Design Principles for Public Computing

People who work in well designed office spaces are more productive.  People who recuperate in well designed medical facilities heal faster.  Children who attend well designed schools are more likely to meet learning objectives.  What does a well designed public computing spaces look like?  Perhaps an even better question, what are the behaviors and objectives for which we are designing public computing spaces?

To fully participate in society today, it’s important to be able to engage in the three ‘Cs’ of Creativity, Curation, and Collaboration.  We don’t just consume content that others have produced, but we participate directly in the creative process in a range of ways.  And today, this process is done through collaboration with those in the same neighborhood as well as those spread across the world.  With such an abundance of information sources, it also becomes critical that everyone be able to curate the information they discover in their research, discerning its validity and salience to the question at hand.

This page provides a look at a range of design principles that are being developed based on observations of many different collaborative spaces incorporating technology including cafe’s, libraries, community centers, places of worship, and even outdoor spaces. Some of these ideas come from fields including architecture, library and information science, psychology, and marketing. But we hope that ultimately these prove to be very practical ideas for designs incorporating technology that lead to spaces that foster collaboration and creativity in advance of individual and community goals.

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Equipping a Social Learning Floor at ACU Library

Here’s a wonderful example of furniture to equip the social learning floor at the ACU library.  I think where it all begins is with the recognition of the need for a social learning floor in the first place.

Computer Pods by ACU Library
Computer Pods, a photo by ACU Library on Flickr.

ACU Library Photo Caption: Computer pods are the central feature of our social learning floor. The design is custom created to support group work. Tables are in a boomerang shape clustered around a central pillar with four computers. The pillar is furred out to create a hollow space to conceal wiring. The shape of the curve on each side of the pods is such that three to four people can work inside the curve and still have an unobstructed view of the computer screen.

Each pod accommodates 12-16 people. There are 6 of these pods on the main floor.

Power, data, and mobile outlets on the pillar let one connect laptops and mobile devices. The arms of the tables are approximately 4 feet by 2.5 feet wide, allowing plenty of room to spread out books and papers.

UPDATE: Here’s a presentation by Laura Baker in which she walks us through the reasoning in the design.  While directed towards a library audience, the design process is well worth a listen for anyone supporting social learning spaces.

UPDATE 2/12/2012: Here’s my notes from my visit to the Abilene Christian University Library.  I was blown away by their Learning Commons on the 1st floor, but also their Learning Studio and the Theological Reading room on the second floor.  What an outstanding example of space design!

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