Hanging on the 'Wire: A Field Study of an Audio-only Media Space

TitleHanging on the 'Wire: A Field Study of an Audio-only Media Space
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1997
AuthorsAckerman, MS, Starr, B, Hindus, D, Mainwaring, SD
JournalACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
Keywordsaudio, audio spaces, CMC, computer-mediated communication, electronic social spaces, media spaces, mediated communication, norms, privacy, rich interactions, social interactions, social presence, speech interactions, telepresence

The primary focus of this article is an analysis of an audio-only media space from a computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) perspective. To explore whether audio by itself is suitable for shared media systems, we studied a workgroup using an audio-only media space. This media space, called Thunderwire, combined high-quality audio with open connec-tions to create a shared space for its users. The two-month field study provided a richly nuanced understanding of this audio spaces social use. The system afforded rich sociable interactions. As well, users were able to create a useful, usable social space; however, through an analysis of the social norms that the participants formulated, we show that they had to take into account being in an audio-only environment. Within the field study, then, audio by itself was sufficient for a usable media space and a useful social space, but users were forced to adapt to many audio-only and system conditions. The article also considers audios implications for privacy.