In October, at the 24th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 21), the Lasting Impact Award went to the 1996 paper “Re-place-ing Space: The Roles of Place and Space in Collaborative Systems,” by Steve Harrison and Paul Dourish. This is not the first time this award, which recognizes a paper that is at least 10 years old and has had an impact on the CSCW field, has been awarded to Dourish, Chancellor’s Professor and Steckler Endowed Chair of Informatics in UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS). He also won the award five years ago for a 1992 paper with Victoria Bellotti, “Awareness and Coordination in Shared Workspaces.” Dourish’s impact continues with this 1996 work focused on early experiments in video-mediated communication.
“I’m delighted that after 25 years people are still finding this paper useful,” says Dourish, who also serves as director of the Steckler Center for Responsible, Ethical, and Accessible Technology (CREATE). “Of course, in our current pandemic/Zoom world, video-mediated communication is at the center of all of our experiences, so perhaps it’s not surprising that there are still lessons to be learned. For instance, one thing many professors find frustrating is how many students don’t like to turn on their cameras when participating in lectures, and I think this paper has something to say about why those mismatches arise.”
The paper argues that when designing collaborative environments, it is “dangerous” to confuse notions of space and place.
“Paul and Steve’s 1996 paper reframed thinking about interaction design for a generation or more,” says Gillian Hayes, Kleist Professor of Informatics and vice provost for graduate education at UCI. “They were the first to point out how notions of place are more salient, relevant and perhaps even more important than our thinking about physical space, a notion that has spawned new ways of thinking about social and collaborative systems, virtual and augmented reality, accessibility, and more.” She agrees that the COVID-19 pandemic further stressed the significance of this work. “Perhaps never has this distinction been more important than coming out of nearly two years of remote work,” Hayes says. “I love to teach this paper, and I gain something new each time I read it. Few papers have withstood the tests of time so well as this one.”
— Shani Murray