The future state of (construction) collaboration: bottom-up?

I spoke at the Collaboration Cafe symposium held at London’s Building Centre on Tuesday (30 March) – see my latest ExtranetEvolution post for more about the debate.

The brief for my presentation from StickyWorld and Slider Studio founder Michael Kohn was straightforward: to expand on the blog post, The end of the construction collaboration era?, I wrote last week. This was an excellent suggestion as the post had elicited some interesting and useful comments. As a result, and in the spirit of online conversation, I quoted both Incite‘s Sean Kaye and GleedsJasper Singh in the presentation. (I’ve since uploaded my presentation to SlideShare so that others might comment on what I delivered, continue that conversation, and perhaps help me improve my own thinking on the subject. Along with other presentations and projects, the slides have also been uploaded into StickyWorld’s Collaboration Cafe creative review and exhibition environment, and I have just responded to some points posted there.)

Sean and Jasper both touched on a similar area: how mainstream AEC collaboration platforms are generally pretty dull and unlikely to excite Gen Y industry professionals enthused by Web 2.0. Discussion on this continued at the symposium with talk about ‘bottom-up’ adoption as a driver for both collaboration and technology adoption, and this fed a lively debate about democratic design principles enabled by social media-type platforms.

Making online tools simple to use and sharing data more easily, it was argued, could open up new opportunities for wider discussion, consultation and collaboration (we heard from Rob Annable how Slider Studio’s YouCanPlan had been used to get community feedback on an urban regeneration project in Birmingham’s Lozells District, for example), but also posed new questions; for example:

  • who owns the feedback?
  • how should feedback be received, analysed and  reacted to?
  • how to ensure transparency about the roles of elected representatives?
  • can we overcome professional ‘elitism’ about responses from lay people?
  • will competing (and non-interoperable) systems prevent the establishment of a critical mass channel to promote discussion?
  • how can we get real-time feedback about our buildings and the people who use them?
  • will tools like StickyWorld help enthuse schoolchildren into thinking about the buildings around them?

Encouragingly, the Building Centre’s Andrew Scoones, who chaired the event, offered to host a follow-up debate in six months’ time. So, hopefully, by September, the debate will have moved forward a little and we will have more developed responses to some of these questions.

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