Your Place or Mine? Learning from Long-Term Use of
Paul Dourish*, Annette Adler?, Victoria Bellotti?, and Austin Henderson?
*Rank Xerox Research Centre (EuroPARC), 61 Regent Street, Cambridge, CB2 1AB UK ?Systems Architecture Group, Xerox Corp., 3333 Coyote Hill Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA ?Advanced Technology Group, Apple Computer, 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014, USA
Abstract. Workstations and personal computers are increasingly being delivered with the ability to handle multimedia data; more and more of us are linked by high-speed digital networks. With multimedia communication environments becoming more commonplace, what have we learned from earlier experiences with prototype media environments? This paper reports on some of our experiences as developers, researchers and users of flexible, networked, multimedia computer environments, or ?media spaces?. It focusses on the lessons we can learn from extended, long-term use of media spaces, with connections that last not hours or days, but months or years. We take as our starting point a set of assumptions which differ from traditional analytical perspectives. In particular, we begin from the position that that a real-world baseline is not always an appropriate point of comparison for new media technologies; that a set of complex and intricate communicative behaviours arise over time; and that media spaces connect not only individuals, but the wider social groups of which they form part. We outline a framework based on four perspectives?individual, interactional, communal and societal?from which to view the behaviour of individuals and groups linked by multimedia environments. On the basis of our long-term findings, we argue for a view of media spaces which, first, focuses on a wider interpretation of media space interaction than the traditional view of persont-to-person connections, and, second, emphasises emergent communicative practices, rather than looking for the transfer of face-to-face behaviours.
Over the last ten years or so, our research groups and others have been exploring the use of ?media spaces??switched computational and multimedia communication environments supporting cooperative work. A number of these have been built and studied, including PARC?s ?Media Space? [Stults, 1989; Bly et al, 1993], Bellcore?s ?Cruiser? [Root, 1988; Cool et al, 1992], University of Toronto?s ?CAVE- CAT? [Mantei et al, 1991], and EuroPARC?s ?RAVE? [Buxton and Moran, 1990; Gaver et al, 1992]. While the research groups differed in their particular concerns, they shared a common focus on communication rather than on communication technologies. So, these prototype environments were constructed using analogue baseband technology and off-the-shelf components for in-house experimentation. More recently, developments in data network design have begun to bring multimedia communication facilities to the users of Internet-connected workstations through the introduction of multicast media transmission over the IP protocol [Casner and Deering, 1992; Eriksson, 1994], and over high speed networking fabrics such as ATM. Increasingly, workstations and personal computers are being delivered with the ability to manipulate, send and receive multimedia data, and video communication is one of the revolutions which the ?information superhighway? is hyped to bring us. Whether or not we are all about to enjoy the delights of interactive media in our living rooms, these trends suggest that multimedia communication environments will become considerably cheaper and more widespread over the coming years.
As these technologies have been developed and deployed, researchers have conducted a number of studies, formal and informal, into the nature of multimedia communication and of interaction in technologically mediated environments. Studies have focussed on aspects such as the impact communication facilities have on group working [Mantei et al, 1991; Tang and Isaacs, 1993]; connection management architectures [Dourish, 1991]; and privacy implications [Fish et al, 1993; Bellotti and Sellen, 1993]. More specifically, we have also seen a number of investigations of the interaction of technological me-