CPSC 689/602--Spring 1997
Computer-Supported Cooperative Work

Paper Report

Title: Disembodied Conduct: Communication Through Video In A Multi-Media Office Environment
Authors: Christian Heath and Paul Luff
Citation: 1991 ACM
Reprinted in: Pages 837-842, Baecker

This paper discusses some findings of recent research concerning the organization of video mediated communication in collaborative work in a dispersed, multi-media office environment. The authors report on a detailed naturalistic analysis of the use of, and interaction through audio-visual technologies at Cambridge EuroPARC for informal communication and group work.

Naturalistic studies of face to face communication have increasingly found that visual conduct such as gesture plays a critical role in shaping the way in which individuals participate in interaction and accomplish particular activities and tasks. Therefore, the analysis of video mediated communication has paid particular attention to the ways individuals use gestures and other forms of visual conduct to establish and preserve mutual involvement and coordinate work tasks and activities.

There were various ways in which members of EuroPARC could establish an audio visual connection. The authors, however, noticed that the users often attempted to interact visually, sometimes simply to acknowledge to the presence of their colleagues. Curiously however, in contrast to situations in which the individuals are co-present but disengaged such looks and glances, looks and gestures appear to pass unnoticed by their potential recipient. In some cases, this even led to users exaggerating their movements and gestures in an attempt to attract the otherís attention. In particular, gestures and other forms of body movement including gaze, which are systematically employed in face to face communication by speakers to organize how the recipient participates prove in large part ineffectual in video mediated communication.

Video mediated communication reveals certain asymmetries which are not found in either face to face or other forms of technologically mediated forms of communication. Here the participants are aware of each otherís presence but insensitive to aspects of the visual conducts of the other.

The evidence suggests therefore that video technology at least in the way it is currently configures, provides the possibility of building an electronic environment which simulates physical co-presence.

Report prepared by: Abhijit Rele                  Email: abhijitr@cs.tamu.edu
Discussion Date: April 16, 1997            Report Date: April 18, 1997