Blog Post

Pamela Fox, "Lowering the Barriers to Communication" Recap

Pamela Fox's HASTAC presentation, "Lowering the Barriers to Communication" focused on different methods of communication, particularly for collaboration.  As an API developer for Google who is currently working on Google Wave, she was a wonderful person to have involved in the conference, since Google Wave has been central to our discussions. 

Pamela began her talk by moving through a number of different technologies used for communication, and evaluated them based on the following criteria: editability, number of copies made, structure, history, and notifications of updates.  Her presentation moved through evaluations of snail mail, email, discussion boards, and ending with Google Wave. This structure, of course, set up Google Wave as an alternative that provided real-time communication, one central copy, and a flexible structure that allows users to comment on any section of the discussion.

Having used Wave for the first time at this conference, I can see the potential that Pamela discusses.  While it is real time, even more so than a chat conversation, Wave can be used synchronously or asynchronously.  After I signed up to report on this session, an emergency came up that required me to be in the car during the presentation and discussion time.  I can look back, however, and see the record of that conversation as it unfolded, and I can still contribute.  What was difficult, though, and was one thing discussed in the Wave conversation, was to fit the different threads of the conversation together. The people who participated sometimes replied to individual sentences within a thread (maybe it’s called a "blip?" I’m not up on my Wave lingo yet.) Because these conversations within a larger blip were quite lengthy, it was difficult to piece together the original blip later.  Another possibility discussed was the ability to direct users to specific parts of a wave, using something like a mentions feature. While this is not a current feature, it does seem like a productive one, so people don’t have to skim through the whole wave if it’s not relevant for them.

Pamela primarily discussed various communication technologies in terms of collaborative projects, which is something that I can see Wave being helpful for.  It’s been fun to test it out for the conference, which provides us a good model of its capabilities.  I wonder about its application beyond project-centered conversation, though.  One part of the conversation of Pamela’s talk involved etiquette on online message boards.  I wonder if something similar to this would ever replace the message board on websites.  I’m interested to see what groups of people end up using Wave, and for what purposes.   



I didn't like Google Wave at first---but realized the problems were partly being on a very crowded network, on a very crowded session, and in the midst of our massive data and server and email migration.  On Saturday, when the traffic was calmer, it worked like a charm and I loved the excitement of multiple synchronous conversations and then, yes, being called away and coming back, there it was, possible to watch the archived videos AND the archived chat.   It still has some beta issues but I was very impressed and enjoyed it very much and felt it really enriched the experience.  I'm exhausted and the folks at UIUC must be ready for  a long vacation---but it was a huge success.  As the volcano prevents air travel, I suspect there will be more virtual conferences, in Second Life and like this one, online and with Wave.  Thanks for writing about it.


Wave seemed to hold up nicely during the conference (I popped in during a couple of panels).  My graduate seminar - New Media Interfaces and Infrastructures - is working on an article that examines Wave.  We're using the lens of software studies (Wardrip-Fruin, Bogost, etc.) to think about Wave's constraints and affordances.  It's been interesting to look at both Wave as in interface and as a protocol and to see the wide-ranging responses to the software.  It's love or hate when it comes to Wave, it seems.


You can check out our wiki for information about the class and our article (which is in progress):