Intuitive media: Depicting people and situations in mediated environments

Judith Donath, MIT Media Lab

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University January 10, 2003

Most of our communication with other people consists of the exchange of social information - about identity, reputation, trustworthiness, motivations, etc. In face to face communication, these cues may be sent via subtleties of gaze and intonation, as well as choice of words and overt statements. In the mediated world of email, IM, discussion boards, etc. these cues are often missing or difficult to discern.

This talk is about designing interfaces that can convey the subtle signals that are essential for a vibrant social environment. The main questions I will be addressing include: What is the information we "read" in face to face interaction? What information would we want to have in an idealized world? How can we legibly and intuitively depict social patterns? Is one's face the best representation of a person - and what are some alternative?

Judith S. Donath is Assistant Professor of Media Arts And Sciences and Director of the Sociable Media Group at the MIT Media Lab. Her group explores the social side of computing, building innovative interfaces for the online communities, virtual identities, and computer-mediated collaborations that have emerged with the convergence of computing and communication. She is the creator of numerous projects that address the problem of design for social interaction, such as Visual Who (a visualization of activity and affiliations in a virtual community), Chat Circles, and Loom2 (a visualization tool for Usenet groups). She received a PhD and an MS in media arts and sciences from MIT and a BA in history from Yale University. Donath has worked professionally as a designer and builder of educational software and experimental media.


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