Fragmented interaction: establishing mutual orientation in virtual environments

Hindmarsh, J., Fraser, M., Heath, C., Benford, S., and Greenhalgh, C. Fragmented interaction: establishing mutual orientation in virtual environments. In CSCW ’98: Proceedings of the 1998 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work (New York, NY, USA, 1998), ACM Press, pp. 217–226. [pdf]


The authors of this work reports a detailed analysis of the interactions of participants in Collaborative Virtual Environments (CVE). One of the most important limitations of such interaction spaces is that individuals could not easily determine what a participant was referring to. The problem derived from the difficulty in re-connecting an image of the other with the image of the object they were referring.

Object-focused discussions are problematic due to the ‘fragmentation’ of different elements of the workspace. In co-present interaction, when an individual asks a co-participant to look at an object at which they are pointing, that co-participant can usually see them in relation to their surroundings.  This is problematic in virtual interactions as participants have to re-assemble the relations between body and object.

Participants observed by the authors tended to overcome these limitation making the implicit references more explicit. Instead of saying: “what do you know about this” they would say: “See this sofa here?”.

Major problems of this technology are a limited horizontal field of view; a lack of information about others’ actions; slow movements; and a lack of parallelism for actions.

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