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Social Dynamics Can Be Distorted in Video-Mediated Communication Wei Huang, Judy Olson, Gary Olson Collaboratory for Research on Electronic Work (CREW) School of Information, University of Michigan Overview Problems Review of Aspects of Social Dynamics Physical context Proximity Height

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social dynamics can be distorted in video mediated communication

Social Dynamics Can Be Distorted in Video-Mediated Communication

Wei Huang, Judy Olson, Gary Olson

Collaboratory for Research on Electronic Work (CREW)

School of Information, University of Michigan

  • Problems
  • Review of Aspects of Social Dynamics
    • Physical context
    • Proximity
    • Height
  • Experiment
  • Results
  • Discussion & Implications
  • Motivation – video technologies are not fully accepted and satisfied, WHY?
    • Enthusiastic about video technologies
    • “Despite Advances, Video Still a One-Way Channel” (American Banker; Dec 2000, Quinn)
  • Mixed results on VMC research
    • Video + audio add little audio-only communication on cognitive tasks (Chapanis, 1975, 1972, etc)
    • Video helps when
      • People have very little common ground (Veinott et al, 1998)
      • Tasks involve negotiation (Short et al, 1976)
theoretical perspective
Theoretical perspective
  • Whittaker (1999, 1997) non-verbal communication that visual channel supports
    • Cognitive cues to determine the other’s understanding;
      • head nods, visual attention
    • Turn-taking cues to support conversation mgmt process;
      • head turning, posture, eye gaze
    • Social or affective cues that reveal the other’s emotional state and interpersonal attitudes;
      • facial expression, posture, eye gaze
theoretical grounding interpersonal communication
Theoretical grounding:Interpersonal communication
  • First impressions formed based on outward appearance cues
    • age, gender, race, ethnicity, body shape, height, dress etc.
  • This includes a rapid categorization process and an activation of social schemas (Jones, 1990)
    • We make assumptions
    • Impressions formed later are reinforced or modified
    • Initial impressions form baseline comparison which help to make proper inferences and causal attributions, which affects the dynamics of interpersonal communication (Heider, 1958)
distortion in vmc
Distortion in VMC
  • Video systems don’t provide the full array of visual cues as in FtF interactions (Fussell et al, 1995)
    • Physical context is blocked out
      • traditional “talking heads” VC systems only show the shoulder and head and fill the image on the screen
    • Titled perspective and direct eye-contact impossible
      • Desktop VC systems have to place the camera on either top, bottom, the side of the monitor
this study
This study
  • Extends Whittaker’s non-verbal communication
    • suggests that visual channel provides appearance and physical context cues with which people form impressions of others, which affect people’s behavior.
  • Focuses on three factors
    • Physical context cues on video
    • Interpersonal distance on video
    • Apparent height
physical context
Physical context
  • In FtF interaction
    • includes setting of human communication, objects and people
    • Cues from the physical context help people perceive precisely the size of an object (Walsh et al, 1998).
  • VMC
    • Physical context is often blocked out (Mantei et al, (1991)
  • Hall (1966) - a person’s structuring and perception of space
proximity in ftf interaction
Proximity in FtF interaction
  • Equilibrium of interpersonal distance (Argyle et al, 1960s)
  • Interpersonal distance is often influenced by age, gender, race and culture
    • M-M > M-F > F-F (Rosegrant, 1973)
    • Arabian males keep very close distance (Hall, 1966)
    • Same ages < different ages (Pedersen, 1973)
proximity in vmc
Proximity in VMC
  • Different from that in FtF (Heath, et al, 1991)
    • Threat and occupation of space is attenuated
    • Accessibility of nonverbal cues varies according to camera zoom
  • VMC prototypes
    • MAJIC: Too far away: “Can you hear me?” instead of “Hello” (Okada et al, 1994)
    • Clearboard: Too close, not appropriate for strangers or people at different level (Ishii et al, 1993).
height in ftf interaction
Height in FtF interaction
  • Tall people are believed to enjoy higher status, dominance and power (Ellis, 1994).
  • Height is positively related to social esteem, leader emergence, performance, income. (Judge et al, 2004, to be appeared in JAP)
  • Height - a predictor of social dominance and academic success (Hensley, 1993)
    • Asst Prof. 1.24” taller,
    • Assoc Prof. 1.50” taller,
    • Full Prof. 1.97” taller,
    • Chair 2.14” taller than average Americans of the same age and gender
height camera angle in video
Height/camera angle in video
  • Perception of height can be manipulated by camera angles
  • TV/Film production
    • Low angle = Superior
    • High angle = Inferior (Giannetti, 1973, 1999)
purpose of this study
Purpose of this study
  • Examine apparent height effect in video-mediated communication, emphasize
    • Negotiation: Group decision-making
    • Interaction and influence measures
    • Impressions of the others
  • We do that by
    • Manipulating the camera angle and monitor placement
    • Manipulating the camera zoom.
  • Apparent height effect
    • The apparently tall person (that is created by artificially placing the camera lower) is more influential in the decision-making than is the apparently short person (created by artificially placing the camera higher).
    • The visibility of the physical context (that is manipulated by zooming in or out the camera) helps people to make judgments of the other’s height, and thus the more the context on the screen, the stronger the apparent height effect.
experiment design
Experiment Design
  • 2 x 2 (between-dyad)
    • Monitor distance – one side: far (6 ft) vs. close (2 ft)
    • Camera zoom: in or out
    • Dyad: camera angle at high or low (+/- 28o)
  • Group decision-making: Arctic Survival Task
    • Crash landing in inhospitable Artic area
    • Expert ranking
    • Individual ranking of 15 items
    • Group ranking of 15 items
experiment design cont
Experiment Design Cont.
  • Measures
    • Individual task influence
      • the difference between one’s individual ranking and the group ranking. So the lower the score, the higher the influence
    • Perceived influence: Self-reported influence in post-test survey
    • Impressions of self & the other - Dominance Scale (Burgoon et al, 1992)
  • Subject
    • White Americans
    • Male
    • 18 – 35 years old
    • 196 subjects


  • 3 4

5 6

  • 7 8
summary of findings
Summary of Findings
  • When monitor was placed at far distance and camera was zoomed out, there produced a significant height effect. Hypothesis is partially supported.
  • Impressions - Both apparently tall and short persons rated themselves more influential than they rated their partners.
  • Finding
    • We did find that apparently tall person was and was perceived more influential in the group decision-making task only when more physical context was presented and monitor and camera was placed farther away and higher.
  • Apparent height effect
    • Monitor & camera have to be placed farther away & higher – apparently tall person has to be very tall.
    • Task-oriented communication reduced the use of visual channel.
implications and future work
Implications and future work
  • May impact more directly on tasks like distant interview over video where task itself involves interpersonal perception and judgment
  • In the future, plan to conduct conversation/language analysis and nonverbal communication analysis
  • Other factors such as screen size, lighting, camera horizontal angle, room objects are potentially important for distance collaboration.