AGOCG Workshops and their Recommendations: A Review
The 50th edition of the Graphics and Visualization (G&V) Newsletter
seems a good time to reflect on AGOCG activities. The workshop programme
of AGOCG has played a key role in actively engaging with the Higher Education
(HE) community and the recommendations have steered the AGOCG programme.
Recommendations have also been made to appropriate bodies for action. This
article looks at all the AGOCG workshops, considers their recommendations
and the resulting actions. When preparing this article I was pleased to
see how much activity there has been as a result and how well the workshop
programme has worked.
SGML & Document Exchange, February 1990
This workshop was concerned with the need for standards for documents and
for the way in which pictures could be included in documents. There were
30 participants. Following this workshop, JISC appointed Michael Popham
at the University of Exeter who supported and advised the community on the
take-up of SGML.
- SGML should be widely adopted for document distribution and in support
of this a set of Document Type Definitions (DTDs) should be established
and some examples should be produced
- a co-ordinator for this area should be funded
- awareness events should be organised.
The Support Officer's appointment assisted in the take-up of these recommendations.
The Text Encoding Initiative provided DTDs. Some examples were developed
at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL). In many ways HTML and the WWW took
over. AGOCG see the way ahead though!
Scientific Visualization March, 1991
This workshop started the AGOCG activity in visualisation. It had a lot
of preparatory work by an editorial team who produced a substantial input
to the workshop which was developed during and after the event to result
in a book. An introductory book was also published following the workshop.
31 participants attended the workshop. This workshop steered much of the
work of AGOCG for some time and the recommendations have been largely fulfilled,
mostly as a result of the appointment and work of Steve Larkin.
- The community needs support in their take-up of these systems and
the workshop recommended that a Support Officer should be employed
- training and awareness is needed
- conduct evaluation of systems
- consideration should be given to promoting work on parallel machines
conduct evaluation of formats and make recommendations
- undertake studies of problem solving methods and promote
- conduct a study on alternative methods for interaction
- foster links between industry and HE.
JISC, through AGOCG, funded a 3 year post from 1992-1995. Steve Larkin at
the University of Manchester put in place many of the recommendations and
pushed things forward. The (then) SERC also offered support through its
EASE programme. The Support Officer carried out the awareness and training
activities in liaison with the EASE Visualization Community Club (VCC) which
has run a number of events. Links with industry have been progressed through
the VCC and through the Support Officer and Graphics Co-ordinator. Two evaluations
of systems have taken place and the results published. There has been some
consideration of graphical and multimedia file formats through various reports
and through SIMA (Support Initiative for Multimedia Applications).
Recommendations which have not been progressed have been those with less
general appeal which are more specialised and are those relating to: problem
solving methods, parallel applications and alternative methods for interaction.
Supporting Computer Graphics, March 1992
This workshop, which attracted 20 participants, concerned itself with the
problems of supporting computer graphics and how AGOCG and other centrally
funded agencies might assist this. AGOCG has been successful in fulfilling
the recommendations of this workshop.
- There is a need to provide national access to equipment which is expected
to remain expensive and insufficiently used to warrant all sites providing
- importance of training for staff and the production of training materials
which can be used to assist in training users
- advise community on new technologies
- computing and AV Services - look at the common ground
- advise the community on Distributed Computing
- standards are important.
AGOCG have advised JISC on various proposals, e.g. provision of video facilities
(RAL and the University of Manchester) and recently MPEG storage. Bureau
service for 3D capture and for large format output have been publicised.
AGOCG have offered ongoing support for this concept and are investigating
the use of links to sites with spare capacity on output and input devices
to enable other sites to take advantage of this.
Training and awareness is a major strength of AGOCG through reports, on-line
materials, courses for support staff and the encouragement of other agencies
to consider training, e.g. CHEST when negotiating software prices. AGOCG
have continued to play a "technology watch" role and to offer
advice to the community. This strength has become particularly visible through
AGOCG held a workshop to get people from computing and AV services together
(see later). This is still an issue and is being taken up by AGOCG under
JTAP (JISC Technology Applications Programme). The issue of distributed
computing has not been taken up by AGOCG, but has been part of the considerations
by other groups, e.g. under the New Technologies Initiative (NTI).
AGOCG allocates some of its budget to standards activities and has conducted
developments where appropriate.
Computing Services & AV Services, November 1992
This workshop attracted 55 participants reflecting the concern about this
topic. Many of the issues and recommendations seem to be similar to today's
problems. The recommendations are only now being realised in many instances
through the JTAP Supporting Studies.
- Need for well designed and purpose built lecture rooms which allow
- management decisions as to how computing and AV services are run varies
and there are no common models
- there is a need to have ongoing contact between people following the
- need for survey of file formats and standards and recommendations
- training and awareness is needed on emerging technologies
- there is a need for information to be exchanged on services which
can be purchased from institutions
- need an evaluation of authoring packages.
The concern about lecture room provision is still an issue and is being
addressed only now by the JTAP Supporting Studies which will also survey
management models. Continuing contact has had limited success through mailings
and via the G&V Newsletter.
The issue of file formats has been taken up through AGOCG reports and, along
with advice on new technologies, under the SIMA Programme.
A data sheet was produced which advertised services and a discount was offered
to users if they wrote a report on use. This is being updated under JTAP
Supporting Studies which will use links from the AGOCG WWW pages.
Evaluations of authoring packages took place through ITTI and also through
TLTP. A SIMA Report on Toolbook was produced.
From Graphics to Multimedia, November 1992
This workshop attracted 34 participants many concerned with the use of multimedia
in teaching. The recommendations led to the initial proposal for NTI funding
which was refined in a subsequent workshop.
- There is a need for user-friendly authoring tools and to promote them
and assist the community in their use
- a state-of-the-art report is needed which would help the community
to select suitable technologies, people need advice on when to buy
- the community need support in the use of multimedia and a Support
Officer should be appointed.
Good tools have taken some time to emerge. The problem has been solved to
some extent by the adoption of certain tools for ITTI and TLTP.
Various SIMA reports have addressed the issues raised by this workshop.
Sue Cunningham, who was appointed at the Support Officer's post, has also
provided surveys and advice through the AGOCG WWW pages and in reports.
Multimedia in Higher Education, December 1993
This workshop attracted 34 participants. It effectively designed the submission
for NTI funding which led to the SIMA project.
- UK HE needs to co-ordinate its efforts to maximise the benefits of
- a national Support Officer should be appointed
- a series of projects which offer timely advice to the community should
- workshops should be held to direct the work of AGOCG and offer advice
to funding bodies and the community.
All the recommendations (and more!) have been followed through by the SIMA
Programme and by Sue Cunningham.
IT in Art and Design, April 1994
This workshop was attended by 18 participants and started the AGOCG activities
to support art and design. The event was remarkably successful as a starting
point for the work of AGOCG in this area which led to the CTI Centre being
set up as well as support for Computers in Art and Design Education (CADE)
dissemination activities and improved software prices.
- Need for institutions to develop IT strategies which take account
of art and design
- need for better software prices
- need to improve contacts between people in this community through
personal contact and through the WWW
- produce a set of case studies.
AGOCG have liaised with the JISC activity in this area. Colin Beardon of
the University of Plymouth is to undertake a survey of strategies in 1996/7
and to link with the JISC considerations of IS strategies.
Improved software prices are hard to come by especially on the Mac platform,
which is popular. However we have worked with the community and with CHEST
to establish the software which is used and prices have improved considerably.
Improved contact has been made possible by the CADE Conference in 1995 (second
one to be held in Derby at Easter 1997). AGOCG have assisted CADE by supporting
the start up costs of the newsletter. A set of case studies gave institutions
some feel for the activities around in HE.
The main impact has been the work of AGOCG in gaining support for a CTI
Centre. The CTI Centre for Art and Design at the University of Brighton
was launched in the summer of 1996.
Multimedia Formats, June 1994
This workshop attracted 28 participants and was the first workshop under
the SIMA label. File formats and standards in general have always been a
concern of AGOCG and this workshop built on other AGOCG work.
- A report should be written to illustrate the issues and problems and
to help people make the right choice of format
- a live document should be created which gives information on formats
and translation tools and links to other sources
- need for report on good design and use of multimedia tools.
The recommendations have been realised to some extent through the on-line
database (available via the AGOCG WWW pages) and also through work involving
the co-ordinator to establish standards suitable for eLib. Several SIMA
projects address the topic of good design.
The WWW - a Strategic Tool for UK HE, February 1995
This workshop was attended by 80 participants. It was a two day event with
presentations on the first day covering a wide range of issues including
the impact of WWW on networks, national caching and indexing strategies,
legal issues, teaching and learning opportunities, using WWW as an information
resource, institutional WWW strategies. In depth discussions on the issues
raised followed on the second day leading to a number of recommendations
which have been taken up as part of the SIMA project programme as well as
by other organisations (JISC, UCISA).
- There is a need to support the community in its use of WWW
- need for training materials, exchange of good practice, advice on
- need to train those responsible for training in institutions
- institutional guidelines are needed for acceptable use and on legal
- caching strategies are needed for HE
- indexing needs to be improved and there needs to be access via a single
site to UK HE sites
- encouragement of quality in design of information and teaching materials
for the WWW
- site contacts are needed
- JISC should take out W3C membership and there should be support of
the involvement and representation.
SIMA projects have taken up these recommendations, e.g. Running a WWW Server,
Good Design for the WWW, Review of Software Tools, legal issues for the
SIMA reports can be used as training and awareness materials. Links have
been built with UCoSDA to try and promote awareness and briefing papers
have been produced for staff development use. JISC have been working to
develop and improve caching strategies. NISS pages offer site links.
The recommendation to have good design awards has been taken up by UCISA.
JISC agreed to join W3C and part funded with SIMA the membership fee and
initial period of representation through Chris Lilley. This representation
is now part of the Web Focus post. Brian Kelly is to be based at UKOLN.
The Potential of Virtual Reality for UK HE, December 1995
This workshop took the JISC Issues paper as its starting point and considered
the potential of virtual environments as a technology capable of offering
some solutions. The workshop attracted 31 people. The recommendations of
the workshop are being taken forward as part of the JTAP Supporting Studies
being funded through AGOCG.
- Demonstrate the value of virtual environments and make it clear where
they can be used effectively by:
- producing case studies
- providing application oriented examples
- reviewing industrial applications
- reviewing international work
- reviewing related technologies (e.g. games).
- develop guidelines on good practice including:
- integrating virtual environments with applications
- usability issues
- ethical issues
- cultural issues
- legal issues (IPR, copyright, etc.)
- health and safety issues.
- organise reviews and disseminate the information on:
- hardware and software virtual environment technology and systems
for use in an educational context
- tools for building models and authoring virtual environments
- public domain and commercial model libraries and databases.
- ensure access is available to virtual environment systems by:
- obtaining CHEST prices now for the most widely used systems
- getting CHEST licensing agreements for the best systems following
- advocating purchase of appropriate commercial model libraries.
- provide support for users and developers by:
- making training materials available for appropriate virtual environment
- making technical information and support available
- encouraging sharing of resources within the community.
- set up a means for people to exchange ideas on the use of virtual
environments as a teaching aid across the curriculum
- ensure the community is adequately briefed on standards
- participate as a community in the development of relevant standards
such as VRML
- liaise with JTAP Programme Manager to ensure that the JTAP Focused
Club in Virtual Environments is set up and involves a wider community than
JTAP projects to maximise its value
- be proactive in stimulating links with the UK virtual environment
- promote the results of this Workshop to the Research Councils
- encourage setting up a Community Club activity in Virtual Reality
and Virtual Environments.
As mentioned in the Co-ordinator's report, Pat Costello has been appointed
as VR Support Officer and will be helping to realise the recommendations
A meeting has been organised by Ken Brodlie at Leeds which is co-ordinating
UK input to the VRML standardisation process.
The EPSRC VCC has added VR and virtual environments to its remit and is
now the Visualization and Virtual Environments Community Club.
Multimedia Presentations, April 1996
This workshop addressed the issues concerning the capabilities and potential
of multimedia presentations and the problems of accessing suitable presentation
equipment. Some of the recommendations of this workshop, particularly those
concerned with exchanging good practice and advising on equipment, are being
taken forward by AGOCG. The workshop attracted 28 participants.
- Set up a database of media clips (copyright cleared or easily obtainable).
This might include video, audio and image clips as well as interactive simulations,
perhaps written in a standard authoring package like Toolbook, or programming
languages such as JAVA
- consideration needs to be given to standards, encouragement of people
to use such materials through training programmes
- publicise sites which can assist in digital capture
- develop criteria for suitable software and conduct an evaluation based
- provide training and awareness to help people take up new tools
- develop guidelines on good practice, including a set of good examples
- set up an advice centre
- set up advice on presentation equipment in lecture theatres and for
These recommendations are being taken forward by two major initiatives.
The first being the JTAP Supporting Studies mentioned in the Co-ordinator's
report. The second is through the provision of image related information
through the Knowledge Gallery (see the last newsletter).
Resources to Support the Teaching of Computer Graphics, Visualization,
Multimedia & VR, June 1996
This workshop attracted 22 people including two representatives from SIGGRAPH.
- Increase liaison with SIGGRAPH and mirror sites for HyperGraph and
HyperVis to be reviewed
- take advantage of the Knowledge Gallery as a mechanism for distributing,
finding and accessing resources
- we need an editorial board for deciding on the provision of materials
through mechanisms such as HyperGraph
- conduct two pilot studies to address the range of materials we want
- need to support the teaching of virtual environments.
The liaison with SIGGRAPH is ongoing. We are considering mirroring sites.
A pilot study looking at materials for visualization techniques is being
undertaken at the University of Leeds. The JISC are looking at content policy
in general and at image collections in particular.