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Tingting Lu

M.I.N.D. Lab, Ohio State University

I passed the general exam last June so I am a candidate now and working on my dissertation. I am walking the fine line between communication and engineering-oriented aspects of HCI. I see communication components in each human-computer interaction problem and almost all e-learning topics. In particular, I look at what roles communication plays in the interaction breakdown between the user and the machine (or the designer behind the scene), and how understanding of human communication can help us (as researchers and/or designers) improve the usability of the information and communication systems as well as the overall user experience.

My research interests translate well into my dissertation study. I am trying to find a real system that can set the specific context of my study. In general, it has to be a pedagogical one, i.e. it teaches the user something. It also has to have some "social elements" built into either its interface or interaction style. In other words, the stimulus in my study would be one of those "socially intelligent" or "anthropomorphic" systems. This current emphasis in design of many technologies means the "system image" conveys to the user not only a completely machine causality, but also a hint of human interactions that could be more or less straightforward. I attempt to find out how the manifest social attributes help or hinder learning (the actual performance of the user), whether they promote the perceived ease of use, and what are some of their effects on the users' deciphering of the system's / designer's intentions. I am starting with an exploratory focus group that is meant to elicit the expectations that relatively naive users (college students in my case) have for systems that are to some extent socially intelligent or anthropomorphic. I am searching for such a system appropriate for later experimental study, then the tone can be set and the relevance of many variables, given the specific interaction context, can be determined.

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