An Exploratory Study of Collaborative Work on Wall Displays

This was the research I performed at the Electronic Visualization Lab, observing the use of large wall-display environments during meetings, classes, events and user studies and creating tools for enabling such work. This describes a user study specifically focused on sensemaking.

If a group of people had total freedom to share various types of digital information on a large wall display and then interact with it simultaneously, what would happen? How would people organize themselves and how would the wall display help them solve problems, if at all? So I gave each group a complex task that had individual and collaborative components.

The things I was interested in:

Individual Part

In the first part of the study, the group members had to individually search for information related to the task. In each group, the members were sharing the information on the wall as they found it, but they employed implicit and explicit organization strategies. Either way, the ownership of space and information was respected even though every participant had the ability to manipulate anything. Also, the participants reported increased awareness of the progress since all the information was visible at once.

Collaborative Part

Now was the time to make sense of all the individually-found information. Here groups employed various strategies, some more democratic, some used strict partitioning, some loose organization. An interesting observation was that groups using direction interaction (touchscreen) were almost twice as fast as other groups. Part of the reason for that was that they didn’t have to resize windows to be able to see them and instead simply moved closer as they were all standing in front of the wall.

Interaction Patterns

Every group’s use of the wall was logged completely which allowed for analysis and quantification of their interaction and organization strategies. The most interesting were the “overview” visualizations of each group’s analysis. Images below are the overview of interactions with the wall.

Interaction Zones

Ultimately, different use cases call for different interaction zones, or areas where the users are physically located in front of the display during work. From the various observed uses cases, three frequently used interaction zones were identified: up-close, distance, sitting.