Master thesis – Concept

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The present article will present possible answers to the research questions presented in already existing work. The thesis must further investigate their correctness and evaluate the implementation of these solutions with the help of users.

A framework for analysis was used to search for the solutions proposed by other brainstorming applications and six direct categories aroused from the research questions:

  1. Additional features to improve the usability of a brainstorming supporting application;
  2. Input devices / mechanisms to register ideas into the system;
  3. Post brainstorming organization of ideas
  4. Mechanisms to support the brainstorming session;
  5. Solutions to address the physical limitation of the tabletop;
  6. Is the brainstorming session result used by other systems?

My thesis claims as a basic concept that an ideal tabletop application supporting the brainstorming process must have an implemented answer to the issues raised above.

Considering the first category of additional features which makes an application usable in the context of the brainstorming process, some properties were already mentioned and looked for in different applications: organization of ideas, relationships between ideas, sessions save and session restart for being continued. A new solution proposed by the thesis is the rating of ideas. Of course, the brainstorming session must not be influenced by categorizing the ideas in any way. However, there might be some ideas on which everyone to agree that they need to persist and need to be considered after the session end with high priority. In order to remember those very good ideas which meet the approval of everyone a rating mechanisms should be implemented.

The rating mechanism is intended to help the brainstorming session members to remember important ideas generated in the process. Nevertheless, if it is discovered that the rating of ideas is more an impediment to the creative process than a benefit, the rating mechanism can be enabled only in the evaluation phase of the brainstorming session.

The software touch keyboard is the usual mean of registering the ideas in an application running on the tabletop. This might be considered a difficult way to input the ideas by some participants. This is why the usability of a brainstorming supporting application would increase if more input means can be provided. Additional to typing on the keyboard on the table, a normal microphone could be used as an input device allowing the participants to give their ideas by normal speech. This method requires a speech recognition program in order to get the idea textually registered and consequently written on the table.

Moreover, the thesis claim is that graphical ideas can be important to the brainstorming process additional to the textual ones. Thus another way of registering a graphical idea into the application is to draw it with the finger on the table.

A brainstorming supporting application should address the scenario in which the participants get stuck and no new ideas are generated in a predefined time interval.   As a mechanism to support the brainstorming session, the thesis proposes meshing with another system to bring up content related to the topic of the brainstorming session. For example bringing 5 – 10 tweets related to the topic could positively influence the creative process and get the session on track.

The system which supports the brainstorming process around a tabletop should address the scenario in which there are more participants than can physically fit around the table. This faucet of the brainstorming application can be the feature of adding other devices to the same idea generation process, as the tabletops have finite space that people can occupy in order to access it. A practical solution in this scenario is to allow people, using their own mobile phones, to interact with a mobile client of the application. They can use it to textually write their idea on the mobile device and sending it afterward on the table. In this way, they are not required to sit at the actual table to be able to participate with ideas.

Actually, in the scenario of having too many participants at the brainstorming session, it might be a good idea that everyone uses the mobile devices to input ideas and none of them to sit at the tabletop. This way no one has a preferential sitting place. The tabletop device can be used only to organize the ideas in a next phase when the direct manipulation is essential.

After the brainstorming session has ended and analyzed, the result should be persisted. It is possible and advised by the present thesis that the ideas resulted from the brainstorming session to become registered ideas in another system which can further make use of them. For example, the result might be saved as a list of Idea objects in a permanent repository system (like a CMS) in order to be used in a project or just to become available in a shared workspace.

Let’s see how the typical use case looks!