Sunday, November 06, 2005


whiteboard politics

The humble whiteboard is perhaps the best example of an "external representation." External representation is about the power of a physical representation of a concept to facilitate discussion among people. A fair body of theory and evidence has developed to support what many would consider common sense: being able to look at some while discussing it is helpful. The question is: helpful for whom?

I have a tendency to grab a marker during a discussion, and write on a whiteboard. I idealistically imagine everyone is benefiting. I benefit by getting my thoughts down in front of me, where I can see them, and critique them, if I have too many to sort through mentally. Others can following more easily what it is I am talking about, especially the connections between the concepts.

While whiteboards are a cognitive facilitator, they are not necessarily a social facilitator. I notice a different dynamic around whiteboards than around conference tables generally.

While whiteboards should ideally be treated as scratch paper, they often are treated as powerpoint slides. Blame it on years of cutting arts funding in public schools.

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