ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT IN THE VIDEO CONFERENCING ‘SPACE'
Keywords:Digital space, collaboration
The Covid-19 pandemic led to a dramatic shift in the nature of work and collaboration for our design-led research group. In this paper, we describe the experimental use of the Gather Town platform for a variety of communication and collaboration activities. This alternative to standard video conferencing software uses spatial metaphors and attempts to regain some of the affordances of physical co-location such as serendipity and a sense of presence. In creating custom Gather spaces for our team, we found that it brought positive benefits to informal collaboration in work environment. For teaching and workshop facilitation, it created additional opportunities for flexible small-group working with affordances not available with traditional break-out rooms. We also report initial results of Gather being used in a conference setting not just to recreate the liminal, informal social spaces, but as a novel form of interactive paper presentation. While each of these experimental contexts showed benefits of a spatial digital context, we also highlight some of the challenges identified. Through this work, we question future implications for workplaces, knowledge sharing and the post-pandemic world. We ask whether digital tools and technologies should be used not only to attempt replication of physical spaces and practices, but also to explore new opportunities to work in profoundly different ways, that offer independent ways of being.