentation, captivating the audience through a multitude of contemporary and relevant CSCW topics. His talk emphasized the importance of adapting existing technology as demands from societal changes occur and the need for innovators as well as trend-setters to take the society forward. The significance of cultural, social and business considerations in reviewing the impact of technology on society as a whole was amply demonstrated. His passion about creativity and idea generation throughout the talk was ideally summed up by his closing statement: ‘May you dream in the day’.

With that inspiration to take us through to the next meeting of the CSCW conference in 2008, the curtains on the 20th anniversary of CSCW finally came down. It was a memorable experience, enhanced by the rich quality of the presentations and the pulchritude of the conference location.

 

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