Making Hypermedia Live: Shaping Participatory Hypermedia 

A workshop to be held at ACM Hypertext 2008, June 19, 2008

Albert M. Selvin
Knowledge Media Institute / Open University and Verizon 

Simon Buckingham Shum
Knowledge Media Institute / Open University 


Call for Participation 


You are invited to participate in a full-day workshop at Hypertext 2008 on the theme of developing theory and practice in real-time participatory hypermedia. 

The Social Web

The social web of user generated 'indigenous' content operates largely through the asynchronous creation of a participatory web such as the blogosphere and media sharing sites. However, the synchronous dimension to this construction process is growing, driven by technical developments (eg. location-aware mobile devices) and an emerging culture of real time sharing of one's current activities and thoughts at an increasingly fine granularity (moving from reflective blog posts, to what one is working on, media fragments, 1-line status notes, and tags). We now see the emergence of research and hands-on websites around "new media literacy", designed to help newcomers participate in the social web. Efforts like Howard Rheingold's  Participatory Media Literacy wiki [1], the New Media Literacies project [2], and others provide concepts and resources describing this phenomenon and evangelizing for expanded participation from diverse communities.

Sensemaking as Participatory Media Construction

The social web can refer simply to individuals posting their work with little concern for how it may fit into a bigger picture. We might contrast this with participants who work to maintain the coherence of the emerging hypermedia through careful tagging, mutually subscribing webfeeds, embedded content, etc. and through reflective discourse. We are particularly interested in the latter case where emergent coherence is of central concern, which might fall under the heading of the Pragmatic Web. 

These recent developments are of interest to us, since our focus for the last 15 years, as hypermedia researchers and practitioners, has been to understand the distinctive properties of participatory media construction in support of collective sensemaking, with a particular interest in synchronous working, both physical and virtual. Collective sensemaking in complex socio-technical situations is a constant feature of organizational life in science, government, business, and other institutions. Supporting sensemaking calls for both sophisticated tools and human expertise in their use. Examples include group decision support, process modeling, requirements analysis, argument mapping, strategic planning, and problem exploration. Such activities are increasingly widespread, and there are professional consultancies devoted to providing these kinds of services. The need for the kind of integrative, participatory thinking necessary to use these tools effectively is increasingly required by more than just specialists. However there has been surprisingly little research devoted to understanding and improving the quality of practice in this area. The absence of substantive analysis of the nature of human expertise in supporting this kind of work is striking, and ripe for further exploration.

(Hyper)Media Literacy

As an extension of new media literacy initiatives, we have been developing a language for researchers and practitioners to describe phenomena as a group engages in the intentional construction of a coherent media artifact, with particular in interest in how hypermedia functionality can scaffold the discourse, and the skillset of a practitioner who serves the group with a mix of technical, facilitative, improvisational and aesthetic acts [3]. 

In this workshop we look at a special case of participatory media: creating and shaping a hypermedia artifact in real-time, live group sessions. We believe actively shaped participatory hypermedia can be a major force within the larger participatory media movement.  We invite you to explore this area, contribute your insights and research perspectives, and help expand this promising avenue of inquiry.

Constructing participatory hypermedia artifacts on the fly requires a special set of concepts, structures, and skills. This workshop will collect and share experiences, frameworks, and technologies centered on the phenomenon of synchronous participatory hypermedia construction. We are interested in identifying theoretical and practical considerations unique to shared, real-time construction of hypermedia artifacts.

Workshop Structure

We will start the workshop by involving all participants in planning and conducting a hands-on participatory hypermedia authoring session. This will then be used as a basis for reflection on the issues and considerations involved in such activities, which include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • how to organize participatory hypermedia construction events
  • differences and similarities in asynchronous vs. synchronous hypermedia collaboration
  • roles of facilitators, mediators, and other practitioners concerned with the viability and integrity of a collaborative hypermedia event
  • interweaving different forms of media in a shared hypermedia authoring experience
  • interaction styles and concepts unique to participatory hypermedia authoring
  • conceptual models for understanding the construction of hypermedia by groups
  • comparisons of participatory hypermedia to other forms of live collective media construction
  • evaluation of hypermedia artifacts produced through such processes
  • ways to engage participants in participatory hypermedia construction
  • differences between small-scale (e.g. 2-3 people) and large-scale (10-20+ people) participatory sessions

Following the hands-on experience, we will spend the remainder of the day analyzing the event from the research and theoretical perspectives of the attendees. 


We invite 2-5 page position papers from people interested in this phenomenon. Participation is especially sought from those concerned with researching, planning, facilitating, participating in, or constructing tools for participatory (hyper)media events. Participants welcomed from artistic, entertainment, business, academic, government and other contexts where live shared hypermedia events have been carried out, are planned, or are being considered. 

 Authors must submit an electronic copy (in Word or pdf) of their position paper directly to the organizing committee via email before March 22, 2008, and will be notified about acceptance by April 15, 2008. Camera-ready copy of accepted papers will be due by April 30, 2008. Papers should be minimum of 2 pages, maximum 5 pages when printed using the official ACM templates (  At least one of the authors of an accepted paper should register and participate in the workshop.

About the Organizers

Al Selvin and Simon Buckingham Shum have been involved in facilitating participatory hypermedia creation and developing software to support such work since the early 1990s. For this workshop, they will draw on their experience with such approaches as Compendium [4], Cohere [5], and the research areas grouped under the Hypermedia Discourse program [6] as well as broad experience in community, business, academic, and government venues to involve workshop attendees in exploring participatory hypermedia and helping to define the research agenda. The proposed workshop extends the Hypertext Augmented Collaborative Modeling workshop held at Hypertext 2002 [7] as well as numerous Compendium Institute workshops, such as the 2007 workshop held at NASA Ames [8].


  1. Participatory Media Literacy wiki.
  2. New Media Literacies project.
  3. Selvin, Albert M. "Performing Knowledge Art: Understanding Collaborative Cartography." To appear in: Knowledge Cartography: Software Tools and Mapping Techniques. Alexandra Okada, Simon Buckingham Shum, Tony Sherborne  (Eds.). Springer: Advanced Information and Knowledge Processing Series. Expected Publication: June 2008
  4. Compendium.
  5. Cohere.
  6. Hypermedia Discourse, Knowledge Media Institute, Open University.
  7. Workshop on Hypertext-Augmented Collaborative Modeling, ACM Hypertext Conference, Maryland, June 11-12, 2002.
  8. Compendium Institute Workshop 2007. 2-3 May, 2007, NASA Ames Conference Center.