Supporting Shy Users in Pervasive Computing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Informatics


Pervasive computing - that which blends in with a physical and social environment - offers many new opportunities for computer mediated interactions. Users of these technologies may not be aware of the many ways in which they are socially present, the cues and feedback they are giving to others, and the data that is being recorded about them. On the one hand, this suggests a comforting sense of invisibility and anonymity, whilst on the other hand, it may evoke feelings of uncertainty, ambivalence, and dilemmas of self-presentation. In those contexts in which a certain type of 'performance' is required, shy users may additionally experience feelings of exposure, vulnerability and performance anxiety or 'stage fright'. Here, we draw upon Scott's (2007) sociological theory of shyness as a situational identity that emerges out of dramaturgical stress in interaction.Focusing on three different contexts of social interaction (classrooms, social networking, and public interactive art installations), we seek to understand how and why 'shy' users experience these difficulties, and how to design infrastructure and interaction mechanisms that support all users in enjoying and benefiting from the use of pervasive computing technologies. We are particularly interested in the more ad-hoc types of social situation that are supported by mobile, ambient and ad-hoc infrastructure. The project will therefore build on past experience in computer supported co-operative work, mediating interactions due to context, managing trust and identity, and ad-hoc networks. Our work programme consists of three mini-projects, corresponding to the three aforementioned contexts of social interaction and undertaken by our three research groups (Softsys, Interact and Sociology). In each of these settings, we shall address the research questions detailed in the Case For Support (page 6), which focus on context awareness; identity, groups and relations; mediation; interaction; the experience of shyness; and ethics and understanding. More specifically, the methodology of the three mini-projects will involve quantitative and qualitative observation, questionnaires, data analysis and model design, as follows:1. Class participation: we shall observe lecture, seminar and laboratory classes at the University of Sussex, especially those involving 'ice-breaker' exercises, presentations or other types of performance by students. Initial observations will establish a baseline measure, against which we will compare the effects of the technological interventions we will make (such as introducing signalling devices). Students will be asked to report on their subjective experiences of shyness and/or confidence by means of a questionnaire.2. Social and situated group communications: we shall examine patterns of communication, networking and self-presentation amongst social groups who interact both face to face and online. This will involve observation of the social networking website, Facebook, as well as online discussion fora devoted to shyness; research conferences; and the student-centred social events of Freshers' Week. The interventions here will include introducing Bluetooth phones, 'smart' conference badges, and social network maps for students.3. Public interactive art-works: we shall study three art gallery exhibitions that involve opportunities for interactive participation by visitors. One of these will be designed and installed by our partner artist Anna Dumitriu (who provides a letter of support), and another will be hosted by the Permanent gallery in Brighton, who will commission a suitable artist. The third will incorporate our interventions, and will be displayed at the Brighton Festival . We shall initially observe visitors' behaviour in terms of shyness, reticence and embarrassment about interacting with the displays, before designing and testing interventions to mediate these effects, such as kiosks and PDAs.


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Description There were a range of outcomes around how people relate to each other online and using computer mediated tools (in sociology); the use of privacy settings, patterns of interaction, use of online tools for discrete signalling in the classroom, and detection of emotion using wearables.

Original 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.
Exploitation Route We are taking forward some of the issues about visibility, self presentation, and control over identity in our research. The wider findings can inform interaction design in public spaces and classrooms, and using pervasive / internet of things / wearable technology.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description They are informing our ongoing research and wider academic work. During the grant our technology was used in an art gallery.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

Description How to cope when the world can watch everything you do 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact BBC News online article about project.

An accessible piece for a general audience discussing the issues and ideas at hand in the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
Description Like Shadows: A Celebration of Shyness 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An event at the "white night" arts evening in Brighton. Combined art about shyness, demonstration of developed technologies, data gathering experimental study.

The Sociology and Informatics teams worked together with curator Helen Sloan and artists Anna Dumitriu, alongside other partners, to plan and host the event. The event was a great success, with an estimated 4500 visitors attending throughout the night. Like Shadows displayed and communicated our findings to the wider community.

We recruited ten local artists to exhibit a work related to the theme of shyness, with a particular focus on interactive artworks incorporating digital media. The artists, curator and researchers spent the evening talking to visitors about their responses to these exhibits, and the Sociology team also gathered data in the form of observational fieldnotes and visitor questionnaires. Visitors were also able to leave anonymous feedback comments on an interactive projection screen, using scanned QR codes on their mobile phones, organised by the Informatics team. This device, called 'ShineUS', was itself an output of the project, designed by co-investigators Dan Chalmers and Ian Wakeman.

The art show's curator, Helen Sloan, will present a summary of the event and its underpinning research at the Association of Art Historians conference (Milton Keynes, March 2012), in a paper entitled "Performativity in the Art Gallery."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011