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EuroITV 2009

EuroITV (Leuven, Belgium, 3-5 June 2009)

From User-Generated Content to Participatory Design

The final paper at EuroITV 2009 is by Liesbeth Huybrechts and Niels Hendriks. He notes the growth in user-generated content and citizen reporting of news events; increasingly, this also involves photos and videos, of course. Such user-generated content is also being explored and exploited by commercial interests, of course - ranging from projects such as the lonelygirl15 hoax to Christopher Allbritton's independently user-funded "Back to Iraq" investigative journalism blog.

Overall, at any rate, this creates opportunities for dispersed creativity that questions existing media authority. There is also a need for 'strange' methods to move beyond the mainstream/new media dichotomy, to make the familiar unusual and treat media as ready-made materials available to use in new and unfamiliar contexts. For example, experience design now needs to be approached as participatory design, and must involve a range of disciplines as well as the users themselves.

Attitudes towards the Changing TV Experience

Up next at EuroITV 2009 is Nele Simons, who studies television viewing practices. TV is perceived as a structuringh medium, a social medium, and a lean-back medium, but these are all based on traditional, conventional TV viewing practices. These are all challenged by current technological and social changes impacting on television.

Conventionally, the TV broadcasting structure brings routine structure to the daily life of many people, but timeshifting, spaceshifting, and on-demand access are becoming increasingly common. Broadcasters no longer have control over the time, space, and content of television viewing (also because television is no longer everything that's being viewed on the TV screen).

Participant Diaries on the Social Contexts of Media Usage

The next speaker at EuroITV 2009 is Jan Heß, who is evaluating the social use of media in real-life environments. This builds on cultural probes and diary studies as a self-ethnographic approach.

Diarised outcomes from this study related mainly to television consumption in the living room, with a smaller number of entries also about PC usage for entertainment, and DVD and cinema events. Insights from this were that diary entries could be divided into routine usage, dynamic usage and interruptions, and parallel (multitasking) activities.

Televisions and Computer Gaming

The next presenter at EuroITV 2009 is An Jacobs, whose interest is in the potential role of television in gaming. A combination and convergence between television and gaming is complicated by the existing routines of using each medium, which need to be altered in order to arrive at new models. The television set remains mainly in a shared space, usually in the living room, and in recent time, gaming has traditionally taken place elsewhere - playing on a PC, for example, also makes it less likely that the player is interrupted by other household members. Even the arrival of new media forms in the households doesn't tend to change such routines.

Translating the Television Experience to New Media Formats

And we're in the final session of EuroITV 2009 already, which starts with Emmanuel Tsekleves. He begins by noting the range of media, platforms, and devices now available in the home, which increases usage potentials, but also complexity. The TV remains predominantly situated in a shared social space - such as the living room - and is reasonably simple to use. It offers a high-quality audiovisual experience, and still remains the common denominator of entertainment and information access in the home.

But the emergence of other media in the home is changing this, and Emmanuel's team tested the impact of such changes by examining how the introduction of an experimental new convergent media device would change users' practices. This teased out information on the core experience of television, the role of TV as a shared resource, and its role in multitasking, multimedia experiences.

Studying Television Technologies in Real Life

We move on now to David Wilfinger as the next presenter at EuroITV 2009. His focus is on developing better ways to study the use of interactive television systems in situ, in real life. Even supposedly lifelike labs in research facilities cannot replicate these situations. The system being evaluated in this context was a new remote control system for ITV, which included a fingerprint reader that enabled personalisation of programme choices (as well as the blocking of channels or programmes for younger users).

Tracking Folksonomies in PVR Usage

I'm afraid I missed out on blogging part of Alessandro Basso's presentation at EuroITV 2009 as I had to reboot my machine again - something's not quite right here. His project is an interesting exercise in datamining folksonomies: his team examined usage patterns for the Italian online PVR system VCast Faucet, which enables users to set up recordings of Italian TV programmes.

The recording periods set up (including a user-selected name for the recording, and their channel and time choices) provide rich information on what discrete television events are of interest to users, and it is possible to evaluate these also to provide future recommendations for programmes of interest - a kind of user-generated electronic programme guide. Not least, the titles given by users to the broadcast sections they choose to record can be evaluated to identify what the content of these periods is.

Predicting Demand for Catch-Up Television

The next session here at EuroITV 2009 starts with another presenter from Alcatel-Lucent, Danny de Vleeschauwer. He notes the growth in catch-up television (CuTV), through initiatives such as the BBC's iPlayer or the ABC's iView - so that content is no longer consumed at exactly the same time (though still concentrated in a key period of time). This changes the requirements for IPTV: it can no longer operate under a broadcast or multicast model, but must now employ a unicast model which delivers a unique stream to each tuned-in viewer.

Future Directions for IPTV

The morning keynote on this second and last day of EuroITV 2009 is by Jan van Bogaert from Alcatel-Lucent. He notes the gradual shift from a triple-play model for connecting households using broadband (comprising of IPTV, voice, and Internet communication) towards a more converged model which he calls application-enabled broadband.

The older model still involves a walled garden approach, too,where IPTV, for example, is streamed into the home using the broadband network, but delivered only to the TV, not to the PC. A different model is to stream content 'over the top' on the Net, allowing access via broadbandp-connected TVs. This has also led to IPTV providers thinking about expanding their market by offering their TV channels not only as IPTV to their own subscribers, but also streamed over the top to users subscribed with their competitors.

The Experiential Dimension in Human-Technology Interaction

The final keynote for this first day at EuroITV 2009 is by Marc Hassenzahl, whose focus is on user experience. He begins by noting that technology needs to be humane; it needs to be adapted to people's actual uses. This is even more important as the boundaries between tools and content are blurring; however, the main tool for researching this remains human-technology interaction research, which focusses simply on usability engineering, on whether tools work.

But is functionality everything? What about the experiential dimension - the hedonic perspective that needs to be considered in addition to the pragmatic one? Both sides need to be considered: a product needs to provide value and fulfil task needs, but must also feel right and be enjoyable to use. This is now slowly being realised in human-technology interaction theory.


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