Academic journal article Visible Language

Virtual Conferencing in Global Design Education: Dreams and Realities

Academic journal article Visible Language

Virtual Conferencing in Global Design Education: Dreams and Realities

Article excerpt

abstract

The concept and use of the synchronous and asynchronous forms of virtual conferencing is central to the experience of global design education. Easy and ready access to people and information worldwide is at the heart of a paradigm shift in design practice and education, defined by collaboration and digital technology. The dream of smooth, global interaction via virtual conferencing rests on the concept of presence, that is the ability for people to feel as though there are no barriers to their communication. The reality, however, is to encounter such things as dropped video or audio signals, rastered images and e-mail attachments that will not open because the sender and receiver have different versions of a software application. This paper explores the dissonance between the dreams and realities of virtual conferencing in global design education by discussing the idea of presence, examining the relationship between virtual conferencing and contemporary design practice and education, presenting the virtual conferencing experiences of three international student projects and addressing what we still need to know in order to best use such technology within the context of global design education. The paper concludes with comments about providing students with valuable international design experiences.

introduction

Virtual conferencing-i.e., all forms of virtual communication that mimic human communication like video, voice, chat rooms, e-mail, telephone, PDFs and all forms of electronic documents-conjures dreams of instant access to information and seamless interaction with anyone anywhere in the world at any time. For design educators, virtual conferencing sets us to dreaming about collaborative international student projects and broadening our students' sense of connectedness to the rest of the world. But the actual experience of virtual conferencing involves coping with adaptations of all sorts-technological, strategic, physical, intellectual and emotional-in order to benefit from digital connectivity. The problem is that the dream of virtual conferencing-creating the "here" presence of someone who is literally at a distance "there"-is still grappling with the realities of technology and of how to be most effective in global design education.

Synchronous forms of virtual conferencing seek to replicate real-time, multisensory face-to-face conversation (video/audio conferencing, teleconferencing) and allow for collective decision-making; asynchronous forms of virtual conferencing (e-mail, threaded discussions, interactive websites and databases) change real-time to "my time" and enable individuals to ponder ideas, craft comments and connect with others at his/her own pace. Sharing ideas synchronously is immediate, collective and uses direct personal interaction to communicate meaning; sharing ideas asynchronously is reflective, individualistic and uses artifacts to (indirectly) communicate meaning. Both synchronous and asynchronous virtual conferencing seek to provide "presence"-to connect people in ways that lets them feel as if they were not separated by time or distance. This paper focuses on the dreams and realities of virtual conferencing in global design education by first discussing the concept of presence in understanding virtual conferencing, second by examining the impact of virtual conferencing on framing contemporary design practice and education, third by illustrating both the dreams and realities of virtual conferencing through examples of international design courses and students projects and fourth by asking what we still need to understand about the role of virtual conferencing in design education. The paper concludes with observations about balancing those dreams and realities to provide students with the valuable opportunity of producing and understanding their work in a global context.

presence in virtual conferencing

Lombard and Ditton (1997) describe six conceptualizations of presence and the first three-presence as social richness, presence as realism and presence as transportation-relate to virtual conferencing. …

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