CPSC 689/602--Spring 1997

Computer-Supported Cooperative Work


Paper Report

Title: Visual Communication and Social Interaction
Authors: John Short, Ederyn Williams and Bruce Christie
Citation: The Social Psychology of Telecommunications, pp. 43-60
Reprinted in: Baecker, R.M., Readings in Groupware and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work 1993, pp. 153-165


Communication is an important part of any group activity. Communication can be explicit (such as through the written or the spoken word) or possibly through physical signals. These physical signals also have a great bearing on the communication process. This paper concentrates, on this not so explicit medium of communication (physical signals).

Information is often exchanged through a variety of ways, which may include speaking, facial expression, direction of gaze, posture, dress, physical distance etc.. Broadly stated, communication may be classified as: 1) informational and 2) integrational.

Some of the observations, made by the authors, during their research are:

1. Eye-gaze, head nods and gestures are often evidence, that the other party is responding or participating.

2. Head nods and eye movements, often silently help determine, who shall speak next and for how long.

3. Speakers adapt the on-going messages, based on the responses of the recipient.

4. Speech is often accompanied by gestures, which may improve the clarity of the message.

5. Proximity/physical separation is not a random variable, but is rather fixed for a particular task. Relationships such as friendly, aggressive, dominant, etc., may be mapped to distances.

6. Orientation and physical appearances, also have impact on the communication process.

>From the paper, it becomes clear that the non-verbal behavior is an important source of information. However, some of the behavior observed above may not be applicable globally and may fit only in a particular society or culture. Often non-verbal signal s may be substituted with their verbal equivalents.


Report prepared by: Ajay Kumar Gummadi Email: ajay@ee.tamu.edu
Discussion date: January 29, 1997            Report date: January 31, 1997