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APRIL 28, 2010   

Shaping the interaction

Chairs arranged in semi-circleThere's a lot of talk about interaction design on the Web, but of course it's as important—if not more so—in person.

For last night's Web Work/Web Wisdom session on starting your own business we wanted a conversation rather than a lecture, so we arranged the space differently.

We normally set up rows of chairs facing a table at the front. We angle the rows to make it a bit more intimate, in what's called a chevron arrangement.

The room itself has a lot of problems: it's in the basement, with no windows or natural light. A recent visitor called it "cave-like." Based on recommendations in the article Physical Space and Social Interactions, this is two strikes against it. Our only chance for a hit is #3:

Furniture can support and encourage social interaction if its arrangement removes any barriers between and among people (e.g. a circle of chairs would be preferable to lines of desks).

Audience at discussionSo that's what we went for: we eliminated the speakers' table, replacing it with two chairs and a small round table to hold bottles of water. The audience, only three rows deep, nearly circled the speakers.

Did it work? Hard to say: maybe it was the topic, or the speakers themselves. On the other hand it may have been the arrangement of the space that led to a lively discussion with lots of questions.

The room set-up was good for our group of thirty or so, but might not accommodate the seventy-five who showed up for Eric Meyer's presentation on The Future of The Web. Then again, the topic and/or speaker may sometimes be better served by a more traditional lecture-type presentation.

More to think about as we look ahead to next year's Web Work/Web Wisdom series. Get news about upcoming events by joining the Facebook group VC&D@Tri-C and/or by visting www.webworkwebwisdom.com.

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APRIL 2010