The research online meetings and digital interaction is an important topic for me since the second semester is continuing with online lectures. In this first entry I want to sum up my previous findings and write down my plans for the coming blog entries. The following mind map is an overview about my findings of the first semester and the related issues.
I found out that the key aspects why digital meetings do not feel ‘human’ are the environment/space and several social aspects. In the first place I mainly did secondary research and had a look at the many sociological aspects. Next to that I also did a survey which led me to new insights and helped me switch perspectives. Therefore I plan to do more primary research this semester – also in regard to the current lecture situation which I can use for further observations. I want to use the second semester not only to go on with my research but also start with finding solution approaches. For that I need to collect more relevant insights about the users. To do so, I’d like to get more into User Research and learn everything about Usability Testing and related methods.
My plan of further research:
getting familiar with usability testings & use them
further observation/field research on: collaboration/participation (tools), ergonomic aspects, virtual reality/gamification (see mind map)
getting familiar how to define the user/target group & research/test them
evaluate the gained insights
as soon as the framework (user research/target group, testing) is set, start with ideation/prototyping
My literature/website reading list for the semester (first draft)
A glimpse on the status quo of experiences with online meetings
Since I researched a lot in the theoretical background, I decided to make a short survey about the people’s experiences with online meetings. I got 36 answers from persons in the age of 18-40+ from different working fields (especially teachers) and also students. It was very interesting to see that most of the answers were nearly similar and that they fitted my personal assumptions I made beforehand. But let’s have a closer look at the survey and the answers.
The first two questions show key facts (age & touchpoint with online meetings) about the interviewees.
The last question about what is missing in online meetings was an open one so I got a range of answers. Because of their similarity I could sort them in 4 categories: Communication, body, technologies & environment related points.
The table looks like the main issues come along with the communication but they are often related to each other (like reactions or exchange before & after a meeting). Furthermore the communication issues also depend on the technology point ‘talking simultaneously’. After summarising the answers I came to the conclusion that there are some key ‘pain points’ and also several factors that influence them. I made a quick overview to sort my thoughts about the main outcomes:
An important outcome I want to emphasise is the lack of simultaneity within online meetings. A lot of answers made clear that the interviewees especially missed the direct and spontaneous atmosphere of online meetings. Besides that the interviewees are not that often in touch with active interaction tools like collaborative whiteboard or life questionnaires which maybe could lead to a more direct and simultaneous meeting feeling. Another interesting thing is that the interviewees mentioned the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of an online meeting.This could have an interesting link to my findings on (virtual) spaces and I am looking forward to further research.
Key words: survey, computer-mediated communication, connectivity, cyberpsychology, digital social interaction, online meeting, remote communication media, telecommunication, verbal communication, virtual communication, web conferencing, web meeting
Interviewing is a fundamental methodology for both quantitative and qualitative social research and evaluation. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions it was not possible to conduct face to face interviews, which is why I did an online survey. The survey results can be found at the following link:
To summarize the outcome of the survey almost all of the 22 participant have encountered misinformation at some point and only a few are not sure about it, but when it comes to labeled content there are different opinions. Some of the participants feel like these labels are helpful and others do not trust them. They are not transparent enough and some of them also do not trust the correctness of the labelling.
However, when asked what additional information should be presented, some just answered: “Author and Date”. Only a few of them said that sources and other things like the domain ending and an SSL certificate should be included or present as well. When asked about the influence of the design of information on the trustworthiness 14 out of 18 answers stated that design does make a difference. Surprisingly one person said that when the design of information is too bold or striking it seems less trustworthy. Another answer was that it does not matter because false information can be designed properly as well.
To conclude this survey it seems that a lot of people have encountered false or misleading information and some of them do not trust online available information at all. Even if there is additional information given about a posting or if there is an independent factchecking site linked there still occurs major mistrust because it is not transparent enough.
The ‘human’ aspects of web meetings – an introduction
Digital meeting places have become an everyday and necessary tool due to the covid pandemic. Lockdowns or quarantines made it nearly impossible to meet face to face no matter what the occasion was. Therefore almost everyone had or has touchpoints with the topic of web-meeting – whether in a professional, educational or private environment. Very soon in the intense usage of the online communication tools terms like “Zoom-Fatigue” came up and with it the problems of digital interaction became visible: Video-telephony enables to see and hear each other, but we are missing out on the most of the non-verbal communication signs we are used to. Nevertheless, digital communication tools will surely remain as an important part in the future of our communication. Apart from the problems, they enable skilled people to work together, let them share their knowledge, what leads to a new perspective on workspaces. Therefore the examination and optimisation of those tools could lead to useful new approaches and insights.
My motivation to research on this topic comes also from the personal experiences I made this year. When I first met the students of CMS2020 at the virtual Barcamp in October, I felt isolated and could not make an emotional connection to whom I saw on the screen right before me. This changed when I switched the mode to “together mode” (see image below): I couldn’t help myself but smiling about how happy it made me, to be visually part in this virtual room with the other students. This was definitely not a rational reaction but it made the Barcamp experience of coming together more accessible and human to me.
In order to find out more about those human and emotional aspects of web meetings, I want to research on the following research questions:
What are the fundamental aspects of verbal and non-verbal communication to create a emotionally connected meeting situation? Which impact have aspects like personal distances or the meeting environment?
Which aspects are already considered or effectively compensated in current web meeting applications?
What could be adapted from other online communication environments like social media, online events or multiplayer games?
Which technologies could improve the human factor of web meetings? Could VR/AR or AI play a role?
In my viewpoint, the year 2020 and everything that happened so far is going to be a starting point for a new thinking of how we virtually come together in an innovative, creative and effectively way. In order to underline this proposition I want to mention this examples:
Voodle https://voodle.com/ The business communication app “Voodle” focusses on short video snippets that are produced by the users. The videos contain an automatic transcription to follow along without the need to watch it with sound. The app aims to create an alternative to web meetings by short, emotional and effective content.
NVIDIA Maxine https://developer.nvidia.com/maxine The topic of artificial intelligence is growing significantly in recent years and can also be found in the internet mediated communication environment. The NVIDIA Developers for example are on a AI that turns our face into a deep fake and let it react with facial expression to our spoken words. This enables a visual communication in environments with a bad bandwidth.
Wave https://wavexr.com/ The tech company “Wave” enables musicians to give virtual animated concert-streams on every platform they wish. The startup had a significant upswing this your due to the pandemic situation.
Of course they were not only produced this year, but they were definitely put more into focus.
To sum it up, I am really curious where the research will lead to and I am looking forward to share my insights with you. Feel free to get in touch and text me whenever any thought, idea or feedback about the topic comes to your mind.
S. Shyam Sundar: “The Handbook of the Psychology of Communication Technology” (John Wileys & Sons, 2015)
Scheve, Christian; Mikko Salmella: “Collective Emotions: Perspectives from Psychology, Philosophy, and Sociology” (Oxford University Press, 2014)
Matthias Johannes Bauer, Time Müßle: “Psychologie der digitalen Kommunikation (Wirtschafts- und Sozialpsychologie)” (utzverlag GmbH, 2020)
Tobias Held: “Face-to-Interface: Eine Kultur- und Technikgeschichte der Videotelefonie”(Büchner-Verlag, 2020)
Guido Kopp: “Audiovisuelle Fernkommunikation: Grundlagen Der Analyse Und Anwendung Von Videokonferenzen” (VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2004)
Sebastian Pflügler: “Kommunikation für die digitale Ära: Wie wir heute miteinander reden – und was dabei immer noch wichtig ist” (Redline Verlag, 2020)
Keywords digital social interaction, online meeting, web meeting, web conferencing, telecommunication, virtual communication, connectivity, remote communication media, zoom-fatigue, computer-mediated communication, cyberpsychology, non-verbal communication, verbal communication