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UCI ICS 227 - Design for Portholes and User Preference

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1. INTRODUCTIONAs we become better connected by communicationnetworks, geographically-distributed individuals andgroups are using mediated communication technolo-gies (e.g., video conferencing) to support work col-laborations. Group and collaboration awareness tools(Cool 1992, Narine 1997, Tang 1994) have been pro-posed for enabling non-co-located people to beaware of their coworkers and of the potential for col-laboration. They largely use video images as theinformation kernel for awareness. Portholes is oneflavor of such a tool that provides an integrative viewof one’s community through a matrix of still videoimages. These images are snapped periodically (e.g.,every 5 minutes) and updated automatically. As aresult, users can get a background and peripheralsense of co-workers and their activities.Over a three year period, we developed, anddeployed a Web-based version of this tool withinNYNEX (Lee 1997). The objective was to explorehow it improves communication and facilitates ashared understanding among distributed develop-ment groups. We chose this tool because of the posi-tive experiences at Xerox with using Polyscope andPortholes (Borning 1991, Dourish 1992). However,despite our efforts to involve users throughout and tomake it accessible and useful, it was difficult to gainadoption by all users or to recruit new groups. In dis-cussions with people ambivalent about this tool, wefound at least two design limitations:• Sense of being in public — cues about being inpublic that help users frame their behavior,• Reciprocity — information about who can see auser and who is currently looking at the user.The next section elaborates on the two limitations.The third section proposes a redesign of the Port-holes display to include critical information alongwith the rationale. The fourth and fifth sectionsdescribe a preference experiment and results explor-ing users’ initial impressions which have been socritical in influencing their adoption of the tool. Thelast section discusses the implications of this studyon not only Portholes but other communication tools.Being in Public and Reciprocity:Design for Portholes and User PreferenceAndreas Girgensohn Alison Lee Thea TurnerFX Palo Alto Laboratory IBM Research Motorola Palo Alto, CA 94304 Hawthorne, NY 10532 Schaumburg, IL [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] We found that Portholes users want to know about being in public, who can see them (audience)and who is looking at them (lookback). We developed one 2D and two 3D theater layouts of the display and dif-ferent amounts of audience information to address these concerns. Different layout sections display core and non-core team members and lookback information. A survey of and a preferences experiment with 28 first-time usersrevealed two key results. First, there was a strong preference against the use of blue rectangles for audience infor-mation but preferences were varied on the amount of detail. Second, layout preferences matter but were varied. KEYWORDS Audience, awareness, cluster, lookback, place, portholes, preference, public, reciprocity,usability, unfolding, video, visualization, World Wide Web.22. PORTHOLES LIMITATIONS2.1 Sense of Being in PublicIn an effort to lower the barriers to communicationand collaboration posed by physical distance, aware-ness tools have created new channels of access todistant co-workers. However, these channels havebrought many formerly private and public situationsfound in a person’s office into a new unitary publicsetting (Meyrowitz 1985). This blurring of publicand private situations changes their structure andreveals information once exchanged only amongpeople under each other’s direct observation. That is,Portholes users have gained a “sidestage” view intotheir co-workers’ offices. Meyrowitz (1985) suggeststhat when new electronic media widens the onstage(public) region onto the backstage (private) region, anew “middle region” is formed which leads to newsocial behaviors.While the effect of Portholes has been to makeoffices more public, many who used it are uncertainwhether this places them in a public forum. Theimage matrix display did not clarify their concerns(e.g., Figure 1). If anything, some drew an incorrectassociation between the layout and a security-moni-tor setup. This resulted in negative impressions thatamplified rather than clarified their concerns aboutsurveillance and privacy.Such uneasiness supports Meyrowitz’ argumentthat electronic media has “undermined the traditionalrelationship between physical setting and social situ-ation.” People no longer seem to “know their place”because “they no longer have a place in the tradi-tional sense of a set of behaviors matched to physicallocations and the audiences found in them.” Simi-larly, Portholes users do not know that they are in apublic place and feel disembodied from the contextof interaction (Bellotti 1993, Harrison 1996). Theyare at a loss about what the interactional setting is.Such uncertainties highlight the need to make the sit-uation, being in public, more explicit in a socialinterface.2.2 ReciprocityUsers are also uneasy about the absence of infor-mation reminding them that they are in public. In thephysical world, we have access to cues that otherpeople are around when we are out in public (Bellotti1993, Goffman 1959). These cues let us regulate ourbehavior accordingly. However, Portholes designsfocus on making users aware of their coworkers andopportunities for collaboration but not on the recipro-cal information about when and which of these peo-ple are seeing the user. Reciprocity describes the situation where all com-munications are two way. If you are able to see orhear others, they can see or hear you, at the sametime. It is an essential element of communication,allowing users to monitor behavior and to controlhow others perceive them (Cool 1992, Tang 1994).Our Portholes provided reciprocity information inthe form of two lists. As we began to show the sys-tem to more people, we were told that they wanted toknow “the people who can view their images.” Infact, they really wanted see the information not in alist but in the main display. This was contrary to mostPortholes systems which used the display to presentimages for a user’s personal workgroup.As we expanded our user base, we heard objec-tions along the lines of “I want to know who is look-ing at me.” We initially misunderstood


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