Towards the end of last semester the Krause Innovation Studio hosted the Thompson Symposium organized by PSU’s College of Music. This came about when Dr. Linda Thornton, along with one of her doctoral students, Val Flamini, contacted us about hosting it. Since this was the first time the Thompson Symposium was held at the Studio, I asked Linda to share a few of her thoughts on using the space.
In general, Linda said that the event very well and was well received by all who came. The event itself took place on the last Saturday in April and was attended by about 28 people with 17 coming from outside the PSU community. The day’s event featured one keynote speaker, small group break-out discussions, two poster sessions, and two rounds of oral presentations.
One important affordance of the Studio that Linda pointed to was how the space enabled them to host the keynote talks and poster presentations in the same space. Rather than requiring attendees to travel to a different building that could otherwise interrupt the flow of serendipitous conversations that so many people typically find to be one of the most valuable aspects to a conference/symposium event, the versatility of the Krause Studio space helped to avoid the hassle of this kind of disruption.
Another one of the features of the Studio Linda pointed to as helpful was the layout of the space and the arrangement of different sized meeting areas (pods). More specifically, the layout of the pods was effective because they weren’t too close together and had enough space so that each pod area, along with the semi-circular tables at each pod, had the effect of giving each presenter his or her own private discussion circle. She liked how each of the digital displays was positioned nearby a small table and ring of chairs that enabled attendees to easily see and comment on the digital poster that was being presented. She observed that each space seemed to comfortably accommodate the number of people gathering around each of the digital poster displays, so that it was easy for them to comment or ask questions about the content.
The digital displays also gave the presenters more options for presenting their material. Instead of being constrained by the traditional foam core poster board, presenters could take advantage of the affordances of a digital medium. With the digital displays, they could depict their research in non-linear ways or dynamically call attention to certain details (e.g., zoom in) as attendees asked various clarification questions.
One of the challenges associated with planning this event was coordinating a guest speaker who was unable to attend the event in-person. In one of my initial meetings with Linda and Val, I suggested the possibility of a telepresence robot, which they decided to try. I had first heard about this technology after reading a story on how a PSU engineering class used it to foster a remote collaboration with students at the University of Maine and thought it might work well for their needs. And it did. Linda reported that it turned out to be quite successful. In fact, she shared that several attendees took the time to tell her that they found the experience to be quite unique.
Overall, Linda described the experience to be a rewarding one and that she has also received queries from others requesting details about how she coordinated, etc. the event. Needless to say, I’m glad that Linda found the space supportive of her needs. It’s always nice to see how events such as these afford us the opportunity to see different uses of the space.