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Compendium: Making Meetings into Knowledge Events

In this paper, we describe the Compendium methodology and suite of tools. Compendium is the result of over a decade's research and development at the intersection of collaborative modeling, organizational memory, computer-supported argumentation and meeting facilitation.

We claim that Compendium offers innovative strategies for tackling several of the key challenges in managing knowledge:

improving communication between disparate communities tackling ill-structured problems

real time capture and integration of hybrid material (both predictable/formal, and unexpected/informal) into a reusable group memory

transforming the resulting resource into the right representational formats for different stakeholders.

Our starting point is the face-to-face meeting, potentially the most pervasive knowledge-based activity in working life, but also one of the hardest to do well. Meetings in Compendium's perspective:

1. are untapped knowledge-intensive events: often they are unfocused, but they can be improved with facilitated tools that help participants express and visualize views in a shared, common display;

2. can be more tightly woven into the fabric of work: they are preceded and followed by much other communication and the generation of associated artifacts.

Weaving the process and products of meetings into this broader web of activity must therefore be a priority.

Firstly, we introduce the core elements of Compendium's approach to mediating face-to-face meetings (now used in a variety of large scale projects). We have found that a combination of facilitation with visual hypertext tools can improve potentially unproductive or explosive meetings between multiple stakeholders with competing priorities. Diverse perspectives can be captured, structured and integrated in a way that all participants collectively own as a trace of their discussions. In the process this constructs a structured, group memory which shows where the same concepts have been discussed in different contexts, why decisions were made, and allows one to harvest related concepts from multiple meetings.

Secondly, we describe how these 'conversational maps' can be integrated with pre/post-meeting activities and documents. Compendium's maps are designed to support the granular representation of concepts (as hypertext database objects) so that they can be spatially organized, recombined and reused in multiple contexts. We are developing ways to convert material in conventional applications such as written documents, emails and spreadsheets into concept maps, so that their contents can be analysed in new ways, and integrated with other maps.

Conversely, we have placed great emphasis on generating alternate documents directly from maps, since one of the most common purposes of meetings is to advance a project deliverable of some sort, typically, an organizational document of an established genre, using established notations and stylistic conventions. We automatically transform visual maps to file formats for other applications, so that other user communities can immediately benefit from the meeting's collective work. This is illustrated in a number of ways:

Transforming maps into formal notations (eg. data flow diagrams), and requirements documents following established formats

Using maps as a collaborative knowledge-elicitation interface, generating input for knowledge-based applications and simulations

From synchronous to asynchronous interaction: transforming maps created in real time into web-based interactive discussion-documents to solicit wider, asynchronous input

Ontology-based formalization: in domains where it is possible to work with formal knowledge models, discussion-documents can be annotated with links to ontologies

Engaging with visual, emotional knowledge: using maps to capture collaborative sense-making using images to express intuitions and metaphors.

To conclude, Compendium excels in enabling groups to collectively elicit, organize and validate information required by a particular community for a particular purpose. In order to integrate this with pre/post-meeting processes and artifacts, these maps can be generated by, and transformed into, other document formats, enabling asynchronous discussions around the contents of maps, and other forms of computation and analysis. In our experiences to date, the domain independence of Compendium's mapping technique for meetings, combined with its interoperability with domain-specific applications, provides a powerful platform for knowledge construction and negotiation.

Publication(s)

Proc. Knowledge Technologies 2001, March 4-7, Austin, TX. [http://www.KnowledgeTechnologies.net]

ID: kmi-01-06

Date: 2001

Author(s): Albert Selvin, Simon Buckingham Shum, Maarten Sierhuis, Jeff Conklin, Beatrix Zimmermann, Charles Palus, Wilfred Drath, David Horth, John Domingue, Enrico Motta and Gangmin Li

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