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Supporting Shy Users in Pervasive Computing

An EPSRC funded research project on the WINES programme, undertaken by the departments of Informatics and Sociology at the University of Sussex. Grant reference number EP/F064330/1.

Pervasive computing gives rise to new forms of interaction which make users feel shy: concerned about how they are perceived when performing in social interaction, and about what data are being collected about them in the process. This project focuses on exploring an awareness of the situations which give rise to these feelings; how presentation and feedback through the available technology can be mediated to manage these issues; and how users can manage the connection between situation and mediation. The project is formed from three parallel threads of study using classrooms, social and situated groups, and public artworks as their focus. In each case the study will be inter-disciplinary, combining the approaches and skills of three groups at Sussex: sociologists, interaction (HCI/CSCW/social software) and software systems.

The project started in October 2008, running for 3 years.

Summary of Outcomes

The project planned to look at a number of contexts of use: classrooms, social and situated group communications, and public interactive art installations. As the project developed the latter two became the focus and several studies were run in each of these areas, which together reflect the objectives of the project. In the educational context a study was run in programming classes, where a variety of backgrounds can lead to potential embarrassment as competences evolve. We deployed an application for signaling emotional state, building on the “subtle stones” work and a paper discussing the outcomes is currently under review. In the social and situated group communications context we studied the use of wearables, commentary web sites, paired tasks, use of the Twitter and MySpace? social networks and farmers’ markets. Simulated communications technology was also used. In the art galleries context studies were undertaken at Chameleon, an interactive art exhibition at Fabrica, a small contemporary art gallery in Brighton; the Decode: Digital Design Sensations exhibition at the much larger and more traditional Victoria and Albert museum in London; and Like shadows: A celebration of shyness, at the Phoenix art gallery, as part of the White night festival 2011. The latter event was organised in collaboration with the project, and included art work designed to explore the feelings and triggers – acting as both a platform for a sociology study, a deployment for a discussion system we developed which studied controls for the mediation of identity in public spaces and also as a public engagement exercise with an estimated 4500 visitors. Returning to our objectives, we have succeeded in making publishable advances in each, with some research and publication preparation and review ongoing at this time.

Understand performance anxiety and shyness arising from … pervasive computing. Our findings highlighted a common theme in the experience of shyness: the fear about ‘not knowing the rules’ of a social situation and of ‘getting it wrong’. This aspect was focused around galleries. Many people felt shy about being asked to ‘play’ with technology or ‘perform’ in some unspecified way when engaging with interactive artworks, especially when other people might be watching. Some people preferred to wait and watch others before having a go, to make sure that they got it ‘right’. This conflicted with the ideas of interactive artists and curators, who said that there were no secret rules or intended messages, nor any ‘right’ way of doing it: their optimistic model of ‘visitor self-discovery’ encouraged visitors to explore freely and make their own interpretations. We therefore argued that this model was unrealistic insofar as it was not grounded in the lived experiences and situated practices of ordinary gallery and museum-goers. Artists, curators and gallery staff stand to gain a great deal from listening to such views from their visiting public, and by continuing to encourage community engagement in the arts. We also encourage these art providers to be more aware of shy visitors’ concerns, and to design exhibits that are more ‘shy-friendly’.

Identify factors which give rise to shyness in using pervasive computing, and develop appropriate models of these contexts. Studies in the classroom and gallery lead to simple models of the current situation, but the triggers for shyness are quite personal and to a large extent this objective became part of a model of detection – either through explicit signalling, physical detection or inference from settings arising as discussed below.

Develop models and implementations that manage personal and contextual data to give users greater control over presentation and interaction. We undertook a number of studies on the wider topic of choice in degree of exposure through pervasive computing, including: The design and simulation of a system for supporting plausibly deniable question asking and answering over networks with churn, which our work showed to be an effective means of communication. An infrastructure to support authentication of devices through physical demonstration, which allowed users to specify the modes of demonstration that they were comfortable with – some involving performance which might not be conducive to comfortable social interactions. We studied users of the MySpace? and Twitter social networks and developed models of “fitting in” to a social group for MySpace? and conversational use and use of links to other media in Twitter. In Twitter we found a range of classifications of behaviour, reflecting different temporal patterns of engagement and different approaches to maintaining relationships. We also developed a system called “ShineUS”, for commenting on exhibitions. This interfaced to Facebook, Twitter, web display (including on handhelds) and projections in the exhibition. This system was deployed at the White Night event and at PerCom? 2012. Users are able to control which modes of display they wished their comments to appear on and when, allowing them to configure their social exposure to comment-making. Results are still being analysed, but initial findings are that with randomised starting profiles users do change to a variety of settings reflecting both the piece they are commenting on and personal preference.

Develop interface models that facilitate interaction, self-presentation and social presence, to control the effects of shyness. There were two groups of studies: those which sought to project affective state and those which sought to facilitate interaction. For facilitating interaction, with control over anonymity to different groups of users we extended prior work on trust in farmers markets and then used this experience and that of a number of interns’ projects to develop the ShineUS system described above. These studies both modelled relations and controls but also had interfaces which facilitated their use in real world public settings with controls over presentation. Understanding affective state was one of the most challenging possibilities of the project and a number of different studies were run. We deployed a wearable computing jacket, with sensors that enabled discrete signalling of what was felt. Prior work on subtle stones was extended with positive response to the control of presentation afforded in a variety of settings An application was deployed in a classroom setting to enable students to discretely signal their feelings. A galvanic skin response and skin temperature sensing wrist band was built, and used in both a controlled study and one of the art works at White Night. Results from the study are still being analysed, but discrete sensing of state could form an important part of automatic adaptation. A study of synchrony in paired activities with an ambient display was undertaken, which found that even very subtle displays disturbed the rapport of the participants.

Consider ethical implications of manipulating the presentation of self and of employing this as an incentive to use pervasive computing. Ethics was addressed in our paper 'The reluctant researcher', which was about power relations, interaction dynamics and ethical implications of being a shy person oneself and researching 'shy' people; and also in the Artists and Curators workshop which we organised, which was about the ethical question of whether 'shy' visitors should be encouraged/forced to actively engage with technology in exhibitions.

Finally, our dissemination plans included a wider impact than the academic community, which has been achieved. BBC News online carried an article about the project. The White Night event has been discussed above. Four undergraduate interns were employed on developing prototypes and have taken this experience into industry or been motivated to undertake doctoral studies. A workshop for interactive artists and curators was held at Sussex. The Sociology team also collaborated on the Viewfinder project with partners from the Lighthouse digital culture agency and Aldridge Academy Community Secondary school, Brighton, and local artist Marianne Holm Hansen, which gave year 11 BTec art students the opportunity to plan and present their own digital art exhibition.

Created by: admin. Last Modification: Wednesday 27 of June, 2012 15:07:55 BST by dc52.