A perfect communicative technology, especially for holding meetings in digital space, would be transparent. The medium would create the feeling that everyone was in one room together. Current technology is far from such dreams, yet we have come to depend on such technologies for facilitating digital collaboration that transcends physical distances.
The MediaCommons Collective regularly utilizes such communicative technologies, which also means we regularly experience their limitations and ensuing frustrations. The Media Commons collective consists of graduate students within the Humanities and because The English PhD program at ODU is composed of hybrid cohorts, students attend class both on campus and at a distance, we have chosen to have hybrid meetings. Several distance students are involved in this project. To include their valuable participation in the project, we have decided on hybrid meetings. While our home base is the The Media Park, programs like Google Hangout and Adobe Connect are essential for our meetings.
Most of our meetings start with a 15-minute setup of everyone's video, sound and mic settings. Eventually we give up on the program we've chosen for the night in favor of the other. Adobe Connect boots members if the connection is slow. Google Hangout prefers to freeze the member's image in some grotesque composition one would never want another to see. Often discussion must be repeated for those online. Giggles abound.
Meetings in this context demand a high level of flexibility. The biggest problem with the technology we are using is that it isn't really built to do what we want it to, to facilitate hybrid communities. Our ambitions are not necessarily matched by the technology we have. While place and community are essential, digital communities are still dependent on the medium's limitations. Our success is contingent on our ability to work with and around technology to create productive spaces.