Awareness beyond the desktop: exploring attention and distraction with a projected peripheral-vision display

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Canadian Information Processing Society
The initiation of interaction in face-to-face settings is often a gradual negotiation process that takes place in a rich context of awareness and social signals. This gradual approach to interaction is missing from most online messaging systems, however, and users often have no idea when others are paying attention to them or when they are about to be interrupted. One reason for this limitation is that few systems have considered the role of peripheral perception in attracting and directing interpersonal attention in face-to-face interaction. We believed that a display exploiting people's peripheral vision could capitalize on natural human attention-management behavior. To test the value of this technique, we compared a peripheral-vision awareness display with an on-screen IM-style system. We expected that people would notice more information from the larger peripheral display, which they did. Moreover, they did so while attending less often to the peripheral display. Our study suggests that peripheral-vision awareness displays may be able to improve attention and awareness management for distributed groups.