Use of graphical modality in a collaborative design distant setting
Abstract. In this chapter, we are interested in studying the use of the graphical modality (digital sketch and document annotations) as a tool for collective design and remote communication. This study takes place in the framework of a 3 months long collaborative architectural design studio, gathering students from Belgium and France to remotely work together in 3 small groups. The study focuses on the role of the graphical modality inside synchronous remote meetings supported by the Distributed Collaborative Design Studio (DCDS). The DCDS enables multimodal real-time remote exchanges, and aims at remotely re-creating the conditions of co-present meetings. This environment associates a videoconference tool (supporting verbal and non-verbal communication) and an original real-time shared digital hand-drawn sketches system (supporting graphical communication). We identify the types of digital annotations made on the imported document (thanks to the electronic pen), as well as their role in the cognitive design processes and in the collaborative and communication processes. We also identify the different practices of digital sketching, in regard to each group and its collaborative strategies. We discuss the utility of the graphical modality as an efficient support for collaborative synchronous activities and show that the DCDS environment supports different strategies of collaborative design (co-design and distributed design). We conclude on recommendations for improving the system and for designing sketch-based collaborative environments.