6 May 2009

Inspiring articles by Elizabeth Churchill of Yahoo! Research

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Elizabeth Churchill
If you like the writings by the highly original Elizabeth Churchill, a principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research in charge of the Internet Experiences Group — and I definitely do! — then this Spring has been a particularly rewarding period.

Here are some of the publicly available papers and articles, which she wrote or co-wrote:

Spinning Online: A case study of Internet broadcasting by DJs
Paper to be presented at the Communities & Technology conference, ACM, University Park, PA (June 2009)
Authors: Shamma, D.A.; Churchill, E.; Bobb, N.; Fukuda, M.
Personal video streaming websites have become common on the Internet. They are increasingly used by broadcasters, bands, and entertainers as performance spaces and community gathering places for “fans”. In order to understand how such live broadcasting sites fare as venues for gigs and for the maintenance of fan communities, we studied a video streaming site that is home to a vibrant DJ community. We spent time as audience members, analyzed site usage data, interviewed and charted the online presence of DJs who perform regularly on the, and talked with the site designers about their vision for the site. We found DJs use a number of tools to maintain close connections with three communities—their peers, with sources for new music and for related show content, and with their fans. When streaming live performances, DJs use visual interface cues to gauge audience reaction and tailor their sets accordingly. DJs talked about the broadcast channel as ‘a place’, and reported close social connection with invited and regular audience members. We conclude our paper with observations regarding the nature of community involvement on performance centered webcasting sites.

Digital Order: Just over the horizon or at the end of the rainbow?
interactions, ACM Press, (May/June 2009)
Confronting the iPod Shuffle with Churchill’s design principles, with some unexpected consequences. [Interesting to read this post, keeping in mind my earlier Intel digital storage post].

Learning How: The search for craft knowledge on the Internet
Paper presented at the CHI 2009 conference, ACM Press, Boston, USA (April 2009)
Authors: Torrey, C.; Churchill, E.F.; McDonald, D.W.
Communicating the subtleties of a craft technique, like putting a zipper into a garment or throwing a clay pot, can be challenging even when working side by side. Yet How- To content—including text, images, animations, and videos—is available online for a wide variety of crafts. We interviewed people engaged in various crafts to investigate how online resources contributed to their craft practice. We found that participants sought creative inspiration as well as technical clarification online. In this domain, keyword search can be difficult, so supplemental strategies are used. Participants sought information iteratively, because they often needed to enact their knowledge in order to evaluate it. Our description of people learning how allows us to elaborate on existing understandings of information-seeking behavior by considering how search originates and is evaluated in knowledge domains involving physical objects and physical processes.

On trusting your socks to find each other (pdf)
interactions, ACM Press, p.32-36 (March/April 2009)
This articles addresses design issues that may arise as a result of the deployment of networks of devices that will constitute the “Internet of Things”. Addresses issues in particular around the trustworthiness of information exchange and transparency in such networks.

How big can you think?
Yodel Anecdotal (26 March 2009)
Did you know that humans have only used verbal language for the past 50,000 years – a virtual blink of the eye in evolutionary time? This got me wondering how people communicated before language. Since we’ve been thriving on this planet for 160,000 years (or millions more, depending on when you start the “human” clock), how exactly how did we express ourselves? And do we hang on to old non-verbal habits today? An interview with MIT Professor Alex “Sandy” Pentland.

Givin’ you more of what you’re funkin’ for: DJs and the Internet
interactions, ACM Press, p.20-24 (Jan/Feb 2009)
Since DJ’s always talk about “how they ‘read’ the crowd, garner a sense of the energy in the place, and manipulate its ebbs and flows with music to amp up the crowd, maintain a pace, or slow it down”, the question arises how this happens with a webcast and whether it is at all possible.

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