Using Webex communications data, Cisco Systems and the Ars Electronica Futurelab bring to life a mesmerizing story about the hybrid working world.
What does hybrid work look like? Not the day-to-day video grids on our personal monitors, but at a macro scale, to open the aperture and visualize hybrid work in action. Cisco’s People and Communities (P&C) research team decided to find out. Working in collaboration with Ars Electronica Futurelab, the team developed WebExpression, an audiovisual interpretation of anonymized Webex meeting data that illustrates the collective nature of hybrid work. The result is a mesmerizing audio and visual experience that illustrates people making connections across the globe as a living tapestry of threads and chimes. One can make out the continents and the hemispheres of the world as collaboration threads appear and recede from view. We see and hear significant events or connections being made through chiming bells and brightened lines. At times the visualization assumes the beauty of Spanish moss blowing in a breeze or a yet-to-be-discovered deepsea yeti.
Behind the WebExpression audio-visualization is the anonymized Webex Meeting meta-data of Cisco’s P&C collaboration activities over a 24-hour period of time. Each thread represents one or more meetings between different locations. The color of the thread changes based on the roles of the participants, the height of a strand demonstrates the strength of the relationship between participants, and the thickness of a strand indicates the number of participants in the meeting. Bells chime at the start of a new meeting, while the ambient sound representing different time zones generates location-enhanced harmonies that ebb and flow with the intensity of each connection.
The goal of the WebExpression project, according to Ars Electronica Futurelab, is to “offer a view into the hybrid space created by telecommunications.” Gianpaolo Barozzi, Cisco’s Senior Director of People and Communities, notes that they were looking for a way to show the “beauty and aesthetic of working together and collaborating,” and “reflect on what it means to work virtually and how connected we are, although it seems you are very far from each other geographically.” Cisco partnered with Ars Electronica Futurelab – an international and interdisciplinary team of artists and scientists researching the future and how new technologies change the way we live and work together – to offer users a unique view of how hybrid work differs from the static world of hierarchical structures and organizational trees. The result is an aesthetic experience of how people collaborate through Webex in an artwork that shows the complex, fluid, agile, beautiful living being the hybrid work is.