Designing for Collaborative Co-Located Multi-Display Environments


The students are introduced to the concept of Multi-display environments (MDE), i.e., the coupling of several displays together to form a shared interactive environment. The concept is described through a taxonomy categorising MDE:s and illustrative examples. The concept of MDE is dwelled into further through the concrete case 4in1 activities, where four tablets are combined to form one large display.

Learning Outcomes

On completing this module the students should be able to:

  • recognize multi-display environments (MDE:s)
  • describe relevant factors influencing the design of MDE:s
  • analyse the design of MDE:s.  ​
  • reflect on the potential consequences of MDE:s for collaborative interaction.
  • recognize Topology, Coupling and Interaction as aspects for design of collaborative technology in MDE:s
  • analyze Topology, Coupling and Interaction as aspects for design of collaborative technology in MDE contexts.  ​
  • reflect on Topology, Coupling and Interaction as aspects for design of MDE:s and the framework’s potential as a tool for ideation.

Teacher Guidance

This education patterns consists of two main components, a lecture and an accompanying exercise. The expected length of the lecture is 30-45 minutes. The exercise can be given varying amount of time, but a couple of hours is recommended giving a total duration of about 3 hours.

The lecture starts by situating Multi-display environments in the context of Ubiquitous computing and the visions for the Computer for the 21st century by Mark Weiser from 1991. It then proceeds to give a formal definition of the concept Multi-Display Environment and some examples. This is followed by the presentation of a taxonomy for MDE:s that is focused on three main perspectives: topology, coupling and interaction. To make things more concrete the lecture then proceeds with the presentation of one specific MDE called 4in1 activities based on the coupling of 4 tablets to form a shared display.

In the exercise the students practice thinking about MDE:s in terms of the presented taxonomy. They do this by 1) trying to come up with what a MDE version of some application could look like 2) describing the solution invented in step 1 in terms of the presented taxonomy for MDE:s. The exercise is preferably carried out in groups but can be done individually as well.

Recommended Readings

F. Garcia-Sanjuan, J. Jaen and V. Nacher, Toward a General Conceptualization of Multi-Display Environments, Frontiers in ICT 2016 Vol. 3,




Concepts and aspects of multi-display environments


Design and engineering in higher education


Online, face-to-face, or hybrid


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