On the Design of Intelligent Memory Functions for Virtual Meeting Places: Examining Potential Benefits and Requirements Version 11


V. SPECIFYING THE COMPONENTS OF THE MAGIC LOUNGE MEMORY



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V. SPECIFYING THE COMPONENTS OF THE MAGIC LOUNGE MEMORY


The memory concept adopted for the Magic Lounge system relies on the following key ideas:

  • There is no fixed way to structure memory contents. Rather, information needs will be satisfied by allowing to view memory content from different perspectives. To this end, memory contents will be reorganised on-the fly. Thereby, a certain view is intended to facilitate a certain co-operation task among communication partners.

  • Memory content emerges from communication and activities related to a particular communication context, such as accessing information sources and making them available to other communication partners.

  • A user can initiate the creation of entries to the memory in an explicit (or conscious) way. Other entries, however, may result from some automatic processing of which the user is not necessarily. Furthermore, memory contents can emerge from an activity performed by a single user, but also from a collaborative activity involving several users.

  • With regard to contents and media format, the entries in the memory can be as diverse as the contents and formats of messages and information units are.

  • Memory entries can have different life-times.

  • Access to memory contents can be restricted at various levels to respect and assure privacy needs.

For the overall system conception of the Magic Lounge, it seemed useful to distinguish between three different types of memory components:

  1. Short-term working memory: This type of memory serves to capture the current working context. We assume that this type of memory is filled fully automatically by the system or the communication tools that a complex conferencing system provides. Among other purposes, the memory entries may be used to make services such as “undo command”, “repeat previous utterance”. In a collaboration context, the working memory can be consulted to make the other collaboration partners aware of what a user is doing. This information can be essential in order to allow the other users to co-ordinate their collaboration activities.

  2. Private memory: In contrast to the above mentioned working memory, entries to the private memory are under the control of a single user. The user explicitly adds entries, and it depends on the user’s decision on how long a certain entry or type of entry shall be kept. It is also fully under the control of the user whether or not other users are allowed to access his/her private memory. To a certain extent, this type of memory can be compared to a user’s local database on which he/she stores personal notes to be used in further conversations.

  3. Shared memory: The contents of this memory type emerges over time from contributions of several or even all communication partners. The contents are built in a collaborative way and are more than just the sum of individual contributions. For example, consider the record of a multi-party audio conference.

This distinction between the three different memory types is visible in the system architecture of the Magic Lounge (cf. Figure 4). Each instantiation of the available communication tools is planned to be equipped with a short-term working memory that records all the activities. The current Magic Lounge system provides tools for text-based chat, audio conferencing, and the posting of references to objects in the electronic environment. These tools are also connected to the user’s private memory but entries in the private memory are only made on explicit request by the user. The shared memory is located on a centralised server component - the so-called Magic Lounge Server. To set up a virtual meeting, all communication partners have to connect to this server component. When connecting via a PC, all the necessary tools for communication and memory access are running on the PC. In contrast, access via a mobile phone or via a PDA device is managed by a gateway component which is physically separated from the mobile device. PDA and mobile phones just serve as mobile user interfaces for the tools running at the gateway components. The so-called rent area for private memories is another important feature of this architecture. The idea is that each user can locate his/her private memory completely or partially on the Magic Lounge Server. The advantage is that it enables the users to access the contents of their private memories through different access devices (i.e., a PC, a phone, or a PDA). On the other hand, this leads to the need of designing memory access interfaces that take into account the typical restrictions on the specific output and input capabilities of the devices.

Figure 4: Memory components of the Magic Lounge system. The abbreviation PM stands for private memory and STW for short-term working memory.



Figure 4 : Les différents types de mémoire dans le système Magic Lounge. L’abréviation PM signifie mémoire privée et STW mémoire de travail à court terme.

In the current Magic Lounge system the programming of the communication tools and the interface work for accessing the memory components has been done in the Java language. The memory itself relies on an object oriented database for the storage of recorded data. data. CORBA developed by the Object Management Group (1998) has been chosen as a mechanism for the communication between the different software components which are either located on a Magic Lounge client site or at the Magic Lounge server (see Figure 4). As an underlying infrastructure for the exchange of data we assume access to a network supporting the Internet protocol. This time, the wireless connection of mobile devices such as a phone or a PDA is simulated by using a professional simulation environment from Phone Inc. (1999). This environment relies on WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) which already is a de facto standard for a wireless access to the World-Wide Web.




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