Computer Laboratory

Technical reports

Bodies-in-Space: investigating technology usage in co-present group interaction

Cecily Morrison

March 2010, 147 pages

This technical report is based on a dissertation submitted August 2009 by the author for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the University of Cambridge, Darwin College.


With mobile phones in people's pockets, digital devices in people's homes, and information systems in group meetings at work, technology is frequently present when people interact with each other. Unlike devices used by a single person at a desk, people, rather than machines, are the main focus in social settings. An important difference then between these two scenarios, individual and group, is the role of the body. Although non-verbal behaviour is not part of human-computer interaction, it is very much part of human-human interaction. This dissertation explores bodies-in-space — people's use of spatial and postural positioning of their bodies to maintain a social interaction when technology is supporting the social interaction of a co-present group.

I begin this dissertation with a review of literature, looking at how and when bodies-in-space have been accounted for in research and design processes of technology for co-present groups. I include examples from both human-computer interaction, as well the social sciences more generally. Building on this base, the following four chapters provide examples and discussion of methods to: (1) see (analytically), (2) notate, (3) adjust (choreograph), and (4) research in the laboratory, bodies-in-space. I conclude with reflections on the value of capturing bodies-in-space in the process of designing technology for co-present groups and emphasise a trend towards end-user involvement and its consequences for the scope of human-computer interaction research.

All of the research in this dissertation derives from, and relates to, the real-world context of an intensive care unit of a hospital and was part of assessing the deployment of an electronic patient record.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Morrison, Cecily},
  title = 	 {{Bodies-in-Space: investigating technology usage in
         	   co-present group interaction}},
  year = 	 2010,
  month = 	 mar,
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-771}