New Spaces, New Places

Alastair Somerville
5 min readAug 6, 2019

This post will be where I collect sketches and ideas for a new workshop. The key issues are:

  • how to escape the trap of Here and Now in workshops
  • how to find equitable relationships in workshops between individuals and groups

This post will grow over time.

A new workshop

This is the first sketch – the question is what boundaries does a workshop have if time and place aren’t.

Companionship and compassion seem good themes.

Being together and caring together.

However, a workshop needs a point. Participants need to get from somewhere to somewhere else. There needs to aspiration and hope. There needs to be some form of change.

6 possibilities

This is sketch on a storyboard postcard I use. It splits up a few of the possible issues:

  • Breaking the standard workshop idea of place/time
  • 4 C’s as boundaries – companionship, compassion, care and self-care
  • Unbounded place and time
  • Hope as direction with goals as waypoints
  • Equity of involvement – ensuring that group activities and presentations are not prioritised over individual creations and ideas.
  • Using mixed reality design to layer multiple places that meet differing individual needs

Shifting from social to personal

Perhaps it’s better to have axes to shift along? From care (in society) to self care (of self) and from togetherness (the group) to solitude (the positive choice to be alone).

Perspective and human centered design

The human perspective, not the system perspective, is crucial to a lot of my work in sensory and accessible design. How to represent that in a workshop bounded by compassion and companionship?

Human perspective is good because it grounds us in our physicality and provides an anchor when boundaries are simply concepts.

Humans need to move. To provide direction helps enable movement. To have purpose justifies the journey.

From P to P – perspective to purpose.

Facilitating direction

People are embodied in time and place. So even if the workshop is not bounded to a specific date and a specific room, there does need to be some form of them.

Mixed Reality design, augmented or virtual realities, provide the possibility of multiple times and places. Some full of people, some not. Each space becomes a place because of the care, companionship and purpose that people bring into it.

How can a facilitator provide value in such a range of realities tho?

If direction is important to P to P then maybe wayfinding is the point of the facilitator.

Signs are not the answer

To provide wayfinding, a facilitator needs to balance signs and significance.

There is a Vienna standard for road signs which is interesting as a pattern library.

I’d distrust it for now tho.

We’re talking about embodied humans choosing their paths thru mixed realities. It’s not a car journey.

I suspect the answer will lie in physicality – dance, yoga, movement.

I’ve also been reading a lot on music and evolution lately.

Music and dance seem to be fundamental to future interaction design but I don’t have the knowledge or experience to talk of either coherently.

As a final sketch: no one criticises the soloist in dance or music in the same way as individuals get criticised for not enjoying/wanting to join in group exercises. Being individual is valuable.

I’m not sure yet. I’ll update as I go along.

Update 7th August

One issue with losing time/place as boundaries is that it about loss of control by conference/facilitator. It remains true, in an embodied sense, with all the individual participants

However, that anchoring of self to body in time/place does change when multiple or mixed realities are made available.

The person is centred on their physical presence but they can have multiple identities (I’d say personas but that’s a muddy word in UX/Service Design).

Any workshop design must accept that multiplicity of possible identities and how they might weave and intersect.

Update 20th August 2019

I’ve been reading Reflective Practice by Gillie Bolton this week and it’s helpful on the ideas of building spaces between us with stories we write and tell.

Also it’s allowed me to think more about Compassion and Companionshop. The diagram above is one result: enabling people to think about where on the arcs (the C’s) they are. There is no ‘right answer’ as it is dependent on both person and situation. This is more about making choices explicit than making right choices.

Update 31st August 2019

Here are sketches based on reading more about reflective practice.

A diagram on the importance of making and performing cultural artefacts: whether individually or as part of a group.

On using reflexive and reflective practice to create many spaces to explore ideas. The axes are wrongly named – it should be reflexive practice on the left/right axis.

Simple diagram on how the space for creating artefacts is bounded but 2 C’s and 2 R’s.

Final diagram for this update is a 10 part map of a workshop idea. Using Climate Crisis as central problem and exploring how we can support change at the scale that people are willing and capable of working at. Validating that small is fine and individual action is good. Scale can be frightening.

Using Reflective Practice to recognise the need to look at many possibilities and share them to discover their meaning.



Alastair Somerville

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX