Exploring Constrained Creative Communication: The Silent Game as Model for Studying Online Collaboration

Exploring Constrained Creative Communication: The Silent Game as Model for Studying Online Collaboration

Jannick Kirk Sørensen (Center for Communication, Media and Information Technologies (CMI), Aalborg University Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/IJESMA.2017100101
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Abstract

Creative collaboration via online tools offers a less ‘media rich' exchange of information between participants than face-to-face collaboration. The participants' freedom to communicate is restricted in means of communication, and rectified in terms of possibilities offered in the interface. How do these constraints influence the creative process and the outcome? In order to isolate the communication problem from the interface- and technology problem, we examine via a design game the creative communication on an open-ended task in a highly constrained setting, a design game. Via an experiment the relation between communicative constraints and participants' perception of dialogue and creativity is examined. Four batches of students preparing for forming semester project groups were conducted and documented. Students were asked to create an unspecified object without any exchange of communication except the placement of LEGO™ bricks.
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Introduction

Online creative collaboration gains increasing importance as educational processes takes place either fully online or with strong element of online collaboration (Stockleben et al., 2017). Online tools impose constraints on communication as they are less ‘media rich’ than a face-to-face encounter (Daft & Lengel, 1986). At the same time, the early stages of creative collaboration are characterized by a high level of uncertainty as collaborators solving an open-ended wicked problem (Buchanan, 1996; Churchman, 1967; Rittel & Webber, 1973) that requires the emergence of a shared language and some kind of representation of the problem solutions (Brandt, 2007). In this paper, we examine via an experiment how the constraints of communication relate to quality of the creative process. The experiment was set up to reflect the initial fuzziness in online collaboration process, particularly to examine the relation between language constraints, creativity and rules for creative processes.

In the experiment, we use a concept design game – the Silent Game – (Habraken & Gross, 1988) as model for the constrained communication in a creative project. The Silent Game was developed at School of Architecture and Planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, as one of nine concept design games for research in design theory and methods. Particularly the communication, taking place in the design of complex artifacts such as buildings and urban environments was of interest to the researchers. They noted that “[t]here are always many designers … in a process of cooperation and negotiation [and that] … [t]he artifact changes all the time. Human settlements are never finished and we keep designing them.” (Habraken & Gross, 1988, p. 150). Furthermore, designing is seen as social activity, thus depending heavily on the quality of communication. The concept design games were developed to study communication in simplified and formalized way. The design communication took place at an abstract level, not intended to simulate real buildings. The concept games “extract an aspect from reality and enlarge it … [t]he game is a stage for exploring design behavior … [in a] constrained context” (Habraken & Gross, 1988, p. 152) The design games were then used “to study how designers negotiate, come to agreements and follow conventions” (Habraken & Gross, 1988, p. 152). The author of this paper was presented to the Silent Game around year 2001, have since as a university teacher been a practitioner of Silent Game in educational settings.

In this paper, we present the results of a survey conducted at Aalborg University, Copenhagen. In total 74 computer engineering students (25 1st year BSc. students and 49 1st year MSc. students) were presented to the Silent Game as an exercise in getting acquainted with each other, prior to the choosing of group members for their problem-based group semester project, according to Aalborg University model of Problem Based Learning (Kolmos, Krogh, & Fink, 2004). Based on participants’ survey responses we discuss the influence of constrains on the perceived quality of the creative result and the creative dialogue among participants. The experiments have been conducted in the context of the ERASMUS+ strategic partnership project “OnCreate”, which focuses on improving online creative collaboration among students, cf. (Stockleben et al., 2017). This paper continues earlier research, cf. (Sørensen, 2005, 2016b). See also (Mollenhauer & Mollenhauer, 2016).

Figure 1.

Two players playing the standard version of the Silent Game

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