Asynchronous Communication: Fostering Social Interaction with CollaboraTV

Asynchronous Communication: Fostering Social Interaction with CollaboraTV

Brian Amento (AT&T Labs – Research, USA), Chris Harrison (Carnegie Mellon University, USA), Mukesh Nathan (University of Minnesota, USA) and Loren Terveen (University of Minnesota, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-656-3.ch012
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With the advent of digital video recorders and video-on-demand services, the way in which we consume media is undergoing a fundamental change. People today are less likely to watch shows at the same time, let alone the same place. As a result, television viewing which was once a social activity has been reduced to a passive, isolated experience. CollaboraTV was designed to address this new mode of television viewing by directly supporting asynchronous communication. We demonstrated its ability to support this communal viewing experience through a lab study and a month-long field study. Our studies show that users understand and appreciate the utility of asynchronous interaction, are enthusiastic about CollaboraTV’s engaging social communication primitives and value implicit show recommendations from friends. Our results both provide a compelling demonstration of a social television system and raise new challenges for social television communication modalities.
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Television is undeniably a major component of modern society. In the United States, it is not only the dominant media activity, but is also considered the most exciting and influential media type (FCC 2006; Putnam 2000; TBA 2006). Despite increasing competition from the internet, television usage has been steadily increasing, and is now at it’s highest level since viewing data was first collected, a 50% increase since the 1950s, and a 12% increase from 1996. The average person watches 4.5 hours of programming a day, with the average household tuned in for more than 8 hours (FCC 2006; Putnam 2000). This consumes almost half of people’s total leisure time (BLS 2006; Putnam 2000).

Given the significant place that television holds, our research focuses on understanding the social aspects of television viewing – especially in today’s age of social behavior-altering technological advances – and the utility of social television systems for meeting the new challenges that such advances bring about.

Declined Social Interactions Around Television

Television was once championed as the “electronic hearth” which would bring people together (Tichi 1991). Indeed, television shows provide a common experience, often affording even total strangers a social connection on which to initiate conversation. This effect blossomed in the 1950s, when two-thirds of all Americans tuned in to watch “I Love Lucy” (Putnam 2000). However, a fundamental shift in how we consume media is degrading such social interactions significantly – an increasing number of people are no longer watching television shows as they broadcast. Instead, users are favoring non-live media sources, such as Digital Video Recorders (DVRs), Video-On-Demand services (e.g. Apple’s iTunes Video Store), and even rented physical media (e.g. DVDs via Netflix). To complicate matters further, televisions are outnumbering people in the average home; less than a fifth of households have a single television (Fairbank 1995; AP 2006). This is leading to a decline in ability for people to interact and is eroding once strong social ties. People are increasingly watching TV without their families, with some studies suggesting at least half of Americans usually watch alone (Putnam 2000). However, all indications point towards a lack of ability to communicate, not a lack of desire.

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