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psychnology Tables of Contents: 010203040506070809101112

Psychnology 1

Editors:Luciano Gamberini; Giuseppe Riva; Anna Spagnolli
Standard No:ISSN 1720-7525
Links:www.psychnology.org | Table of Contents
  1. psychnology 2003 Volume 1 Issue 1
  2. psychnology 2003 Volume 1 Issue 2
  3. psychnology 2003 Volume 1 Issue 3
  4. psychnology 2003 Volume 1 Issue 4

psychnology 2003 Volume 1 Issue 1

Usability in Electronic Environments

Breakdown analysis in Virtual Reality usability evaluation BIBAPDFHTML 5-17
  Anna Spagnolli; Luciano Gamberini; Daniele Gasparini
It is a widely-supported tenet in human-computer interaction that the meaningful unit of analysis is not the technical device alone, but the technical device together with the person interacting with it; the reason is that what is a relevant property of a technology is only understandable with respect to the specific goals and resources activated during its usage. This basic reflection should also inspire the procedure followed to evaluate the usability of a technology, namely its efficiency and satisfaction for a specific class of users. The topic of this paper is precisely to describe a method developed in compliance with this observation and aimed at evaluating the usability of virtual environments.
   Two main requirements were set forth: first, the method should take the strong connection between humans and technology as its building block, by linking a property of the virtual environment to a particular use that makes that property relevant. To this goal, action has been placed at the center of the analysis; the functional properties of the VE are then observed in the general economy of users' interaction with the technology and the whole ensemble is the appropriate object of evaluation.
   Such 'action-based' approach (Gamberini, Spagnolli, 2002) is reminiscent of the Situated Action theory (Suchman, 1987) and Activity Theory (Nardi, ...); the former proposes a detailed analysis of the sequential interaction with the technology and provides a rich examination of the structure given to it by the users. The latter focuses more on specific phenomena, such as contradictions and breakdowns, identified by the evaluators; it allows to profit from data poor in comments and verbalizations, and to analyze the interaction with the technology from a structural and organizational level.
   As a second requisite for the method, we wanted it to benefit from the advantages of both approaches; thus we decided to concentrate on the breakdowns occurring during users' interaction with the VE but to study these episodes from a situated point of view. In our definition, breakdowns reveal an inappropriate interpretation of the possibilities for action offered by the virtual environment and are to be analyzed in their sequential, contextual unfolding. This version of breakdown analysis highlights the spontaneous, subjective problems in the use of a technology and connects them to specific aspects of users' action. It renews the ergonomic tradition of error studies (Reason, 1990; Rasmussen, 1980) with an ethnographic contamination, that pays attention to users' contextualized practices. It also suits the kind of data the interaction with a virtual environment is mostly made of, namely bodily action in a three-dimensional space. Few methods with these characteristics have been employed so far to analyze the interaction with the VE. After a brief introduction, the paper will describe the basics of this approach and illustrate them with instances from the evaluation of a virtual library.
Web Usability Revisited: A Situated Approach BIBAPDFHTML 18-27
  Giuseppe Riva
The lack of usability is a problem for developers and companies: different studies of user behavior on the Web find a low tolerance for unusable sites. There is a simple motivation for this behavior: on the Internet, switching costs -- how much effort it takes to switch from one provider to another -- are low. If you don't find what you want, the competition is only a couple of mouse clicks away.
   Nevertheless, if most people agree about the need of usable web sites, there are no general theories about how web usability should work. If we check the most influential books on this topic we found different usability guidelines coming from authors' experience but no general theories to justify them. The aim of this article is to defining the starting points of a web usability framework based on the viewpoint of ecological realism. The framing assumptions of this new approach are one form of a general theoretical stance, which can be called situativity theory, in which cognitive processes are analyzed as relations between agents and other systems.
Educational interaction in distance learning BIBAPDFHTML 28-38
  Marco Casarotti; Luca Filipponi; Luca Pieti; Riccardo Sartori
The basic definition of distance learning (DL) considers that the teacher and the students are separate in the spatial dimension and that this distance is filled by using technological resources.
   Recent technological developments, allowing an increasing level of interaction between users, have implicated a deep change in the educational system. Aim of these studies was to analyze the implementation of interaction in a DL system with one-way video and two-way audio channels and to investigate the effect of interaction on psychological variables. Final results suggest that the possibility of interaction in distance learning arouses a greater degree of attention, interest, participation, concentration, satisfaction and perceived efficacy. The distance modality with interaction takes his place at the intermediate level between the traditional face to face lesson and video-recorded lesson or distance learning without interaction. The possibility of interaction during the lesson is a basic factor for the success of a distance course.
Ethical aspects on children uses of IT BIBAPDFHTML 39-56
  Carlos Ruggeroni
This essay intends to analyse te ethical side of the relationship that children stablished when using Information Technology in their everyday lives. I will make a conceptual frame to focus in what is an ethical problem and what is not in this essay. Finally, bearing this in mind we can analyse most general topics as social isolation, competition and violence, individual responsibility and authorship.
   There is a huge bibliography about IT and society with diverse approaches and analyses, these phenomenon shows to some extent one characteristics of IT: rapid development and advances. The success of IT is obvious because it brings to society comfort and progress, but at the same time we embrace with enthusiasm this progress, other aspects of social life are influenced by IT like the ones mention above, which needs research.
   As rapid developments comes to be a structural component of technological advances systematic studies are, concomitantly, in constantly revision.
Virtual Unreality of Videogames BIBAPDFHTML 57-70
  Pietro Guardini
Beginning with an objection to the excessive emphasis on "realism" in videogames, the paper goes on to argue that realism may even be counterproductive. A number of detailed examples and counter-examples will be presented to describe the rationales used by game designers, which lead to what will be called here 'virtual unreality'.

psychnology 2003 Volume 1 Issue 2

Body in Cyberscape

From Cyborgs to Cyberbodies: The Evolution of the Concept of Techno-Body in Modern Medicine BIBAPDFHTML 75-86
  Andrea Gaggioli; Marco Vettorello; Giuseppe Riva
This paper focuses on the ways in which the introduction of technologies in modern medicine is changing collective notions of the body. In particular, it describes two popular and imaginative conceptualizations of the body that have been inspired by progresses made by medical technologies during last century: the cyborg, and the cyberbody.
   Although these two models stem from the same post-modern philosophical "post-body", "post-biological," or "post-human" visions, they are characterized by a fundamental distinction. While the cyborg, at least in its original conception, is linked to the "wild wired world", the world of cells, neurons, blood and biological processes, the cyberbody can be defined as a wireless, inorganic entity, made of pure bits of information. However, both definitions assume that people no longer has a direct "sense of body", but a mediated sense of body. Further steps in this direction may be determined by the emerging technological paradigm of Ambient Intelligence. In this vision, people will be surrounded by intelligent and intuitive interfaces embedded in everyday objects around us and an environment recognizing and responding to the presence of individuals in an invisible way by year 2010. Although the Ambient Intelligence scenario is still in an early phase of development, it is somehow predictable that technological innovations that this paradigm will bring into medicine are likely to foster the production of a new collective notion of the body based on the "digital me": a virtual reality representation of the patient as a virtual person, integrating all the diagnostic and clinical information of the patient into a single record continuous across time. In addition to explore this perspective from a theoretical viewpoint, implications for medical practice are discussed.
/WHOIS? Identity: Collectivity and the Self in IRC BIBAPDFHTML 87-130
  Aaron Alzola Romero
Cyberspace challenges our traditional cultural understandings of notions as basic as time, space, and-more importantly-identity. With the advent and growth of electronic communication, it is becoming increasingly necessary to ask ourselves who we actually are and who we are interacting with when we are on-line. This article focuses on a case-study from the IRC chat room #rudos (Undernet), and poses the question of whether cyberspace is quite simply a powerful means of reaffirming pre-established Physical-Reality identities, or, on the contrary, a medium that allows for the creation of Virtual-Reality personae. Drawing on examples from casual conversations extracted from our emic ethnographic approach, the project soon revealed that the traditional dichotomous separation between reality and virtuality is not quite as clear-cut as many would have originally assumed.
Display Techniques and Methods for Cross-medial Data Analysis BIBAPDFHTML 131-140
  Luciano Gamberini; Anna Spagnolli
Various kinds of resources (physical, digital, local, far), settings (real and mediated, single or multiuser) and mediating tools are simultaneously active during the interaction with digital environments. In conducting research on human-computer interaction is then vital to work with cross-medial data collections, namely with data which derive from different collection procedures addressing various aspects of the interaction and which are combined according to an overarching methodological rationale.
   The present paper intends to describe some techniques for the collection and displaying of cross-media data, integrating them with some methodological considerations. Three procedures will be illustrated, namely the split-screen technique, that allows the synchronized visualization of different environments on the same screen; the action indicator augmented display, that allows to enrich the visual recording with signals notifying the occurrence of a particular event; the pentagram, which allows to transcribe multiple sequences of events in their reciprocal temporal relationship. The basic characteristic of these techniques are described and illustratively applied to the interaction with virtual environments.
The EMMA Project: Emotions as a Determinant of Presence BIBAPDFHTML 141-150
  Mariano Alcaizi; Rosa Banos; Cristina Botella; Beatriz Rey
So far, scientific literature has paid attention to the cognitive and environmental determinants of presence, trying to offer a definition and assessment measures that could seize such an elusive concept. However, the emotional determinants of presence have received less attention. Emotional responses could play a key role in generating and enhancing presence, specially for some Virtual Reality (VR) applications, such as mental health field (both for promotion and treatment goals). The main goal of EMMA project -- a European Community funded research project (IST-2001-39192) -- is to study the relationships between presence and emotions. In particular, after analyzing the possible emotional impact of high compelling synthetic experiences characterized by a high level of presence, the EMMA project wants to develop "mood devices" able to induce different forms of mood enhancement.
Optimization of computer presented information for left-handed observers BIBAPDFHTML 151-163
  Cecilia Sikne Lanyi
An experiment was conducted to test the hypothesis that left- and right-handed people -- due to differences in the cortical processing of the perceived information -- will respond differently if a signal is presented in the left or right peripheral visual zone. Experiments showed small differences between left- and right-handed people that could be partially traced back to differences between their motoric skills. Differences could be observed depending on the task (identification of letters, numbers, seeing pictograms).
   For the lay-out of a display window, however, the differences seem to be too small to justify developing separate screen lay-outs designed for the use of left-handed or right-handed people.
Testing Driver's Comfort in Virtual Environments BIBAPDFHTML 164-175
  Paolo Pretto; Sergio Roncato; Gennaro Monacelli; Luciano Gamberini
In this study, the comfort of the tools available to the driver are evaluated through the virtual simulation of a car interior on a TanoramaTM Powerwall. In a series of couple comparisons, 20 participants have been asked to judge both the visibility and the aesthetic pleasantness of a set of hazard buttons, differing in their coloration parameters. The results show that "visibility' has a direct influence on the perceived comfort, while aesthetic pleasantness has none. The easiness with which different prototypes can be produced and evaluated in an immersive simulation adds another argument to the application of virtual environments to vehicle engineering.

Review Paper

State of the Art of Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT) in Phobic Disorders BIBAPDFHTML 176-183
  Stephane Roy
Virtual reality (VR) offers today a new paradigm for human-computer interaction, in which users are no longer simply external observers of images on a computer screen, but active participants within a computer-generated three-dimensional world. Most of the psychological therapies carried out with the help of virtual reality rely on the principle of exposure. This review surveys the state of the art in the field of virtual reality therapy (VRT). After we have presented what is VR and some pilot studies, stakes and limits of the utilization of VR in psychotherapy will be discussed.

psychnology 2003 Volume 1 Issue 3

Future Interfaces

The Exploratorium: An Environment To Explore Your Feelings BIBAPDFHTML 189-201
  E. L. Waterworth; M. Hiaggkvist; K. Jalkanen; S. Olsson; J. Waterworth; H. Wimelius
The Exploratorium is a virtual environment within which immersants can explore both places and feelings. The "narrative" it implements is structural/architectural rather than linear/story telling. Different areas of the Exploratorium present different experiences: scary, normally busy, or very calm. At the same time, the Exploratorium as a whole is fundamentally safe, a self-contained play area. Immersants are free explore the different areas, under their own control. Navigation is by means of the Body Joystick, using only breath and balance. Using balance for movement and turning feels natural, like riding a bike, flying, or skating. Using breath control maps naturally onto vertical navigation, as in diving and snorkelling. Physiological changes induced by breathing patterns are reinforced by mood changes induced by moving from one zone to another, creating a form of "psycho-feedback by navigation". The goal of the Exploratorium is to stimulate curiosity, leading to navigation and a consequent sense of control and empowerment, at the same time as the user experiences, explores and investigates her own feelings and emotions.
Eye tracking study on Web-use: Comparison between younger and elderly users in case of search task with electronic timetable service BIBAPDFHTML 202-228
  R. Fukuda; H. Bubb
The World Wide Web provides a variety of information and services, however, its usability is still under discussion. In order to clarify concrete difficulties in Web use, the behavior of younger and elderly users was observed with eye tracking during a timetable search task using electronic timetable systems on the Web. The result shows on the one hand common difficulties for younger and elderly users caused by an inconvenient navigational structure and an inappropriate page design. On the other hand, several important differences between the two age groups are confirmed. It suggests the necessity of particular consideration for elderly users in Web design.
The Vista Project*: Broadening Access To Digital TV Electronic Programme Guides BIBAPDFHTML 229-241
  A. Carmichael; H. Petrie; F. Hamilton; J. Freeman
VISTA is a multidisciplinary/cross-sectoral project aimed at developing a 'virtual assistant' embodying a speech based interface between digital television viewers and the content and functions of an electronic programme guide (EPG). While it is anticipated that the resulting interface will make EPG access easier for all, the main target groups are visually impaired (VI) and older viewers who experience disproportionate difficulty using currently popular GUI style EPGs.
   Despite their great potential for improved usability, speech interfaces are unlikely to prove the 'universal panacea' some anticipate. Rather they raise a host of new human factors issues. For example, current technology disallows a truly 'conversational' interface, thus a structured dialogue is required which raises issues about keeping users 'on-script' (e.g. prompts and other additional support) and providing efficient routes to the information users require. Many of the VI population are elderly and thus also have hearing problems which emphasizes the intelligibility of the synthetic speech output. Qualitative results are presented from iterative evaluations involving (non-VI) elderly users and a wide age range of VI users of a PC based prototype designed to be compatible with digital broadcast technology.
User Interface Tactics in Ontology-Based Information Seeking BIBAPDFHTML 242-255
  E. Garcia; M. A. Sicilia
Ontology-based information seeking is one of the most promising approaches to enhance existing search interfaces with features enabling users to better express their information needs or to improve exploratory search styles. This entails the interaction of users with concepts and relations embodied in ontologies in a dialogue process that can be interpreted as a query or used as a sign to suggest other paths that could lead to casual encounters. In this paper, we describe a number of ontology-enabled search tactics that have been experienced in prototype experiments, along with other possible techniques that would eventually be useful, as pointed out by existing research on information seeking models.
Feedback In The Virtual Environment BIBAPDFHTML 256-282
  Vera Lucia Menezes de Oliveira e Paiva
In this paper, I intend to discuss the role of feedback in interactions in a virtual environment along with the various ways it is manifested, as much within human-to-machine interactions as among members of a virtual community, giving emphasis to feedback in discussion groups for educational purposes. This discussion will be followed by an attempt to classify the main types of feedback found in data collected in virtual classes, which were divided into two categories: evaluative and interactional. The names cited in the examples are all fictitious to protect the students' anonymity. Unchanged names are only the undergraduate course teaching assistant's and my own name. All the students have authorized the use of their messages and the original forms were kept.
Presence in the environment: theories, methodologies and applications to video games BIBAPDFHTML 283-309
  Xavier Retaux
Many authors maintain in their work that the presence feeling in the virtual universe only survives if the player is unaware of the technical interference. The technical system is a mediation between the subject body and the virtual environment. There are many ways to theorise this mediation and therefore many types of explanations given to explain the fact that the user is no longer aware of the technical system. The more common is the "immersion theory". This is a technical theory. We propose a more psychological theory based on activity theories. We think that the transparency of the mediation appears with the subject practise and the increase of it.
   We propose a new methodology to assess the feeling of presence to show that this feeling varies during the activity.
   We don't find that the more a subject is experienced the more he feels present. We discuss this result and conclude that there's a complex relation between the feeling pf presence and the transparency of the mediation.
   We find that the feeling of presence varies according to the activity. This second result can't be explained by the theory of immersion. This result support our proposition but we need more results to conclude.
Virtual Reality based tools for the rehabilitation of cognitive and executive functions: the V-STORE BIBAPDFHTML 310-325
  G. Castelnuovo; C. Lo Priore; D. Liccione; G. Cioffi
Cognitive rehabilitation is represented by the application of a lot of procedures in order to enhance development of skills and strategies necessary to overcome cognitive deficits. Computer-based tools can be fruitfully used in the assessment and rehabilitation of cognitive and executive functions. In particular Virtual Reality could play a key role in the rehabilitation of psychological functions due to a creation of synthetic environments where it is possible to carry on tasks very similar to the ones experienced in real contexts. After an analysis of the main characteristics and open issues of the PC and VR based cognitive rehabilitation, the major aim of this paper is to describe: a) the rationale for the use of Virtual Reality in this field and b) some VR tools (V-Store, V-Tol, V-Wcst) used with a particular category of dysfunction, the Dysexecutive Syndrome, typical of the patients with frontal lobe injuries and other neurological diseases. In particular the description of V-Store is provided.

psychnology 2003 Volume 1 Issue 4

Future Interfaces

User adaptive BCIs: SSVEP and P300 based interfaces BIBAPDFHTML 331-354
  F. Beverina; G. Palmas; S. Silvoni; F. Piccione; S. Giove
Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI) represent a new communication option for those suffering from neuromuscular impairment that prevents them from using conventional augmented communication methods. This new approach has been developing quickly during the last few years, thanks to the increasing of computational power and the new algorithms for signal processing (Independent Component Analysis, Wavelets decomposition, Support Vector Machine etc.) that can be applied to the studies made on brain waves. Here follows two methodologies of approach based on making the computer adapt to the human brain activity and not vice-versa. The P300 and the SSVEP based BCIs, here presented, have the characteristics of not demanding specific training to the user.
Helping Viewers Press the Right Buttons: Generating Intuitive Labels for Digital Terrestrial TV remote controls BIBAPDFHTML 355-377
  J. Lessiter; J. Freeman; R. Davis; A. Dumbreck
This paper describes a four phase research study into the ease of use of DTT (digital terrestrial television) remote controls, focusing on button labelling. The aim was to identify intuitive remote control button labels, thereby enhancing the ease of use of DTT remote controls. In phase 1, a series of brainstorming (discussion) groups was run involving members of the British public to generate intuitive button labels for a variety of DTT functions. The second phase involved expert screening of these labels. The revised lists of labels for the functions tested were then compiled into a questionnaire and distributed to members of the general public in phase 3. Respondents were asked to rank order their favourite labels for each function. The final phase involved exploring the extent to which the subjective preferences derived from the results of phase 3 mapped onto viewers' behavioural responses. Key measures explored included the speed and accuracy of correct button label identification. Generally, the results revealed close correspondence between the subjective preference data and behavioural responses. Whilst these results suggest that subjective preferences for labels are reasonable indicators of behavioural proficiency, we recommend that behavioural measures also be collected where possible. The approach reported here with reference to remote control button labels can be applied to a wide range of interactive media products and services.
Software Design and Evaluation by Ergonomics Knowledge and Intelligent Design System (EKIDES) BIBAPDFHTML 378-390
  I. Jastrzebska-Fraczek; H. Bubb
The database system EKIDES (Ergonomics Knowledge and Intelligent Design System) assists designers of technical systems, equipment, products and workplaces to meet ergonomic requirements for all system components and their interactions during the planning, development and subsequent design and blueprint processes. EKIDES is a design tool in form of an electronic reference system and an evaluation tool for work places and products.
   The ergonomic tests can be carried out by using the Basic, Consulting or Product Modules of EKIDES. Furthermore, if the required measurement equipment is not available, or if a qualitative task or product analysis is sufficient, the module Checklist may be used.
Evaluating Collaboration and Core Competence in a Virtual Enterprise BIBAPDFHTML 391-399
  R. Breite; H. Vanharanta
During the Spring of 2000 and Autumn 2000 and 2001 students with a bachelor's degree in engineering participated in an estimation which was intended to investigate the possibilities to manage a virtual company by means of collaboration. The test subjects developed a virtual company operating on the Internet with suppliers available on the Internet. The test subjects' satisfaction and perception of the estimation were solicited. The task was complex, but taking into consideration the test subjects' background, their degree in engineering, as well as their several years of industrial experience, these students, if any, should have the capabilities to manage the task given and thus provide us with some valuable information about the possibilities of collaboration and virtuality in the Internet.
A Case Study for Reaching Web Accessibility Guidelines for the Hearing-Impaired BIBAPDFHTML 400-409
  Miki Namatame; Makuto Kobayashi; Akira Harada
This research is a case study, but it has the possibility to make Web Accessibility guidelines for the hearing-impaired. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines by W3C suggests "Provide non-text equivalents of text". We suppose this guideline is applicable to the hearing-impaired people. Our research expanded W3C's guidelines to specify that the "non text equivalents" convey a significant meaning about the contents accurately. We performed experiments and considered how different web designs effected WEB accessibility of people with different disabilities. We recorded the operation flow and the length of stay on each page as well as eye tracking and mouse movement. We found some differences between non-impaired and hearing-impaired people in this experiment. We have considered that two user types exist Text-oriented for the non-impaired vs. picture-oriented for the hearing-impaired. We formed hypothetic Web Accessibility Guidelines for the hearing-impaired people based on this case study.
Virtual Realisation: Supporting Creative Outcomes in Medicine and Music BIBAPDFHTML 410-427
  John A. Waterworth
In this article, I describe findings on the impact of virtual realisation on professional skills and creativity, based on observational studies and interviews with surgeons and musicians. I also present a vision of computer-supported creativity in terms of a modular set of virtual and augmented-reality environments based around an explicit model of the creative process. I suggest that by combining these two types of study, the potential of virtual realisation technology can be utilised in a way that transcends physical distinctions of time and place, while reinforcing the cognitive distinctions that are essential for the generation of creative outcomes.