Communications Project

Document Type:Dissertation
Name:Carmel John Vaccare
Title:Interactions within a Shared Graphic Space
Degree:Doctor of Philosophy
Department:Teaching and Learning
Committee Chair: Glen A. Holmes, Susan G. Magliaro
Chair's, sumags
Committee Members:John K. Burton
J. Thomas Head
Ned K. Swartz
Keywords:shared graphic space, whiteboard, computer mediated communications
Date of defense:August 14, 1997
Availability:Release the entire work for Virginia Tech access only.
After one year release worldwide only with written permission of the student and the advisory committee chair.


This study is an examination of issues affecting the use of a shared graphic space (SGS). A working definition for an SGS is a virtual, computer-mediated blackboard that allows the simultaneous presentation and editing of visual information by two or more participants. The issues affecting the use of an SGS involve how people communicate with it. The addition of any technology into an already complicated situation like distance learning should be examined from multiple angles. In order to examine an SGS as a channel for communications, this study framed the SGS in terms of the nature of the feedback and noise that are present when we examine interactions in this space. This study examined 16 dyads interacting with whiteboard software to communicate solutions to 6 tangram puzzles. In all problem sets, participants used the text inherent in the whiteboard software as well as graphics to communicate potential solutions with each other in dyads. The participants also had access to audio for communications during either the first 4 or final 2 problem sets. Analysis of the results of this study show that the use of graphics for communication is dependent on accompanying communication channels. The addition of an audio channel for communications inhibited the use of text for communications. Graphics were used concurrently with audio as a dynamic enhancement to verbal communications. Graphics were not used concurrently with text. Graphics either occurred before or after text and were used as static illustrations or were used independent of text. The feedback mechanisms for the SGS were largely through the text or audio modes of communication. The graphic capabilities inherent to the SGS were an affordance to present and manipulate visual information. The SGS encourages new ways to interact and unique patterns of interactions between users. The manner in which graphics were used by each dyad was determined by the dyad and did not conform across the dyads. The unstructured nature of the SGS was a contributing factor in causing differentiation of the inter-dyad communication from intra-dyad communication. This lack of structure in the SGS was a source of noise in, as well as a source of freedom for, interactions in the SGS. The development of an etiquette for interacting in this unstructured space was developed dynamically and pragmatically and should be a source of future study. Shared space, that can be used for simultaneous, real time communications with graphics, changes the manner in which teachers and students can collaborate and construct new learning environments.

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