Blended Spaces for Collaboration
In this paper, we reflect on our experiences of designing, developing, implementing and using a number of real world, functional, multi-touch enabled Interactive Collaborative Environments (ICEs). We created an ICE in our university in order to explore issues of interaction design and of user experience in these types of environment. This ICE has been in use for the last 4 years and has been the focus of a number of empirical studies and observations. In addition we have also undertaken considerable consultancy and contract research work for a range of commercial clients as they seek to deliver innovative environments for collaboration that suit their own needs for collaboration. These consultancies have included a mobile collaborative environment for a county police force in California, the redesign of a multinational pharmaceutical company’s meeting rooms, the design of an oil rig control system and an innovation centre for an international call centre. In this paper we aim to distill these experiences and to provide theoretical and practical advice for designers of ICEs. Our theoretical position derives from the application of conceptual integration, to create ‘blended spaces’ — environments where the design of physical and digital spaces are closely integrated. We have also identified five key themes of interaction in ICEs derived from our own observations and those of others who have been looking at collaboration over a number of years. We present these themes as a critical design framework, TACIT, that focuses on Territoriality, Awareness, Control, Interaction and Transitions in ICEs. We then present two case studies of the blended spaces and TACIT framework in use. The paper concludes by looking at the opportunities for creative collaboration that the next generation of interactive blended spaces provides.