Dates : 19-23 March 2011

Venue : Hangzhou, China

Conference : Computer Supported Cooperative Work 2011 (CSCW 2011)


The boat ride to the banquet dinner across the beautiful West Lake in Hangzhou

CSCW 2011 is an annual ACM Conference. This year’s conference is under the theme of “Building Bridges” conference to reflect the way that CSCW bridges between social and technical communities, to encourage building bridges with the Asian CSCW research community by hosting it in China, and to evoke the image of bridges for which the city of Hangzhou is known.

CSCW is a premier venue for presenting research in the design and use of technologies that affect groups, organizations, and communities. The development and application of new technologies continues to enable new ways of working together and coordinating activities. Although work is an important area of focus for the conference, technology is increasingly supporting a wide range of recreational and social activities. CSCW has also embraced an increasing range of devices, as we collaborate from different contexts and situations. The conference brings together top researchers and practitioners from academia and industry who are interested in both the technical and social aspects of collaboration.


This year, our paper titled Mixed Reality Lab Singapore: A Genealogy of Lab Projects Employing the Blue Sky Innovation Research Methodology was selected to present at the showcase session of presentations. This year the “Showcase” session featured submissions that described various labs around the world. Generally the accepted papers featured works about different labs, what their focuses are, their projects, etc. Our paper too focused on the work done at the Mixed Reality Lab and how we transformed over time to what we are now.

The paper was presented authored by Prof, Jeff, myself and Dr Newton and was presented by Jeff. Mainly, our presentation focused on the genealogy of the projects done in the lab. When we arranged our work in a genealogical order we managed to categorize our projects ranging from human pacman to lovotics into five “Gens” or generations with each generation focusing on the following

Gen 1: Proto project

Gen 2: Mixed Reality

Gen 3: Cultural Computing

Gen 4: Socio Cultural

Gen 5: Quantum step motivated

In this presentation we also presented a generalized methodology “Blue Sky Thinking/Innovation” which describes our general approach to brainstorming ideas for projects. Here we explained how our work is not limited by any particular direction or field and are more quantum step motivated in our latest works. In addition we presented brief descriptions about our projects, Human Pacman, Kyoto Garden, Age Invaders, Huggy Pajama, AmbiKraf, Liquid Interface, Petimo etc.


The presentation was well received. Attendees were generally impressed by the diverseness of our projects. There were questions about where in the process we involve users. This was answered as mostly we do not limit our selves by focusing what users want but may be create a need when we think about quant step motivated work. But of course we need to involve users to validate that our work is, of course, valid! There were also some questions that were about some projects like Pet Internet etc.

Other talks

There were many other labs and research centers that presented in the Showcase sessions. Out of these presentations, one of the key presentations that I really liked was the work done by the Technology for Emerging Markets group of Microsoft Research Labs India. Here they presented three of their key projects which are mainly community motivated and how they address some of the common problems in such communities. The first project was related to a pen and paper based interface. This was as a part of their effort to increase the reliability of the financial data management. Currently the users use pen and paper for inputting their data where MSR came up with a solution where they still use the same pen and paper or form to input the data but the pad underneath reads the data and uploads it to the database. Hand writing recognition is done on board on the pad which the user also can see on a small screen to verify that the data read is correct. In the second project they presented, they talk about a citizen journalism solution. Here they allow users to upload voice recorded news reports to a news website which is mediated by an administrator before publication. The important part of this project is that they allow voice recorded reports and not text based to simplify the usage of the system to its users. As there are many different languages etc and complicated text based user interfaces may deter users from using the system, they use voice recorded reports so the users can easily communicate with the system. This way any local or small tribal users can still be users of the system. They also presented a successful news report which made to the national news which was allowed by this system

The importance and interest I had towards this project is due to the project that we discussed on the attendance taking of teachers in some small village schools in India. The projects done by MSR showed an insight into actually addressing some of the cultural and infrastructure problems in India. As they also focused on small villages they discussed about why they had to use cell phones and not internet and computers for such systems. Also they talked about the importance of working with the local governing bodies and users themselves in order to gain their trust in the systems and identify potential cultural issues they might have. Therefore this presentation was quite valuable to me in terms of working on implementing such projects in India.


The keynote was given by Jack Ma, the founder and CEO of the Alibaba website and the Alibaba group. He gave an inspirational talked about the hardships and the challenges he faced when he set up the first internet company in China. He talked about the challenges in working with the government and various policies etc. In addition he discussed his main business model where he priorotizes customers, employees and shareholders in that order in order to succeed. He addressed this model in comparison with more western company models where shareholders are treated as number one.

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