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Collaborative Sessions: Combining Analogue and Digital Tools

Teams often use collaborative methods such as brainstorming and affinity diagrams to gather ideas and organize information. Pen and paper are typically used to capture notes during the sessions. These analog notes are then converted into a digital format. This conversion process is often inefficient and results in media discontinuity. This article describes the Hybrid Affinity Diagram Manager (HADM), which combines the advantages of the analog and digital worlds.

Pen and Paper Versus Digital

Using pen and paper in collaborative, creative sessions gives participants the ability to quickly note, sort, and retrieve ideas. Participants can easily view a large number of ideas (or data) if notes are arranged on a surface such as a wall. Pen and paper can also display several kinds of information types such as text, pictures, graphics, or charts without the need to switch between different software programs.

Many consider the haptic feeling of using a pen to write on paper superior to the experience of writing on a glass surface. Using pen and paper is also perceived as less formal—it’s easy to quickly scribble and doodle ideas and pictures during meetings or design sessions. Everyone is also familiar with pens and there are few obstacles related to their use. This ease of use is essential in creative collaboration.

The major disadvantage of pen and paper is that we frequently need results in a digital format at some point. Hence, ideas that start on paper eventually go through some sort of digitization process (see Figure 1). At the very least, they are captured with a smartphone camera. In some cases, only high-level findings are digitized, while in others, some poor soul is given the arduous task of digitizing all the output. That’s why practitioners often opt to start with a digital format, skipping pen and paper methods. and losing the associated collaborative and creative advantages.

Digital tools allow designers to quickly and easily edit, transform, and manipulate data. Designers can share digitized data over the Internet within seconds, work simultaneously on the same document with others, and record the progress and replay it on a time slider.

Both the digital and analog tools have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. A perfect solution would combine advantages from each method and represent the same content in both formats. Changes in one would result in immediate changes to the other (see Figure 2).

Diagrams showing computer, printer, paper and person in variations of the cycle
Figure 1 (left). Media cycle manually connecting the analog and digital world.
Figure 2 (center). Media cycle without any obstruction through media discontinuity.
Figure 3 (right). Reduced media cycle for the HADM.

Digital Integration of Pen and Paper in Collaborative Creative Sessions

Existing products that have attempted to integrate digital and pen and paper methods for optimal collaboration, such as the Tivoli by Xerox PARC and Designers’ Outpost by the University of California, have been large, clunky, and experimental. The solution I have engineered at the University of Constance, Germany is called the Hybrid Affinity Diagram Manager. It is a software program capable of managing hybrid affinity diagrams (see Figure 3).

HADM takes advantage of the features of a commercially available product, namely, the Anoto ballpoint pen, which is like a normal pen but has a small infrared camera at the tip. The camera reads tiny black dots. The dots can be printed on paper with a standard printer, which results in slightly grayish paper. The dots are arranged so that a group of six dots forms a singular coordinate on a 60-million square meter surface (over 190 million square foot).

A user moving the ballpoint pen over this paper creates analog strokes that are read by the camera. The coordinates of the pen are simultaneously calculated and transmitted to the software using Bluetooth, and the strokes are represented and recorded digitally. The effect is that handwritten notes are instantly converted to a digital format that everyone on a team can share.

To create an affinity diagram, the user starts with the special paper cut into several note card-sized pieces (see Figure 4) and uses the Anoto pen to write on it. It’s just like using a regular pen and paper. In this case, though, the data are simultaneously represented digitally as you write. Several pens can be connected at the same time, which means large groups can simultaneously write and draw.

A paper diagram with an electronic pen
Figure 4. HADM cards and the Anoto pen.

Each notecard also has defined areas that provide additional functionality. For example, users can directly change the color of the digital representation of the card, delete the card, or reset the card by tapping in a specific area (see Figure 5).

Even better, because the session is now digital, it can be stored and used at any time. Notes can be searched by keyword and cards can be sorted. Essentially, the Hybrid Affinity Diagram Manager offers all of the collaborative advantages of pen and paper combined with the versatility and flexibility of digital.

The card, with color names and cut, copy, paste, delete functions
Figure 5. Drafts of the defined card areas for additional functions

Future Prospects

In a focus group of HCI experts at the University of Constance, we discussed new ideas, such as collaboration over the Internet and embedding other technologies like the Microsoft Kinect camera, which tracks gestures. Metadata including the creation date, author, and tags could be added. The Hybrid Affinity Diagram Manager could also be extended to include other collaborative methods that rely on pen and paper. Finally, one can imagine that new methods and forms of collaboration can arise with smooth integration of pen and paper in the digital world. Perhaps in the future, digital paper could have the same characteristics as standard cellulose-based paper and cost the same. Then everything could be seamlessly displayed and transformed at all stages.在协作会议后,混合式姻亲图管理器 (HADM) 可以实时将手写笔记数字化,从而提高收集、组织和记录信息的效率。

团队经常使用协作创新方法(如头脑风暴和姻亲图)来收集和组织信息。通常情况下,在这类会议期间,会使用类似于笔和纸这样的实体材料来记录笔记。在会议结束后,实体笔记通常被转换成数字格式。这个过程常常效率低下。合成姻亲图管理器 (HADM) 可以让与会者将内容手写在纸卡上,然后将纸卡实时数字化。

文章全文为英文版Hybrid Affinity Diagram Manager(HADM)는 실시간으로 수기 노트를 디지털화를 하여 협력적 세션을 가진 후 정보의 수집, 구성, 기록의 효율성을 개선합니다.

팀은 정보를 수집하고 구성하기 위해 브레인스토밍, 친화도법과 같은 협력적이고 창의적인 방법을 사용합니다. 일반적으로 그러한 세션 기간에 펜과 종이와 같은 아날로그 수단을 사용하여 메모를 합니다. 세션이 끝난 후 아날로그 노트는 디지털 형식으로 바뀝니다. 이러한 절차는 비효율적인 경우가 종종 있습니다. Hybrid Affinity Diagram Manager(HADM)는 참가자가 종이 카드에 수기로 적고 카드를 즉시 디지털화할 수 있게 합니다.

전체 기사는 영어로만 제공됩니다.O Hybrid Affinity Diagram Manager [Gestor de Diagrama de Afinidade Híbrido] (HADM) melhora a eficiência da reunião, a organização e o registro de informações após uma sessão de colaboração ao digitalizar anotações manuscritas em tempo real.

As equipes normalmente usam métodos colaborativos criativos como brainstorming e diagramas de afinidade para reunir e organizar as informações. Normalmente, materiais analógicos como papel e caneta são utilizados para fazer anotações durante essas sessões. Geralmente após a sessão, as anotações analógicas são convertidas em formato digital. Esse processo é normalmente ineficiente. O Hybrid Affinity Diagram Manager (HADM) permite que os participantes escrevam manualmente em cartões de papel e os digitalizem rapidamente.

O artigo completo está disponível somente em inglês.ハイブリッド・アフィニティ・ダイアグラム・マネージャー(HADM)は、手書きによるメモをリアルタイムでデジタル化することにより、コラボレーション・セッション後の情報の収集、整理および記録の有効性を向上させる


原文は英語だけになりますEl Organizador de Diagramas de Afinidad Híbrida (Hybrid Affinity Diagram Manager, HADM) mejora la eficacia de reunir, organizar y registrar información luego de una sesión colaborativa al digitalizar notas escritas a mano en tiempo real.

Los equipos a menudo utilizan métodos creativos de colaboración como la tormenta de ideas y los diagramas de afinidad para reunir y organizar información. Por lo común se utilizan materiales analógicos como el lápiz y el papel para tomar notas durante las sesiones. Generalmente después de la sesión, las notas analógicas se convierten a un formato digital. Este proceso a menudo resulta ineficiente. El Organizador de Diagramas de Afinidad Híbrida (HADM) permite a los participantes escribir a mano en tarjetas de papel y digitalizarlas en el momento.

La versión completa de este artículo está sólo disponible en inglés.