Co-Lab News Room

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Peter Gavin Newcastle



Workspaces and learning places are not defined by their parameters and contents; nor by the tools they use to aid their learning objectives and goals. They are defined by the activities and relationships that contextualise their environment.

Activities carried out within the parameters of the space such as classes, talks, labs; and the nature of the relationship that exist between students, professors, administrators, alumni and other faculty members (Bessagnet, Schlenker et al. 2005). With this in mind, the design of a workspace to promote learning or to encourage collaboration requires that the contents, tools, furniture, activities, space layout and atmospherics are carefully considered and manipulated in such a way that connects the various participating stakeholders and affects their collaboration during the learning/teaching process.

This paper illustrates one way in which a business school library can become an ideas factory. The author acknowledges that information systems management does not relate entirely to information technology and is rather a set of resources made up of motivations, experiences and objectives that draw various stakeholders, clients and members into an organisation.

For the purpose of this paper, the author concentrates on Newcastle Business School (NBS) and its faculty members, students and local businesses in Newcastle.  The workspace is designed for the Newcastle business school HUB, situated on the 5th floor of the business school. This space is a common room/workspace with coffee and tea making facilities, notice boards and comfortable chairs and sofas. The colour scheme is blue. There are television screens hoisted on to two walls. These however, are rarely on and the area has not reached its potential. Currently, the NBS lacks a sense of community. The atmosphere that has festered in the building is cold and uninviting.  Despite the curriculum being team and group work oriented throughout the various business programmes, a suitable workspace has not been implemented accordingly.

This paper seeks to improve engagement and collaboration amongst all NBS members by offering a more innovative method to solving their needs (education, communication, collaboration). A workspace design is proposed that bridges the gap between the workplace and a place of passion, motivation and enjoyment.
Focus Improve Knowledge Leverage Measure
Place Engagement Solving needs that others cannot Experience Passion


The CO-LAB NEWSROOM is a proposal for an innovative, creative and educational laboratory for the Newcastle Business School (NBS). This space will be a magnetic force that attracts the attention and custom of all business school students, faculty members, administrators and businesses or entrepreneurs in the area. It is fundamentally a commons room, casual space, with an innovative and fun, educational purpose that is inviting and non-discriminant. CO-LAB NEWSROOM facilitates practical learning, training, inspirational presentations and talks. Students and members are encouraged to share their skills and knowledge with others. Computer coding labs for dummies may be organised. Search engine optimisation tutorials may be provided for example. This is a place where practical skills can develop, in a place of comfort and ease, released from the shackles of theory, textbook and traditional classrooms. This space is a ‘TEDtalks café’ if you will.

The workspace will by melting pot for ideas and collaboration. Its capacity to communicate with members over social media using innovative technology will attract regular visitors from around the university and also around the local community. Local merchants and entrepreneurs can use the workspace to propose student projects or to collaborate with students and the university in an effort to stimulate and generate new ideas that may benefit businesses in the community. The Newcastle Chamber of Commerce will sponsor conferences, workshops, networking events and practical tutorials to be held in the CO-LAB NEWS ROOM; encouraging a collaborative community effort that meets today’s technological advances and stimulates community initiatives.

Algorithmic Journalism Machine:

An algorithmic journalism machine, (figure 1.1) inhabits this room, collecting a mash-up of soundbites, tweets, Instagram pictures, university blackboard general updates and fragments of text from other resources (e.g. Facebook) into an online news bulletin and/or a physical newspaper publication. The newspaper can be printed, bound and sold in real-time. The algorithm technology is open source. It filters the best and most relative information. This provides a true representation of the student body and the NBS community. Anyone can contribute and have an opinion, anonymously or otherwise. The algorithmic machine acts as an advertising tool for events, presentations, practical training labs and talks. It acts as a communication tool to gather interested parties together using algorithms and hash tags through social media platforms to ensure optimum coverage. Essentially, this machine acts as the glue that encourages collaboration to occur by attracting members to the HUB/workspace for organised but casual events. It has the capacity to act in real time and therefore can produce information bulletins during and after individual events. The bulletin provides attendees and those who were unable to attend with a helpful summary of each event. The hash tag ‘#CO-LAB’ is used to generate the news content and therefore the newspaper consists entirely of user-generated contributions.

Depending on the subject matter the hash tag can be configured to facilitate each event, tutorial or talk. For example, CO-LABsuggestions, CO-LABtalkideas, CO-LAB-SEOclasses, CO-LABlocalbusiness and so on. Each hash tag will generate content, ideas and input from those who are interested and more importantly from those who can contribute meaningful information. This gives users control over what events, talks or labs take place in the CO-LAB NEWSROOM each week. The algorithmic journalism machine was chosen in the design because of its potential to attract large numbers of users across a network. It  can attract users, satisfy their needs and build a consistent flow of communication. It integrates all social media platforms and uses the collected information in a creative, exciting and innovative way that gives a collective voice to the users in an interesting phygital (physical and digital) way.


An integrated mobile application is designed as a platform to showcase newspaper editorials daily, weekly and in real-time. The mobile application will be integrated with the algorithmic journalism machine. Users will download the app for a small fee of £2.99 to their mobile devices. The app will be used to attract members, manage events and to form an online niche, localised NBS social networking community.

The Phygital Space:

The CO-LAB NEWSROOM is an estimated space of 100 meters squared and is designed as a phygital (physical and digital) space. This phygital space is designed with the overarching intention to increase communication, collaboration and engagement within the Newcastle Business School. This space provides students with control over their learning experience. It is designed to instil and to encourage a horizontal organizational culture within the business school whereby students take responsibility for their own learning ambitions and have an outlet to voice and choose what they want to learn about and to develop ideas. In addition to this, faculty members have an outlet whereby they can stray from the module programmes, enabling them to be more creative while also learning as well as teaching. They can collaborate with students on extra-curricular projects outside of the classroom. Local businesses and entrepreneur’s have a place where they can seek the assistance from students, initiate focus groups or simply join in and contribute to practical labs, tutorials or talks.


Collaboration requires that individuals work with others collectively to create content, through brainstorming and open discussion for example. Collaboration is sometimes made difficult, as the space around does not allow for it. The space may be too small, there may not be relevant resources available or the space simply does not lend itself naturally to collaboration.  A study in 2008 by Gensler, conducted a survey on workspace. The research indicated that top performing companies give more consideration to the design of their workspaces and ensure that both open collaboration spaces and smaller private areas are provided to maximise productivity in the workplace. For the purpose of this workspace design, the following steps are taken to ensure that the space welcomes and encourages collaboration and creativity.
  • The area is primarily an open plan workspace. The space will provide shared comfortable, casual space that encourages collaborative work.
  • Smaller private areas will encourage focused work. Gensler’s Workspace survey in 2008 found that the combination of both open and closed spaces provides workers with areas for collaboration and also areas for more focused work.
  • It will include floor to ceiling white boards for note taking, presenting ideas and for projecting presentations onto during labs, talks, tutorials and events.
  • The space will be equipped with power points at every table and workspace. Wi-Fi connectivity will be provided.
  • The counters, tables, chairs and fixtures will be on wheels to enable the space to adapt to various circumstances and events.
Figure 2.2 Creative/Fun Convertible Work Surfaces
  • Large and small, high and low work surfaces will be provided to suit different project types or group sizes. Creative design projects sometimes require that workers are standing or on stools.
  • Large work surfaces will double as table tennis tables for fun and relaxing downtime.
Figure 2.3 Work Surfaces
  • A kitchen counter is available providing Coffee and tea making facilities, a microwave and crockery, so that workers can work on projects for as long as they like without disruption or having to leave the HUB.
  • The algorithmic journalism machine will sit in the center of the room as a focal point and service point. Ensuring that there is consistent activity and energy in the room.
  • Large TV screens will be fixed above the algorithm service point flashing a feed of the latest social media contributions from the NBS community network. Tweets, status updates, instagram pics etc. will be posted on these screens in real-time using the algorithm journalism machine.
  • Finally, an elevated auditorium-seating feature will be located in one area of the workspace. This will be dressed with cushions and blankets for users comfort. This is used for presentations and screenings as well as an alternative place to work in groups or individually or simply for relaxation, casual chats/coffees with other members.
Numerous and multiple events, talks, project collaboration work or practical tutorials can take place at once within the CO-LAB NEWSROOM – depending on group sizes. Members who wish to attend particular events click the ‘I’m in’ tab on their mobile application event function. If group sizes expand outside the capacity of the room – then the event will be scheduled in sessions to ensure that group sizes are not too large. Events will be organized for smaller groups to ensure that interaction and engagement is maximized.

CO-LAB Society:

The Workspace is managed by the CO-LAB society. Their responsibilities include algorithm machine operations, mobile application activities and the maintenance of the CO-LAB NEWSROOM. Society members will monitor the network updates and organise the CO-LAB events that will take place within the HUB. The society will work in conjunction and collaboratively with the student union. The sales of news bulletins provide revenue for upkeep and maintenance of the machine and the CO-LAB space. Event bulletins are free. Published and bound weekly editions are £2.00. The weekly edition is a round up of all of the week’s events and contributions. The mobile application download will cost £2.99 per app download.

Benefits for members of the business school would include:

  • Gaining practical business skills outside the classroom and applying theory and concepts from modular course work into practice. Skills such as search engine optimization skills, computer coding, presentation skills, business plan writing skills and business financial planning skills.
  •  Connecting, communicating and collaborating with like-minded members and increasing potential for creativity and innovation through talks, labs, tutorials, projects and debates.
  • Engaging the student body with events, topics, creative seminars and learning
  • Distribution and dissemination of information is innovated and current.
  • Promoting openness using a more horizontal, integrated organisational structure
  • Empowering students to choose the skills, knowledge or passion they wish to expand or explore.
  • Networking and gaining experience with/from businesses and entrepreneurs.
  • Providing opportunities for jobs during and after graduation and similarly developing a talent pipeline for businesses through working with local and international students.
  • Working in a more inspiring, energetic, motivational environment – encouraging passion and desire.
  • Building awareness of current events and affairs and enabling a true representation of students, faculty members and businesses allowing open discussion, collaboration and debate


The success of the CO-LAB NEWSROOM is ultimately dependent upon user adoption and satisfaction. Therefore, measurement will be conducted through reviews and ratings over social networking and the mobile application, through the interaction and collaboration efforts and through the growth of the network and attendance to events. Events are rated after each event.


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