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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.

Action Taken
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.

Action Taken
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.

Action Taken
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 SIMA.

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.

Action Taken
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.

Action Taken
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.

Action Taken
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.

Action Taken
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.

Action Taken
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).

Action Taken
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 WWW.

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.

Action Taken
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 above.

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.

Action Taken
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.

Action Taken
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.

Anne Mumford