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Integrating Local and Remote Worlds Through Channel Blending

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Integrating Local and Remote Worlds Through Channel Blending

Presented at the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2012), this work was conducted by PARC and Sony Corporation.

* you can download the full paper at: http://bit.ly/channelblending

* to learn more about our Innovation Services offerings, please visit www.parc.com/focusareas

Recent advances in ubiquitous technology have greatly changed the way people stay connected. We conducted an in-depth video shadowing study to observe how close-knit groups use all the technology at their disposal to stay in touch and share their lives.

We observed a pattern of related behaviors that we call "channel blending" -- the integration of interactions and content over multiple channels into one coherent conversation, often including both local and remote participants. Channel blending is the opposite of multitasking in that it involves merging many lines of focus into one, rather than switching attention between them.

We discuss ways technology could better support this emerging style of multichannel content-sharing and communication.

Presented at the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2012), this work was conducted by PARC and Sony Corporation.

* you can download the full paper at: http://bit.ly/channelblending

* to learn more about our Innovation Services offerings, please visit www.parc.com/focusareas

Recent advances in ubiquitous technology have greatly changed the way people stay connected. We conducted an in-depth video shadowing study to observe how close-knit groups use all the technology at their disposal to stay in touch and share their lives.

We observed a pattern of related behaviors that we call "channel blending" -- the integration of interactions and content over multiple channels into one coherent conversation, often including both local and remote participants. Channel blending is the opposite of multitasking in that it involves merging many lines of focus into one, rather than switching attention between them.

We discuss ways technology could better support this emerging style of multichannel content-sharing and communication.

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Integrating Local and Remote Worlds Through Channel Blending

  1. 1. Once  upon  a  *me,  long,  long  ago,  people  communicated  and  socialized  in  curious   ways.       1  
  2. 2. They  wrote  whole  paragraphs  at  a  *me  –  some*mes  more  -­‐-­‐  and  sent  them  through   email,  delighted  that  the  recipient  might  read  their  message  that  very  day!     2  
  3. 3. They  waited  un*l  they  had  taken  24  or  even  36  photos  before  geFng  them  printed   on  paper..     3  
  4. 4. Then  they’d  get  together  with  people  in  person  and  tell  the  stories  depicted  in  the   photos.     4  
  5. 5. And  some*mes,  also  when  they  were  in  the  same  room  together,  they  watched  a   single  video  for  two  whole  hours  at  a  stretch.       5  
  6. 6. People  listened  to  12  songs  by  the  same  ar*st  -­‐-­‐  all  in  a  row  -­‐-­‐  stored  on  preKy  silver   disks.     6  
  7. 7. Now,  of  course,  the  world  has  changed.     -­‐   Content  now  comes  in  bite-­‐size  pieces:  status  updates  and  text  tweets,  3  minute   videos,  and  people  send  one  photo  at  a  *me.   -­‐   People  capture  their  experiences  in  many  more  ways  than  just  photos  and  videos.   Now  they  track  their  loca*ons,  their  exercise  and  food  intake,  their  game  playing,   even  their  sleeping  paKerns.     -­‐   They  access  this  content  from  just  about  anywhere  via  mobile  phones,  laptops,   tablets,  music  players,  ereaders,  and  so  on.   -­‐   And  people  connect  with  others  from  almost  anywhere  via  tex*ng,  video  chaFng,   Facebook,  TwiKer,  phone  calls,  email,  and  so  on   -­‐ We  wanted  to  understand  how  all  these  changes  have  affected  the  way  people  stay   connected  with  friends  and  family  while  they’re  mobile.  Most  ethnographic  studies  of   mobile  communica*on  tend  to  focus  on  the  use  of  a  single  technology,  but  we   wanted  to  see  how  people  use  the  whole  assortment  of  technologies  available  to   maintain  an  ongoing  connec*on  over  the  course  of  the  day.     7  
  8. 8. We  had  in  mind  that  it  might  look  something  like  this.  Maybe  people  would  have  a   face-­‐to-­‐face  interac*on  in  the  morning,  then  perhaps  exchange  emails  or  IMs,  then   later  in  the  day  maybe  they  send  a  photo  or  text,  and  then  they  get  back  together  in   person  at  the  end  of  the  day.  The  ques*on  was,  how  could  we  study  this?  The  best   way,  of  course,  is  to  be  there  all  day  so  you  can  watch  it  when  it  happen,  but  this  is   difficult.     8  
  9. 9. Grinter  &  Eldridge  in  2003  were  interested  in  studying  tex*ng,  said  they’d  ideally  like   to  “directly  observe”  teenagers’  text  messaging  prac*ces,  but  found  “direct   observa*on  highly  imprac*cal,”  so  they  felt  they  had  to  use  indirect  approaches  such   as  interviewing  and  logging.     9  
  10. 10. Two  years  lager  Ito  &  Okabe  also  noted  that  it  is  “notoriously  difficult  the  flee*ng   par*culari*es  of  mobile  communica*on,”  so  they,  too,  studied  tex*ng  using  “second-­‐ hand”  methods.   10  
  11. 11. But  we  started  to  think  that  things  have  changed  since  those  studies  were  done.   People  are  now  video  recording  everything,  everywhere  –  in  restaurants,  train   sta*ons,  drug  stores,  out  on  the  street  –  so  that  they  can  post  their  videos  on   YouTube.  So  we  though,  maybe  we  can  do  it  too.  Maybe  we  can  follow  people   around  and  video  record  them  and  it  won’t  seem  that  remarkable  to  people.  We   were  crazy  enough  to  try  it.   11  
  12. 12. We  found  four  groups  of  close  friends  and  family  and  observed  each  of  them  for  half   a  day.  Three  were  in  different  parts  of  the  San  Francisco  Bay  Area,  and  one  was  split   between  California  and  Texas.  To  observe  them,  we  had  a  different  researcher  follow   each  person  in  the  group  as  they  went  about  their  ac*vi*es  over  the  same  *me   period  and  we  watched  how  they  stayed  in  touch,  either  through  technology  or  in   person.  So  we  saw  each  person’s  point  of  view  as  they  connected,  engaged,  and   disconnected.     12  
  13. 13. These  images  give  you  a  sense  of  how  this  worked.  In  this  case,  we  studied  two   roommates  who  also  worked  together  –whom  we’re  calling    Anita  and  Cathy.  I  was   following  Anita,  and  afer  work  she  first  drove  to  a  shopping  center  where  she  would   meet  up  with  Cathy.   13  
  14. 14. She  did  a  liKle  shopping,  some*mes  on  her  own,  some*mes  browsing  together  with   her  friend  Cathy.   14  
  15. 15. Then  they  came  together  to  pay  for  their  purchases.  You  can  see  Yutaka  there  video   recording  Cathy  while  I  recorded  Anita.   15  
  16. 16. Then  they  went  to  dinner  in  a  restaurant  while  each  of  them  connected  with  other   people  through  their  phones   16  
  17. 17. Then  they  split  up  as  Anita  drove  to  the  grocery  store   17  
  18. 18. She  picked  up  some  supplies  for  the  apartment   18  
  19. 19. Then  returned  to  her  apartment  in  California  and  had  a  video  chat  with  some  friends   in  New  York   19  
  20. 20. while  Cathy  listened  in  from  her  room  while  also  doing  her  own  thing  –  and  I’ll  be   showing  you  a  video  of  this  shortly     20  
  21. 21. Then  at  the  end  of  the  night  they  got  together  to  watch  TV  while  surfing  also  the  net   and  chaFng  with  friends  on  their  phones.   21  
  22. 22. What  did  we  find?  In  a  nutshell,  we  saw  a  collec*on  of  related  behaviors  that  we  are   calling  channel  blending.  First  I’ll  define  channel  blending  and  then  I’ll  show  you  a  few   examples.       Channel  blending  is  the  integra*on  of  interac*ons  and  content,  over  mul*ple   channels  –  and  face-­‐to-­‐face  counts  as  a  channel  –  into  one  coherent  conversa*on.   The  conversa*ons  usually  involve  both  local  and  remote  par*cipants  –  meaning  there   are  mul*ple  people  in  the  room  communica*ng  with  one  or  more  people  in  a  remote   loca*on.  Some*mes  people  blended  channels  not  all  at  once  but  as  they  carried  on  a   conversa*on  over  *me.   22  
  23. 23. You  can  think  of  channel  blending  as  both  similar  to  and  the  opposite  of  mul*tasking.   So  on  the  lef,  two  people  are  face-­‐to-­‐face  watching  a  basketball  game  while  video   chaFng  with  two  others  who  are  also  watching  the  game.  They’re  looking  up   informa*on  on  their  tablet  and  phone  related  to  the  game  and  maybe  chaFng  with   someone  else  about  the  game  on  the  laptop.  So  they’re  using  many  media  but   converging  them  into  one  coherent  conversa*on  about  the  basketball  game.  On  the   right,  you  have  the  same  configura*on  of  media  but  now  there’s  just  one  person  in   each  space  having  mul*ple  interac*ons.  The  local  person  is  watching  the  game  while   also  video  chaFng  with  someone  on  the  laptop,  and  they’re  both  engaged  with  their   phones  for  different  purposes,  and  the  local  person  is  also  text  chaFng  with   someone  about  something  else.       They  key  difference  is  that  on  the  lef,  there’s  one  conversa*on  going  on,  and  on  the   right  there  are  mul*ple  conversa*ons.  The  discussion  might  move  on  from   basketball,  of  course,  but  everyone  would  be  included  as  the  conversa*on  moved  on   to  new  topics.       In  the  channel  blending  case,  there  are  two  people  in  the  local  space,  and  two  in  the   remote.  This  was  very  common  –  to  have  more  than  one  person  together  in  one   place,  possibly  connec*ng  with  mul*ple  remote  others  in  another  space.     23  
  24. 24. There  were  two  categories  of  channel  blending.    Some*mes  people  channel  blended   interac(ons  –  bringing  together  mul*ple  people  across  mul*ple  channels.  So  here  it’s   the  video  chaFng,  face-­‐to-­‐face,  and  text  chaFng  all  blended  together.       And  some*mes  they  channel  blended  content  from  mul*ple  sources  into  the  one   conversa*on.  So  here  it’s  the  game  and  all  the  things  they’re  looking  up  on  their   devices.     24  
  25. 25. And  of  course  you  could  have  blending  of  both  interac*ons  and  content  in  one   conversa*on.   25  
  26. 26. Now  I’d  like  to  show  you  a  case  of  channel  blending  an  interac(on  over  mul*ple   channels.       It  involved  Anita  and  Cathy  when  they  were  back  at  their  apartment  in  California  and   Anita  was  chaFng  with  two  friends  in  New  York.  In  the  adjacent  room,  Cathy  was   packing  for  a  2-­‐month  trip  to  Dublin,  Ireland,  where  she  would  be  running  an   internship  program  for  her  company.  Anita,  too,  would  soon  be  going  to  Los  Angeles   to  run  another  internship  program  there.  Here  they’re  talking  about  the  upcoming   travel.  In  it,  they  talk  about  a  couple  of  movies  involving  danger  in  foreign  ci*es   called  “Taken”  and  “Hos*le.”       You’ll  no*ce  how  Anita  acts  as  what  we  call  a  “pivot  person”  to  blends  the  two   spaces  together,  relaying  comments  back  and  forth  and  keeping  everyone  involved  in   the  one  conversa*on.        [PLAY  CLIP]     They  key  things  to  no*ce  here  are  how  Anita  is  interac*ng  with  people  remotely  and   locally  at  the  same  *me,  and  she  is  integra*ng  the  two  “channels”  into  one   conversa*on.  As  the  pivot  person,  she  some*mes  aKributes  Cathy’s  comments  to   her,  as  when  she  says  “I  love  how  they  ask  as  if  you  have  a  choice”  or  at  the  end,  she   just  integrates  Cathy’s  comments  as  her  own,  saying  “Anita  loves  LA!”   26  
  27. 27. In  an  earlier  interac*on  at  dinner,  they  both  had  their  phones  out  and  they  both   communicated  with  others  while  s*ll  talking  to  each  other.  Instead  of  carrying  on   separate  conversa*ons  locally  and  remotely,  they  shared  with  each  other  what  they   were  reading  or  typing  to  others,  blending  the  local  and  remote  spaces  into  one   conversa*on.     This  diagram  shows  their  conversa*on  over  the  9  minutes  before  the  waiter  took   their  order.  The  orange  are  topics  they  generated  from  their  current  environment   (things  about  the  restaurant  or  work  that  day),  and  the  blue  are  topics  that  emerged   from  interac*ons  they  were  having  on  their  phones.  You  can  see  how  they  blended   them  together  into  one  interac*on.  They  both  read  aloud  what  they  were  reading,   and  verbalized  what  they  were  typing  as  they  texted  or  responded  to  a  tweet.  So  in   this  case,  they  both  acted  as  pivot  people  for  their  interac*ons  with  different  remote   others.     We  also  thought  it  was  interes*ng,  as  a  side  note,  that  their  conversa*on  –  with  its   quick,  bursty  nature  about  many  different  topics  –  mirrored  exactly  the  type  of  online   interac*ons  they  were  having  over  text  chat,  TwiKer,  Four  Square,  and  Facebook.   27  
  28. 28. This  next  example  shows  how  people  channel  blended  content  from  mul*ple  sources.   In  this  case  they  were  all  face-­‐to-­‐face,  and  they  brought  in  content  from  their  phones   and  a  laptop  as  the  conversa*on  unfolded.  This  example  is  interes*ng  because  it  also   illustrates  channel  blending  over  *me.       These  three  people  are  musicians  and  a  few  days  before  this  conversa*on,  the  one   on  the  lef  had  posted  a  link  to  a  recording  of  a  violin  concerto  that  was  played  by  a   guy  who  at  the  *me  was  15  years  old.  It’s  a  very  difficult  piece  and  it’s  amazing  that   someone  so  young  played  it  so  well,  but  there’s  one  sec*on  in  the  piece  where  he   screws  up  and  has  trouble  hiFng  a  high  note.  It’s  a  funny  clip  because  of  the  squeaky   notes.  They  had  all  played  the  clip  on  their  own  and  laughed,  but  now  that  they  got   together,  it  comes  up  in  conversa*on  and  they  want  to  play  it  again.  So  you’ll  see  the   woman  figuring  out  how  to  access  the  clip  on  her  phone,  with  help  from  the  others.     Afer  this,  they  con*nue  to  discuss  musical  pieces  and  each  of  the  men  in  turn  brings   out  their  phone  to  access  a  different  song  and  the  one  on  the  lef  opens  his  laptop   when  he  can’t  find  it  on  his  phone.  Then  he  uses  it  to  find  a  picture  of  the  sheet  music   on  Facebook.     [PLAY  CLIP]     So  each  used  their  own  devices  –  phones  and  laptops  –  to  access  content  based  on     28  
  29. 29. Those  are  just  a  few  of  the  many  examples  we  saw,  and  more  are  described  in  the   paper.  So  when  we  go  back  to  our  original  concep*on  of  what  we  might  find  when   watching  how  people  communicate  throughout  the  day,  we  discovered  that  instead   of  looking  like  this…   29  
  30. 30. It  looks  much  more  like  this.  With  mul*ple  people  together  in  a  shared  space,   communica*ng  with  mul*ple  remote  others  using  mul*ple  devices,  and  sharing   different  types  of  content.     We  want  to  be  clear  that  other  have  no*ced  different  aspects  of  this,  like  people   carrying  on  a  conversa*on  with  both  local  and  remote  par*cipants,  or  carrying  on  a   conversa*on  over  *me.  What  we’re  proposing  here  is  that  it’s  useful  to  think  of  these   cases  as  part  of  a  larger  phenomenon  that  involves  blending  different  channels  into   one  conversa*on.  We  think  this  may  happen  rela*vely  ofen,  and  it’s  likely  that  at   least  some  of  the  cases  that  are  reported  as  mul*tasking  may  actually  be  channel   blending.         30  
  31. 31. Now  let’s  think  about  the  technology  people  are  currently  using.  Most  of  it  is   designed  to  connect  just  two  people,  with  the  assump*on  that  they  are  each  alone   with  a  single  device.  This  is  the  case  with  phone  calls.   31  
  32. 32. And  with  tex*ng  or  IM.   32  
  33. 33. Other  technology  is  designed  for  many-­‐to-­‐many  interac*ons,  but  even  s*ll,  the   assump*on  is  s*ll  that  each  one  is  alone  in  their  space  with  a  single  device,  not   sharing  with  people  in  their  local  space.     33  
  34. 34. Yet,  what  was  saw  was  that  communica*on  looked  much  more  like  this.  Where  you   have  mul*ple  people  in  the  same  space,  and  small  groups  of  people  are  trying  to   connect  –  not  two  people,  but  more  like  3  or  4  or  5.       Here  the  two  men  are  on  the  phone,  and  she’s  chiming  in  as  he  relays  comments   back  and  forth.  At  one  point  he  uses  his  computer  to  enter  in  some  informa*on  they   give  him   34  
  35. 35. Here  she’s  IM-­‐ing  with  that  same  person  and  now  she’s  relaying  comments  back  and   forth.  They  also  discuss  a  Words  With  Friends  game  they’ve  been  playing  on  their   phones.     35  
  36. 36. This  one  is  a  case  of  massive  content  blending  –  they  all  got  together  to  watch  a   sequence  of  videos  projected  from  a  computer  onto  the  TV  while  also  looking  up   related  informa*on  on  their  phones  and  laptops.  At  one  point  they  all  pulled  out   their  phones  to  compare  their  sleep  cycles,  which  they’d  all  recorded  with  an  app.       36  
  37. 37. In  this  case  this  woman  is  video  chaFng  with  her  husband  while  also  text  chaFng   with  a  woman  in  this  IM  window  –  and  she’s  relaying  comments  back  and  forth  as   they  work  together  to  coordinate  an  upcoming  visit,  which  they  had  all  discussed  in   an  earlier  email.   37  
  38. 38. This  one  looks  simple  but  is  complicated.  The  daughter  is  talking  with  a  friend  about   some  documents  on  her  screen,  which  he  had  emailed  her  and  is  asking  her  to  print   out  and  bring  to  him  when  they  meet  up  later.  Meanwhile,  the  mother  is  talking  with   another  daughter  –  who  this  daughter  had  just  been  talking  with  before  she  handed   her  mother  the  phone.   38  
  39. 39. Finally,  these  three  sisters  are  having  a  three-­‐way  phone  call  while  two  of  them  also   look  at  and  discuss  a  website  on  their  computers,  but  the  third  one  can’t  share  in  it.   In  fact,  she  then  complains  about  the  problems  with  sharing  in  this  short  clip.     39  
  40. 40. 40  
  41. 41. So  what  does  all  mean  for  technology  design?  If  people  are  doing  a  lot  of  channel   blending,  how  should  we  be  suppor*ng  it?       We  think  technology  needs  to  support  small  groups  of  people  –  not  just  one-­‐to-­‐one   or  many-­‐to-­‐many     Some  together,  some  apart  –  not  just  with  each  person  alone  in  separate  loca*ons     With  fluid  levels  of  par*cipa*on  –  like  with  the  Pepper  Spray  example,  people  in  the   same  space  ofen  monitor  conversa*ons  and  engage  to  different  degrees  at  different   *mes     As  they  show  &  tell  &  react  to  the  stories  of  their  lives,  since  that’s  what  people  are   doing     Using  mul*ple  media  and  devices.  People  aren’t  just  using  a  single  device  at  a  *me  or   even  a  single  device  per  person     Over  mul*ple  interac*ons  –  people  not  only  con*nue  their  conversa*ons  across  *me   and  media,  they  also  want  to  re-­‐share  the  same  content  when  they  get  together  face   to  face  or  afer  they  separate  and  reconnect  remotely.     41  
  42. 42. Once  upon  a  *me,  long,  long  ago,  people  communicated  and  socialized  in  curious   ways.       42  

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