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Videocommunications as a medium for informal communication?

: Suwita, A.; Muhlbach, L.

Nordby, K.:
Human Factors in Telecommunications. 16th International Symposium : Oslo, Norway, May 12 - 16, 1997
Oslo, 1997
International Symposium on Human Factors in Telecommunications (HFT) <16, 1997, Oslo>
Conference Paper
Fraunhofer HHI ()
internet; teleworking; visual communication; videocommunications; informal communication; telecommunication systems; user requirements; video channel; text communication; internet relay chat; irc

By "informal communication" we mean that kind of communication that occurs spontaneously and often coincidentally, as an example, on the office floor or in the course of a coffee break of a meeting or congress. In order to derive user requirements for telecommunication systems that support informal communication, we study the nature of informal communication by means of an interview study with people from different working areas. Our results show, inter alia, that informal communication fulfils many important functions within the process of work. Informal communication is rather short and usually only two interlocutors are involved (sometimes three or four and rather seldom more). Contrary to our expectations, informal communication occurs not necessarily by coincidence: sometimes the interlocutors "push the coincidence". Concerning the suitability of videocommunications as a medium for informal communication most of our interviewees had doubts whether a video channel would be a good solution in any case; under some circumstances even text seems to be a good choice. In order to explore some of our conclusions regarding text communication we carried out a small-scale field trial using Internet Relay Chat (IRC).