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research methods of collaboration via the Internet. It is important that the communication
is synchronous, that the software is reliable, and that language differences do not lead to
ambiguity when planning the best way to display the paintings and sculptures and their
identifying and explanatory notices.
The staff at the gallery have heard a great deal about collaborative aids (such as
Microsoft
's NetMeeting, WebEx's Meeting Center, and Centra's Centra 7)
320
which allow
synchronous chat together with `whiteboard' features, thus allowing distant users to see
their co-collaborators' imaginations at work.The essential difference between this way of
working and the alternative is that the creative process can be visualised and followed in
real time. It also allows information to be date-stamped and saved to hard disk an
essential feature, allowing users to save and track changes and marker points.
Once the collaborators have installed the software, the gallery organises an initial brain-
storming session with the museum, the foreign national gallery and the contemporary
artist to decide on the themes connecting various works and the provisional list of works
to be included.The session is a success, and the gallery gains a good deal of useful advice,
as well as suggestions and offers of artworks to exhibit.The gallery then prepares a series
of possible exhibition layouts with various combinations of works in the space available.
In another meeting using the software, the layout options are presented and the gallery
asks for opinions and suggestions which the other collaborators provide in a mixture of
textual comments, by drawing on the diagrams and by drawing new ideas for layouts.
The art gallery saves each picture to preserve the ideas, and these are returned to and
modified between collaborative sessions.
In time the institutions finalise a list of works to be displayed, and prepare explanatory
text for each artwork, connecting it with one or more of the exhibition's primary
themes.This is especially useful as it allows the gallery to gain valuable information
directly from the artist, as well as from experts at the other institutions.The gallery also
discovers issues around the display of individual items (e.g. lighting, ideal hanging
heights, etc), thus saving time and effort when planning the technical details of the exhi-
bition. Comments and pictures from all three collaborators are used to produce a final
exhibition design and publicity material. In a late meeting, the relevant notices and flyers
are checked and cleared by all concerned. After borrowing the necessary works and
preparing the space, the gallery begins to set up the exhibition.
As a side effect of this collaboration, the first museum decides to plan an exhibition
of the contemporary artist's work for a couple of years later, and persuades the local
authority to commission an installation piece from her. Additionally, as a result of creating
such a successful working relationship, the different collaborative parties (in particular the
galleries) manage to strengthen their working relationships: maintaining contact by email,
swapping ideas, asking for advice, and commenting on each other's exhibitions.
321
Collaborative Mechanisms
and Technologies
175
320 http://www.microsoft.com/windows/netmeeting/default.asp;
http://www.webex.com/services_online-meetings.html; http://205.247.223.102/products/index.asp.
Interestingly, Centra 7 is also available on an ASP basis (see above).
321 For a much more advanced collaborative environment employing CAVEs, see CAVERN - The CAVE
Research Network
at http://www.evl.uic.edu/cavern/vrserver.html. CAVERN is an alliance of industrial
and research institutions equipped with CAVEs, ImmersaDesks, and high-performance computing resources
all interconnected by high-speed networks to support collaboration in design, training, scientific visualization,
and computational steering, in virtual reality.
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