Dialogue Design Commentary
Action Research Intentions
We have implemented two variations of the Dialogue software for the CIP in order to explore two issues regarding the appropriate groupware support for on-line Dialogue. We want to:
1) experience the difference between single stream and branching formats
Everyone in the CIP has been added to both a Streaming and a Branching group. Groups are roughly equivalent in terms of intention to participate, level of current CIP activity, and experience with Dialogue. Both variations provide a choice between Scrolling and Summary Views of the flow of Dialogue (see below).
2) experience the difference between a "summary" view where you must open items to read them and a "scrolling" format where most text is displayed directly in the view
There are two kinds of view/list/outline formats: Streaming and Branching.
Streaming follows one single stream, flow, or conversational thread at a time. All new items go at the end of stream. The software is designed to focus energy and attention into single stream or thread. We expect it will be easier to discover shared meaning and feel connected with others in this format.
Branching follows multiple flows and branches into conversational threads where related items are linked (and appear indented underneath) in the outline. The software is designed to allow branching while reminding you to be conscious of what you are doing and where you are linking your item. We expect it will take more discipline, practice, and intention to discover shared meaning and connection with others in this format.
These are two very similar applications. The differences between them are:
- the default view when the application is opened -- Scrolling in Streaming, and Summary in Branching (since the Scrolling View is not as easy to use as in Streaming because of the indentation)
- images used (photographs on navigators and forms) -- single stream river in Streaming, and branching river and stream with tree branch in Branching
- the Re: line in the Branching forms highlight the item to which this one is linked (nested underneath), with DocLink to it
- in Branching, a message reminding you what you have selected and therefore to what you are linking when you create an new item, asking if that is your intent
There are two kinds of items, Thinking/Feeling and Listening. The latter encourages you to indicate your silent listening presence in the Dialogue.
We call these documents "items" instead of "responses" to shift your thinking away from responding to someone directly, rather than speaking into the collective.
There are no buttons on the forms to create "response" documents. This discourages cross talk which is exclusionary in Dialogue and turns the group into a spectator of one-on-one conversations. You must be in a view where you can see more of the whole Dialogue in order to create a new Thinking/Feeling or Listening item.
Flow/Network of Items
- Thinking/Feeling: This is so named to encourage both intellectual and affective participation. In edit mode, there is a suggestion on the form to wait until after the item has been composed before summarizing it in the subject. The focus (text insertion cursor) is first placed in the body text field, rather than the subject field. There is also the suggestion under the body text field to stay within 9 lines so the entire item may be seen in the Scrolling View without having to be opened.
- Listening: This item is a single keyword field. You can select a short phrase from list of phrases used to date or enter your own words of listening.
There are two view formats (Scrolling and Summary) for representing the pattern of the flow of Dialogue. The Member Activity view shows which view each member used last. The software remembers the chosen view and opens to that the next time.
Note: This text is not encrypted like the rest of the body text in the CIP because Notes cannot display encrypted text in a view.
- The Summary View is like the typical one-line Notes view with subject , author, date, and time.
- The Scrolling View is more like Web conferencing systems with the text of items displayed. Because of Notes limitations, only the first 9 lines of body text are shown in this view. The item must be opened for reading to see any additional text.
The Mark Read button allows you to read through the flow of Dialogue without having to select individual items or open them to read the text. In the Scrolling View, you can select the first unread item and then click the Mark Read button to mark it and automatically move down to the next one.
Group Membership Display
On the way into Dialogue, there is a display of the list of members who have actually joined the small group so it's clear who is there and who is not, unlike the Council Circles where empty seats made it feel like people were missing.
There are software agents which act on behalf of the facilitators, providing various messages and asking questions:
Further Support for the Practice of Dialogue
- before entering the Dialogue the first time: reminds you of the importance of regular participation and asks if you want to join your group
- before entering the Dialogue after being away for more than 10 days: reminds you of the importance of regular participation and asks if you want to rejoin your group
- before entering the Dialogue after having left (withdrawn from) the group: reminds you of the importance of regular participation and asks if you want to rejoin your group
- before entering the Dialogue the first time: requires you to read Guidelines
- before the Dialogue view is displayed: gives you the tip to use Mark Read to move through the flow of items; this happens the first two times into either format of Dialogue and then stops
- before creating a new item: if there are new/unread items, reminds/encourages you to read them to be current with what is emerging before writing something new
- before creating a new item in Branching: displays a message reminding you of type, title, and author of item you have selected to make sure that's the one to which you want to link your item
On the Thinking/Feeling and Listening items, there are one-line reminders ("Consider: ") displayed at the top with questions or statements that reinforce ways of thinking and being in Dialogue. These are randomly selected and so appear differently each time the item is displayed. They are like posters on the wall of a Dialogue room.
In edit mode, there are brief multi-line suggestions displayed at the bottom of Thinking/Feeling items. These are more behavioral than the reminders, such as the suggestion to acknowledge another's contribution indirectly rather than engaging in individual cross talk. The suggestions are also randomly selected.
We have invited several active participants with experience in face-to-face and/or on-line Dialogue to act as resource people in the Dialogue groups. While all accepted our invitation to be present, they also expressed a strong preference not to be identified as "facilitators" or "experts" since a core challenge in learning Dialogue is for everyone to accept shared responsibility for the practice.
From the 1996 Awakening Technology Community of Inquiry and Practice (CIP)
Content and Groupware Design © 1996 Awakening Technology.
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From www.awakentech.com on 10/20/2020 ---- item last modified on 05/31/1997.