Backchannel

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This article is about backchannels in conferencing and information technology. For other uses, see Backchannel (disambiguation).

Backchannel is the practice of using networked computers to maintain a real-time online conversation alongside the primary group activity or live spoken remarks. The term was coined in the field of linguistics to describe listeners' behaviours during verbal communication.

The term "backchannel" generally refers to online conversation about the conference topic or speaker. Occasionally backchannel provides audience members a chance to fact-check the presentation.

First growing in popularity at technology conferences, backchannel is increasingly a factor in education where WiFi connections and laptop computers allow particicipants to use ordinary chat like IRC[1][2] or AIM to actively communicate during presentation. More recent research include works where the backchannel is brought publicly visible, such as the ClassCommons,[3] backchan.nl[4] and Fragmented Social Mirror.[5]

Twitter is also widely used today by audiences to create backchannels during broadcasting of content or at conferences. For example, television drama,[6] other forms of entertainment [7] and magazine programs.[8][9] This practice is often also called live tweeting. Many conferences nowadays also have a hashtag that can be used by the participants to share notes and experiences; furthermore such hashtags can be user generated.

History[edit]

Victor Yngve first used the phrase "back channel" in 1970 in a linguistic meaning, in the following passage: "In fact, both the person who has the turn and his partner are simultaneously engaged in both speaking and listening. This is because of the existence of what I call the back channel, over which the person who has the turn receives short messages such as 'yes' and 'uh-huh' without relinquishing the turn."[10]

Such systems were widely imagined and tested in late 1990s and early 2000s. These cases include researcher's installations on conferences[11] and classroom settings.[12]

The first famous instance of backchannel communications influencing a talk occurred on March 26, 2002, at the PC Forum conference, when Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio famously lamented the difficulties of raising capital. Journalists Dan Gillmor and Doc Searls posted accounts, from the audience, in real-time, to their weblogs. Buzz Bruggeman, a reader of Gillmor's, emailed information about a recent sizable transaction that had made Nacchio very wealthy; both Gillmor and Searls updated their weblogs with that information.

In her article referring to the "Parallel Channel," PC Forum host Esther Dyson wrote, "around that point, the audience turned hostile." Many commentators later attributed the audience's hostility to the information people shared while surfing and communicating on their laptops during Nacchio's remarks.

Effect[edit]

Research has demonstrated that backchannels help participants to feel as contributing members, not passive followers[13][14] and make them feel more social.[15] However, the research is mixed on the nature of this discussions, and especially regarding social interaction on the backchannels: some cases report vast interaction where as others highlight that interaction on the platform was considered low.[16][17]

Use in education[edit]

Since its inception in 1998 at Argonne National Laboratory, the Internet2 initiative known as the Access Grid (a large-format presentation, video conferencing and interactive environment) has used backchannel communications to permit the node operators to pass URLs for display at another site, troubleshoot problems and even discuss what's for lunch at their location. The Access Grid backchannel has evolved from the use of a MOO to XMPP.

In 2009 Purdue University developed a tool called Hotseat that enabled students to comment on the course lectures in near real-time using open social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter.

Using a backchannel for educational purposes can function as a formal class activity or even an independent discussion without instructor participation and awareness. Aside from the normal discussion, a backchannel can also be used for note taking, asking questions, offering suggestions on different topics, and sharing resources with other students and faculty members. There are many different media networks out there that can be used as a backchannel. Including Twitter, Facebook, Yammer, Instant Messaging and Google Moderator.

Experiments[edit]

Backchannel is very much a discipline-in-progress. While many lament the diverted attention spans of people on chat, a number of people believe that backchannel can provide a valuable collaborative learning environment. Towards that end, a number of people are conducting their own backchannel experiments.

Joichi Ito's HeckleBot includes an LED text panel displays phrases sent from the chat room to catch the attention of the speaker or audience. The USC Interactive Media Division has experimented with "Google Jockeys" to feed visual information and search results between the speakers and the backchannel, projected on multiple screens surrounding their seminars. Software like SubEthaEdit allows for more formal backchannel: collaborative notetaking. In 2007 the Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston, Massachusetts used tools such as Twitter and Skype to create backchannels that included participants who were not on location and at times in remote parts of the world. At times presenters were not aware of the backchannel and other occasions the presenters themselves were involved in the backchannel.

In Amsterdam, Slandr.net's BackChannels provides backchannels amongst others at the local Mobile Monday events on a regular basis. Combining backchannels with live videostreaming by means of using services such as Ustream or Qik, people at home can join the discussion at the event virtually. The backchannels get their input from Jaiku, Twitter and SMS. A typical backchannel can display the chat transcript, inline pictures and voting. Experiments in Twitter subtitling have also been conducted combining recorded videostreams with the backchannel transcript.

References[edit]

  1. ^ McCarthy, Joseph F., and Danah Boyd. 2005. “Digital Backchannels in Shared Physical Spaces.” In CHI ’05 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI '05, 1641–1644. New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. doi:10.1145/1056808.1056986. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1056808.1056986.
  2. ^ Yardi, Sarita. 2006. “The Role of the Backchannel in Collaborative Learning Environments.” In Proceeding ICLS ’06 Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Learning Sciences, 852–858. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1150034.1150158.
  3. ^ Du, Honglu, Mary Beth Rosson, and John M. Carroll. 2012. “Augmenting Classroom Participation through Public Digital Backchannels.” In Proceedings of the 30th ACM International Conference on Design of Communication - SIGDOC ’12, 127. doi:10.1145/2389176.2389201. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2379057.2379081.
  4. ^ Harry, Drew, Joshua Green, and Judith Donath. 2009. “Backchan.nl.” In Proceedings of the 27th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI 09, 1361–1370. New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. doi:10.1145/1518701.1518907
  5. ^ Bergstrom, Tony, Andrew Harris, and Karrie Karahalios. 2011. “Encouraging Initiative in the Classroom with Anonymous Feedback.” In Proceeding INTERACT’11 Proceedings of the 13th IFIP TC 13 International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, 627–642. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2042053.2042116.
  6. ^ McPherson, K, K Huotari, Yo-Shang Cheng, David Humphrey, Coye Chesire, and Andrew Brooks. 2012. “Glitter: A Mixed-Methods Study of Twitter Use during Glee Broadcasts.” In Proceedings of the ACM 2012 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work Companion, 167–170. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2141569
  7. ^ Highfield, Tim, Stephen Harrington, Axel Bruns, Creative Industries Precinct, Musk Ave, Creative Industries, and Kelvin Grove. 2013. “Twitter as a Technology for Audiencing and Fandom.” Information, Communication & Society (October) (January 3): 37–41. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2012.756053. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2012.756053
  8. ^ Hawthorne, J., J. B. Houston, and M. S. McKinney. 2013. “Live-Tweeting a Presidential Primary Debate: Exploring New Political Conversations.” Social Science Computer Review (May 30). doi:10.1177/0894439313490643. http://ssc.sagepub.com/cgi/doi/10.1177/0894439313490643.
  9. ^ Larsson, Anders Olof. 2013. “Tweeting the Viewer—Use of Twitter in a Talk Show Context.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 57 (2) (April): 135–152. doi:10.1080/08838151.2013.787081. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08838151.2013.787081.
  10. ^ Yngve, Victor. "On getting a word in edgewise," page 568. Papers from the Sixth Regional Meeting [of the] Chicago Linguistic Society, 1970.
  11. ^ Rekimoto, Jun, Yuji Ayatsuka, Hitoraka Uoi, and Toshifumi Arai. 1998. “Adding Another Communication Channel to Reality.” In CHI 98 Conference Summary on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI ’98, 271–272. New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. doi:10.1145/286498.286752. http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=286498.286752.
  12. ^ Ratto, Matt, R. Benjamin Shapiro, Tan Minh Truong, and William G. Griswold. 2003. “The Activeclass Project: Experiments in Encouraging Classroom Participation.” In Proceedings of the International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning 2003, 477–486. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-0195-2_57. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=5387044
  13. ^ Du, Honglu, Mary Beth Rosson, John M. Carroll, and Craig Ganoe. 2009. “I Felt like a Contributing Member of the Class.” In Proceedinfs of the ACM 2009 International Conference on Supporting Group Work - GROUP ’09, 233–242. New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. doi:10.1145/1531674.1531709. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1531674.1531709
  14. ^ Rekimoto, Jun, Yuji Ayatsuka, Hitoraka Uoi, and Toshifumi Arai. 1998. “Adding Another Communication Channel to Reality.” In CHI 98 Conference Summary on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI ’98, 271–272. New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. doi:10.1145/286498.286752. http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=286498.286752.
  15. ^ McPherson, K, K Huotari, Yo-Shang Cheng, David Humphrey, Coye Chesire, and Andrew Brooks. 2012. “Glitter: A Mixed-Methods Study of Twitter Use during Glee Broadcasts.” In Proceedings of the ACM 2012 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work Companion, 167–170. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2141569.
  16. ^ McPherson, K, K Huotari, Yo-Shang Cheng, David Humphrey, Coye Chesire, and Andrew Brooks. 2012. “Glitter: A Mixed-Methods Study of Twitter Use during Glee Broadcasts.” In Proceedings of the ACM 2012 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work Companion, 167–170. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2141569.
  17. ^ Du, Honglu, Mary Beth Rosson, and John M. Carroll. 2012. “Communication Patterns for a Classroom Public Digital Backchannel.” In Proceedings of the 30th ACM International Conference on Design of Communication - SIGDOC ’12, 127. New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. doi:10.1145/2379057.2379081. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2379057.2379081.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cliff Atkinson. The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever, New Riders, 2009.

External links[edit]