Publication: Looking Away and Catching Up: Dealing with Brief Attentional Disconnection in Synchronous Groupware

Awareness information in shared-workspace groupware is often ephemeral, and when users are interrupted or look away from the system, they can miss important information about others' activities. These attentional disconnections are brief (generally less than ten seconds), are frequent in many work environments, and can occur for many reasons. In this paper, we provide visualization techniques that can help groupware users recover from these short absences. First, we provide a simple attention monitor that informs groupware systems whether a user is looking at the screen and whether the workspace is visible. Second, we provide a framework of catch-up techniques for visualizing missed activity -- including highlighting, motion traces, and replay. We implemented these techniques in three applications that cover different communication methods and interaction speeds, and explored the use of the effects in three studies. Participants clearly saw the value of catch-up techniques, and although different techniques were preferred in different situations, nearly all users strongly preferred the catch-up techniques. Our work shows that helping users deal with periods of attentional disconnection can substantially improve the usability of real-time groupware systems.

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Participants

Carl Gutwin
University of Saskatchewan
Scott Bateman
University of New Brunswick
Ashley Coveney Gaurav Arora

Citation

Gutwin, C., Bateman, S., Coveney, A., Arora, G. 2017. Looking Away and Catching Up: Dealing with Brief Attentional Disconnection in Synchronous Groupware. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2015). DOI=10.1145/2998181.2998226.

BibTeX

@article {485-looking-away,
author= {Carl Gutwin and Scott Bateman and Ashley Coveney and Gaurav Arora},
title= {Looking Away and Catching Up: Dealing with Brief Attentional Disconnection in Synchronous Groupware},
booktitle= {Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2015)},
year= {2017}
}