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Title: Designing communication systems that work
Author: Parker , Aaron Mark
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2011
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Developments in computer-mediated communications are changing the way people communicate. Yet for every system that succeeds, many others fail. The failure of seemingly superior systems, such as the Picturephone, and success of simpler ones, such as Twitter, have challenged common-sense notions of what makes for a successful communications system. This thesis proposes that computer-mediated communication systems should not be compared relative to the quality of the communicative cues they transmit. Instead, they should be viewed relative to their ability to offer channels of communication that may be creatively repurposed to compensate for restrictions. Together with a new tool for enquiry, termed the integrative framework, it is proposed that needs and trade-offs occur across four interrelated levels. These four levels are the task, the group, the self, and the system. Studies 1 and 2 applied the integrative framework to a new form of high-quality videoconferencing called telepresence. Anecdotal evidence suggested that users were enthusiastic towards these systems, unlike with standard videoconferencing products. In Study 1, user interviews supported this and also provided evidence that users were adapting the system for activities it was not designed. An investigation into the effects of system latency on collaboration by telepresence followed in Study 2. Again, results were atypical of videoconferencing, suggesting that telepresence offers mechanisms through which the effects of latency can be mitigated. Studies 3, 4 and 5 investigated the use of paralanguage (operationalised as the unusual informal elements of written language) in text-based communications as an example where users adapt to the restrictions of a medium. In Study 3, it was discovered that users of a virtual world utilised paralanguage extensively, even in a formal context. Through grounded theory it was discovered that paralanguage had a self-presentation role. In Study 5, the association of para language with the levels of the integrative framework was investigated. Associations were discovered, highlighting the users' role in improving restrictive media. The thesis extends the theoretical understanding of computer mediated communication by demonstrating that users engage in compensatory behaviour to adapt to system restrictions. It also introduces the integrative framework as a tool for the design and evaluation of effective communication systems.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available