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Telematic Dining: A Live Performance?

Conference Paper

Telematic Dining: A Live Performance?

Abstract and Figures

There is an increasing desire for individuals to connect through computer-mediated communication. In particular, there is a growing trend of applications aspiring to support a sense of togetherness in social and leisure settings. Drawing on this public trend, performative arts and existing telecommunications research, we identify the social practice of sharing a meal together as ripe for reinterpretation in the network space. We explore the opportunities to design a technology platform that supports remote guests in experiencing togetherness and playfulness within the practices of a traditional dinner party. Through both visual and aural channels as well as remote agency, the dinner guests were able to share a holistic telematic dining experience comparable to a traditional copresence dinner. We report the findings of four telematic dinner parties.
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Telematic Dining: A Live Performance?
Abstract
There is an increasing desire for individuals to connect
through computer-mediated communication. In
particular, there is a growing trend of applications
aspiring to support a sense of togetherness in social
and leisure settings. Drawing on this public trend,
performative arts and existing telecommunications
research, we identify the social practice of sharing a
meal together as ripe for reinterpretation in the
network space. We explore the opportunities to design
a technology platform that supports remote guests in
experiencing togetherness and playfulness within the
practices of a traditional dinner party. Through both
visual and aural channels as well as remote agency, the
dinner guests were able to share a holistic telematic
dining experience comparable to a traditional co-
presence dinner. We report the findings of four
telematic dinner parties.
Author Keywords
Telematic dinner party; Liveness; Togetherness; Social
structure; Casual group collaboration; Remote agency.
ACM Classification Keywords
H.5.3 Group and Organization Interfaces.
General Terms
Design.
Copyright is held by the author/owner(s).
CHI’12, May 510, 2012, Austin, Texas, USA.
ACM 978-1-4503-1016-1/12/05.
Pollie Barden
Queen Mary University of London
Media and Arts Technology
Programme.
Mile End Road,
London E1 4NS, UK
p.barden@eecs.qmul.ac.uk
Rob Comber
Culture Lab, Newcastle University,
Grand Assembly Rooms,
King's Walk,
Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU,
UK
robert.comber@newcastle.ac.uk
Nick Bryan-Kinns
Queen Mary University of London
Media and Arts Technology
Programme.
Mile End Road,
London E1 4NS, UK
nick.bryan-kinns@eecs.qmul.ac.uk
Tony Stockman
Queen Mary University of London
Media and Arts Technology
Programme.
Mile End Road,
London E1 4NS, UK
tony.stockman@eecs.qmul.ac.uk
Patrick Olivier
Culture Lab, Newcastle University,
Grand Assembly Rooms,
King's Walk,
Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU,
UK
Patrick.Olivier@newcastle.ac.uk
Figure 1: Images from each of the four
dinner parties..
Introduction
There has been a recent call in HCI [2] for new
approaches to the design of technology for and around
food to consider, among others, the creativity,
togetherness, pleasure and playfulness, associated with
food and meal time. The dinner party takes shape from
the traditional family meal [7] but stands apart for its
introduction of playfulness and performance, and for
the particular and deliberate sense of togetherness
outside the family.
Although meals have traditionally been a site for
togetherness, with increasing individual mobility and
demands from work and social life, the prevalence of
commensality is on the wane. Individuals and families
have sought to respond to this by utilizing
videoconferencing tools to ‘share’ meals with remote
family, friends and even for romantic dates [8]. This
crafted togetherness mirrors the tradition of the dinner
party, where guests share meals for the specific
celebration of togetherness. Thus, we question what it
means to celebrate togetherness apart.
Taking the domestic trend of videoconferencing meals
as a point of departure, we utilized telematic
technologies to facilitate two remote groups of guests
to feel as if they are dining together. Telematics are the
technology systems that provide the means for people
to connect, such as, videoconferencing, telephones,
etc. [1]. Rather than examining the technological
affordances of such systems, we explore the sense of
togetherness of remotely located guests attending a
dinner party. [See Figure 1]
Background
The performance arts have explored the combined
spaces of liveness and telematics in particular through
the medium of dance [3]. In the 1960s, Roy Ascott, the
British pioneer of telematic art, set the vision for
telematic-based art as a shared activity among the
participants where there is no separation between the
audience and the performers. His telematic work
transformed the viewer into an active participant whose
actions contributed to the creation of the performance
[3]. He referred to this breakdown between audience
and performer as engaging in “both dance and an
embrace”. For Ascott, telematics-based experiences
were performances that no longer needed an observing
audience [3].
Jeff Mann and Michelle Teran responded to Ascott’s call
through their 2001 LiveForm:Telekinetics project, a
networked performance of a telematic dinner party. The
piece explores “transgeographic temporary
performance zones” that were intended to escape the
audience performer paradigm by activating everyday
objects as networked agents” [6]. The dinner was
comprised of interactive devices: networked wine
glasses, saltshakers, and tabletop video projections.
While this performance was situated around food, it
was more of a celebration of the technological feats of
the networked objects than an attempt at supporting
the guests in sharing a dining experience..
The Telematic Dinner Party (TDP)
In the Telematic Dinner Party, we explore liveness by
utilizing a multimodal technology platform to craft a
holistic dining experience that provides the opportunity
for multiple social interaction among remote guests.
Figure 2: : Setup for gathering space and
dining area. Local and remote guests are
integrated through tabletop projections,
lavaliere microphone and speakers.
The TDP series seeks to facilitate the connection
between two remote groups of guests through the
incorporation of synchronous overlaid video recording
and projection between spaces, individual audio
recording and playback and networked turntables.
Dinner guests are seated at a round table, with local
and remote guests at alternating seats. [See Figure 2]
Design of the Telematic Dinner Party
The dinner parties connected two remote groups of 3
people for a total of six guests. Each table was occupied
by six guests, three that are local and three remotely
located. The remote guests were visually present at the
table via video projected on to the tabletop. Aurally,
guests were channeled via their lavaliere microphone
mapped to a speaker in their respective chair. The
setup aimed to support the guests in sharing a single
dining experience across distance. [See Figure 3]
We identified turntables as a device that was designed
for dining. A set of two networked turntables (Lazy
Susans) were conceived and developed. The networked
turntables were given a simple goal of coordinating
their locations. When a guest manually rotated their
turntable, the ‘remote’ other turntable, in automation
mode, would rotate to match the new position [See
Figure 4].
The guests communicated through the audio channels
and interacted with each other through the tabletop
video projections. The networked turntables extended
their reach by providing a means for remote agency.
Playful Dining
Huizinga proposes that we recognize play as a separate
occupation from everyday life, that occurs within a
defined time and place, and engaging a restricted circle
of players [5]. The act of guests gathering around a
dining table creates a “magic circle” [5], a celebratory
aside from the mundane activity of eating. Coined by
Huizinga, the term ‘magic circle refers to an informal
space where all the participants agree to the rules of
engagement of interaction. Dining etiquette provides a
base structure of rules of engagement among guests.
Over the course of a meal, etiquette can be broken and
redefined as long as this is accepted by the other
guests and does not break the social dynamic.
In the TDP’s we define Playfulness as an attention
seeking action that intended to infuse levity into the
event. It can involve both inter-personal interaction and
interaction with the environment. We observed
playfulness through the act of teasing.
Teasing is the participant(s) using the turntables and/or
the video projections to invoke a humorous exchange
by either keeping the remote guests from obtaining
food from the turntables ortouching” the video
projections of the food.
The guests engaged in play with the networked
turntables and the tabletop projections. The tabletop
projections provided a means for guests to “touch”
remote guests. The guests capitalized on their dual
presence of physical and as a mirage through teasing
with remote guests. The most popular activity was
touching another’s video projected food. As a
projection, one could not act upon an object; however,
one could provoke a reaction. The touching of another’s
food would have been perceived as rude in a traditional
dinner party.
Figure 3: Guests presence physical and
figure remotely through tabletop projections
and audio channels. .
Figure 4: The Gadgeteer, Microsoft’s open
source hardware prototyping platform,
underneath the Lazy Susan. When the
remote turntable is turned, the turntable is
rotated to a matching position on the color
gradient.
The networked turntables were utilized as teasers in all
the dinners. They used the turntables to either offer or
deny food to the remote guests. This action was
occasionally equally disruptive to the guests physically
sitting at the table.
“[Turntables do] work and if [a remote guest] got
carried away turning them and you wanted to get the
last bit of food, they would keep moving it away.”
guest M.
Guest reported the turntables providing the most sense
of “connection” between each other. Their level of
engagement with the turntables may be a response to
the rigor of dining; the turntables enforced the duality
of the guests’ presence through improvised agency in
the local and remote space [See Figure 5].
We noted, that guests only “played” with projected food
and none touch the food of any of their physically
presence guests. Likewise, the disruptive teasing with
the turntables was received as playful instead of rude.
The guests appeared to be aware they were interacting
on two levels each with their own set of protocol.
“[It] Felt [like there] were two layers of interactions.
Sometimes we went up and down together and when
only one went down and that was odd. “ Guest J.
Conclusion
The TDP platform supported ritual of dinning while
allowing the guests the flexibility to experiment with
play and interaction outside the protocol of a traditional
dinner party. Through tabletop projections, audio
channels and network turntables all guests reported
moments of feeling they were dining together despite
physical distance. Within the frame of liveness, the
TDPs may be space that smudges distinctions between
performance and everyday activities.
Acknowledgements
The TDPs could not have happened without the support
of Furtherfield, London; Culture Lab, Newcastle;
Telenoika, Barcelona, and ITP Camp, NYC. Thank you
to all the volunteers who participated in the dinners.
References
[1] Andriessen, J. H., and Roe, R. A. Telematics and
Work. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hove, UK, 1994.
[2] Bødker, S. When second wave HCI meets third
wave challenges. In Proc. of NordiCHI 2006, ACM Press
(2006), 1-8.
[3] Giges, B. and Warburton, E.C. From Router to Front
Row:Lubricious Transfer and the Aesthetics of
Telematic Performance. LEONARDO, 43, 1, (2010), 24
32.
[4] Grimes, A., Harper, R. Celebratory technology: new
directions for food research in HCI. In Proc. CHI 2008,
ACM Press (2008), 467-476.
[5] Huizinga, J. (1950). Homo Ludens: A Study of the
Play-Element in Culture. Boston, MA. Beacon Press.
[6] Mann, J., and Teran, M. "Experiments in Connected
Social Spaces." LiveForm:Telekinetics. 2001.
http://www.lftk.org/tiki/tiki-index.php.
[7] Meir, N. K. “A Fashionable Dinner Is Arranged as
Follows”: Victorian Dining Taxonomies. Victorian
Literature and Culture, 33, (2005), 133148.
[8] Stay Connected with Your Long Distance Love on
Valentine’s Day
http://www.geeksquad.com/intelligence/blog/stay-
connected-with-your-long-distance-love-on-valentines-
day/
Figure 5: Guests teasing each other
through the networked turntables.
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