PhD Final Seminar by Mark Bilandzic
Urban Informatics Research Lab
Friday 20 Feb 2013, 1 – 2pm
Z2 The Terrace, Room 306, Creative Industries Precinct
Queensland University of Technology
Musk Ave, Kelvin Grove QLD 4059
Towards Hybrid Informal Learning Spaces: Designing for Digital Encounters in Physical Environments
The knowledge economy of the 21st century requires skills such as creativity, critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration – skills that cannot easily be learnt from books, but rather through learning-by-doing and social interaction. Big ideas and disruptive innovation often result from collaboration between individuals from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise. Public libraries, organisations and co-working spaces have been continuously seeking for means to facilitate social encounters and peer collaboration to nurture cross-pollination of skills, creativity and innovation.
This PhD thesis aims to inform design strategies for smart space technology to enhance opportunities for social learning and collaboration in free-choice learning environments such as public libraries or co-working spaces. The design thinking is based on the idea of Commons 2.0 spaces, i.e. spaces that recognise and promote the user themself as an asset and resource for knowledge, information and inspiration to other, co-present users.
The thesis reports results from five months of ethnographic user observations and 18 months of participatory action design research (PADR) at a case study at The Edge – a bookless library space at the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia that is explicitly dedicated to social learning, co-working, peer collaboration, and creativity around digital culture and technology.
Based on observations and over 50 interviews with users and staff members of The Edge, the study identifies challenges and barriers for social learning and collaboration as perceived and experienced by everyday users.
Four design strategies for ambient media are presented towards overcoming these challenges and improving the interfaces for social learning in library buildings, co-working spaces and other collaboration and learning spaces. The strategies are implemented and evaluated in a pilot study of ‘Gelatine’ – a custom developed system that facilitates shared encounters between co-workers by allowing them to digitally ‘check in’ at a work space. Gelatine displays skills, areas of interest, and needs of currently present co-workers on a public screen.
The results indicate that the system ‘amplifies’ users’ sense of place and awareness of other co-workers, and serves as an interface for social learning through exploratory, opportunistic and serendipitous inspirations, as well as through helping users identify like-minded peers for follow-up face-to-face encounters. The discussion sheds light on how Gelatine is perceived by users with different pre-entry motivations, and reports users’ ch