Virtual Office Spaces to Overcome Sensory Distraction in Cubicle-Based Environments


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Virtual Office Spaces to Overcome Sensory Distraction in Cubicle-Based Environments

  1. 1. Virtual Office Spaces to Overcome Sensory Distraction in Cubicle-Based Environments Gavin Larson December 2, 2009 Theory & Research in HCI
  2. 2. The Emergence of Virtual Worlds <ul><li>Persistent 3-D Immersive Environments </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Similar to an online game, but without the “game” piece </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Began (more or less) in the 1960s </li></ul><ul><li>Since the launch of Second Life in 2003, there’s been a lot of “buzz” </li></ul><ul><li>But what are they really good for? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Education in Virtual Worlds <ul><li>Hundreds of universities have campuses in Second Life. </li></ul><ul><li>Research shows that virtual worlds are more effective for distance and collaborative learning than other electronic media. </li></ul><ul><li>Virtual environments allow the use of natural communication tools (like gestures, proximity, etc.), not available through other electronic media. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Extending Virtual Worlds to the Office <ul><li>Communication in virtual environments includes many of the benefits of real-life communication, without some of the drawbacks. </li></ul><ul><li>Why not extend this to the office? </li></ul>
  5. 5. Extending Virtual Worlds to the Office <ul><li>Research in the realm of virtual world learning has found that the “cost” of rich, realistic communication in a virtual environment is the need to immerse the user in the environment, by isolating him/her as much as possible from his/her physical environment, thereby eliminating sensory distraction from the “real” world. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Extending Virtual Worlds to the Office <ul><li>Is isolation from distraction really a “cost?” </li></ul><ul><li>I believe that isolation from sensory distraction is the most significant benefit to be reaped from an extension of virtual worlds to the office, and not a cost at all. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Sensory Distraction in Cubicle-Based Environments <ul><li>Full of distractions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ringing phones </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nearby conversations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Slamming doors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Copiers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People walking by </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Flickering lights </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People typing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Etc. </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Sensory Distraction in Cubicle-Based Environments <ul><li>Studies on “Irrelevant Sound” theory have shown that even low volume auditory distractions are extremely disruptive to cognition. </li></ul><ul><li>Whether we like or not, the brain processes all of the sounds around us, and pauses the active cognitive task each time a new sound is introduced, making it virtually impossible to truly focus on any task in a cubicle-based environment. </li></ul>
  9. 9. A Distraction-Free Office Space <ul><li>Virtual office spaces could revolutionize the life of the cubicle-dweller. </li></ul><ul><li>Given sufficient technology, users could quite easily isolate themselves from auditory and visual distractions, thereby allowing seamless, continuous focus on the tasks they need to perform. </li></ul>
  10. 10. A Distraction-Free Office Space <ul><li>Existing methods of blocking out auditory distraction in cubicle-based environments (like wearing headphones) require the user to oscillate between a state of semi-immersion (wearing the headphones), and a non-immersed state (not wearing the headphones), in order to communicate with peers when necessary. </li></ul><ul><li>Since communication in virtual environments has been shown to be very nearly as effective as real-life communication, users could remain immersed at all times, and still communicate with peers as needed. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Conclusion <ul><li>While there are many questions yet to be answered, I believe that virtual environments possess great potential to enhance productivity and creativity in the workplace (by allowing seamless focus). </li></ul><ul><li>Further investigation into this possibility is certainly warranted. </li></ul>
  12. 12. References <ul><li>Bailey, Brian P. and Joseph A. Konstan. “On the need for attention-aware systems: Measuring effects of interruption on task performance, error rate, and affective state.” Computers in Human Behavior 22 (2006): 685-708. </li></ul><ul><li>Banbury, Simon P., et al. “Auditory Distraction and Short-Term Memory: Phenomena and Practical Implications.” Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 43.1 (2001): 12-29. </li></ul><ul><li>Banbury, Simon P., et al. “Office noise and employee concentration: Identifying causes of disruption and potential improvements.” Ergonomics . 48.1 (2005): 25-37. </li></ul><ul><li>Brandon, John. “The top 8 Second Life virtual businesses.” PC Advisor . 2007. < 279>. Accessed October 22, 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Bricken, Meredith. “Virtual worlds: No interface to design.” Ed. M. Benedikt. Cyberspace: First steps . Cambridge: MIT Press, (1992). </li></ul><ul><li>Bronack, Stephen C., et al. “Designing Virtual Worlds to Facilitate Meaningful Communication: Issues, Considerations, and Lessons Learned” Technical Communication 55.3 (2008): 261-267. </li></ul>
  13. 13. References <ul><li>Bronack, Stephen C., et al. “Presence Pedagogy: Teaching and Learning in a 3D Virtual Immersive World” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 20.1 (2008): 59-69. </li></ul><ul><li>Campbell, Tom. “The cognitive neuroscience of auditory distraction” Trends in Cognitive Sciences . 9.1 (2005): 3-5. </li></ul><ul><li>Dickey, Michele D. “Three-dimensional virtual worlds and distance learning: two case studies of Active Worlds as a medium for distance education” British Journal of Educational Technology 36.3 (2005): 439-451. </li></ul><ul><li>Franceschi, Katherine G., and Ronald M. Lee. “Virtual Social Presence for Effective Collaborative E-Learning” Proceedings of the 11th Annual International Workshop on Presence . 2008. </li></ul><ul><li>Gabbard, Joseph L. A Taxonomy of Usability Characteristics in Virtual Environments . MS thesis Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1997. </li></ul>
  14. 14. References <ul><li>Jensen, KL., et al. “Acoustical Quality in Office Workstations, as Assessed by Occupant Surveys” Proceedings of Indoor Air 2005 . 2005. </li></ul><ul><li>Kirschner, Paul A. “Why Unguided Learning Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Discovery Learning, Problem-Based Learning, Experiential Learning, and Inquiry-Based Learning” Educational Psychologist . 2004. </li></ul><ul><li>Martinez, Nicola. “Second Life: The Future of Communications?” Proceedings of the 55th Annual Conference of the Society for Technical Communication . 2008. </li></ul><ul><li>Norman, Donald A. “Natural Interaction.” The Design of Future Things . New York: Basic Books, 2007. 57-90. </li></ul><ul><li>Padmanabhan, Poornima. “Exploring Human Factors in Virtual Worlds.” Technical Communication 55.3 (2008): 270-275. </li></ul><ul><li>Parmentier, Fabrice B.R., et al. “The cognitive locus of distraction by acoustic novelty in the cross-modal oddball task” Cognition . 106 (2008): 408-432. </li></ul>
  15. 15. References <ul><li>Slater, Mel. “Measuring Presence: A Response to the Witmer and Singer Presence Questionnaire” Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments 8.5 (1999): 560-565. </li></ul><ul><li>Witmer, Bob G., and Michael J. Singer. “Measuring Presence in Virtual Environments: A Presence Questionnaire” Presence 7.3 (1998): 225-240. </li></ul><ul><li>Woolley, David R. “PLATO: The Emergence of Online Community” Think Of It . 1994. <>. Accessed September 14, 2009. </li></ul>