Project: NYNEX Portholes and PortholesTNG (demo).
Concept: We took the Xerox Portholes idea beyond the analog and specialized setup to a broader, distributed and heterogeneous setup in order to determine how cross-organizational and non-tightly established work groups would use video-based awareness tools and how such tools need to be designed for widespread adoption. The work was carried out in three areas:
Research: Through naturalistic observations, interviews, and focus groups studies in the course of deploying NYNEX Portholes (Web-based version of Xerox Portholes) to various work groups, we gained an understanding of the broader social context of use of such technologies, the social issues related to adoption of such technologies, and the implications on user interface design. This understanding was translated into a set of critical socio-technical properties (e.g., reciprocity, awareness of audience, privacy, and user control) that must be addressed in design of such tools in order for widespread adoption of such tools.
Design: The socio-technical properties and issues helped to drive a new user interface design to Portholes (PortholesTNG) that accommodates user concerns and expectations of such tools when situated within a work practice and social setting. The new designs made explicit to the users that use of video-based awareness tools placed them in a public setting. To reinforce this, the designs used a theater setting to give the users a sense of being in public; that is, others can see them just as they can see others. The theater screen layout also provides a context for displaying and reflecting social information to all users.
Implementation: We exploited digital video and Web technologies and standards to create Web-based Portholes known as NYNEX Portholes to support distributed work groups in multiple workplace settings. The NYNEX Portholes Viewer (displaying video images of one's work-group and refreshed periodically) was implemented as set of CGI Perl scripts and CGI C programs. Separate platform-dependent applications were created for capturing digital videos from each work-group member's camera and for uploading the images to Web server using the HTTP protocol. GIF and JPEG libraries were used to create the video images and graphic information. Using the Web framework also enabled us to leverage the myriad of collaborative tools that users were using (e.g., video conferencing) and mitigate the need to create our own versions of such tools. In PortholesTNG, the Portholes Viewer was implemented as a Java 1.1 applet that obtained individual video images and assembled them in one of three screen layouts (i.e., two variants of theater setting and the third in the original matrix format).
Deployment: Several internal NYNEX groups as well as several external university collaborators from March 1995 November 1997.
Status: PortholesTNG is released in limited numbers through open-source license (e.g., University of California, Irvine).
Principals: Done in collaboration with Andreas Girgensohn (NYNEX S&T), Kevin Schlueter (U of Toronto), and Thea Turner (NYNEX S&T). Project lead with significant role in the design, implementation, and evaluation work.
Work Conducted: March 1995 November 1997.