GROUP workshop: Overview

The Technology on the Trail 2018 Workshop was held as part of the ACM GROUP 2018 Conference in Sanibel Island, Florida, USA on January 7.  A large group of Virginia Tech faculty and students joined with researchers from Brigham Young University, Cornell University, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology to engage in a series of activities to further our understanding of tech on trails.

For most of us, this was a first trip to GROUP, held every other year in warm and sunny Sanibel Island, Florida, in January–a time when it’s cold and snowy elsewhere (including at home in Blacksburg, where snow cancelled K-12 schools).  Unfortunately, the snow meant delays for some workshop participants, though our crazy contingent drove the 13 hours from Blacksburg and weren’t affected by airport delays.

We wanted our workshop to engage around core ideas taken from the position papers, so we eschewed the usual morning presentations and squeezed in a collection of four activities (with linked summaries) throughout the day:

  • Who’s out there? What are they doing? [facilitators: Mike Horning, Lindah Kotut] examined conflicts among the groups of people that make use of trails.  We built on our prior efforts at identifying hiker roles, covering the walls with sticky notes, then sought to identify the roles and conflicts within and across groups.
  • Lunch and the lunchtime hike and Reflecting on data [facilitators: Steve Harrison, Melanie Trammell] asked participants to use the lunch break, and the fortuitous conference location, to explore the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, bringing favorite technologies to be used on a hike through the refuge. Afterwards, we examined the data collected during our hikes.
  • Crowds on the trail [facilitator: Tim Stelter, Scott McCrickard] brainstormed ways that hiking crowds can contribute to common goals while remaining true to the oft-cited desire for solitude and personal reflection.

It was great to have a big crowd of VT people at the workshop.  In addition to the workshop participants, VT Ph.D. student Andrey Esakia presented our FitEx/FitAware work, and incoming VT postdoc Jacob Thebault-Spieker presented some crowd work from his dissertation.  So Virginia Tech had good representation at GROUP…and hope to do so again in future years!

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