definition of VTF


What is Visual Telefacilitation?

Visual          a text graphic representation of a meeting
Tele          distributed live!
Facilitation         to assist the group communication process

When a teleconference is held, an additional person is in attendance      not as a participant, but as a text graphic meeting recorder. It is this person's job to accurately and continuously make a record of the meeting as it happens, and to provide access to that record as a live distributed meeting map for all participants.

The classic Visual Telefacilitation situation is re presented in Figure 2: a distributed group communicating with each other via audio conference call (in this case a richly extended group)      and a visual telefacilitator who is continually generating a visual representation of the meeting and distributing it live to the group (via the Web).

The meeting map      a real time written&drawn representation of the meeting      in fact is information structured for instant use by the telefacilitator for the telegroup.

Because the meeting map is continually updated at very short time intervals, the effect of VTF is to add a mediated text-graphic channel to the teleconference, reflecting and complimenting the unmediated audio channel.

Visual Telefacilitation combines three ideas: first, there is the idea of a facilitator, a person whose defined social role is to assist the group process. Next the visual element is added, an explicit text graphic record of the meeting generated in real time by the facilitator to help the task group keep track of the discussion content. And then, finally, the visual facilitation technique is applied to distributed groups engaged in teleconferencing. Taken all together, the result is Visual Telefacilitation, or VTF for short.

Note that the term "facilitation" as used here is meant to include the whole recording    facilitation continuum. In this way of thinking, pure recording is silent facilitation. And, actually, there is no such thing as "pure recording;" to transcribe is to interpret.

It should also be emphasized that the telefacilitator is not moderating or otherwise verbally guiding the course of the meeting. For the simple model of telefacilitation presented in this paper, the social structure of the teleconference is unchanged      we are merely adding a text graphic channel which reflects and compliments the audio channel. So the telefacilitator is not the person running the meeting; if there is such a person, then the telefacilitator simply records his or her comments as one of the participants (on the other hand, if there is such a person, then he or she can also coordinate meeting agenda and process with the telefacilitator in advance).

Finally, it should be made clear that the purpose of the VTF project is not to promote a particular equipment system or social system, but rather to outline a framework within which many different approaches to VTF can evolve and prosper. The goal is to establish for VTF activity the minimal context for maximum communication, diversity, and development both now and in the long term      i.e., an open system like the Web or the Internet itself.

© 1997, 1999 PGC