Talks Schedule

Speaker: John C. Tang

Microsoft Research

When: Mon Feb 7, 11:00 AM EST

Where: Virtual Chair Academic Metaverse

Reflecting on social virtual spaces: Learning from history and designing for the future

Abstract: The metaverse as a place for socially interacting online has been getting a lot of industry and popular press attention. Yet, some of the fundamental concepts around social presence in the metaverse have over 35 years of history. Now is a good time to reflect on what we have already learned through experiences across a range of technologies for connecting remote people to socially interact at events. Starting with Habitat from LucasFilms and including Second Life from Linden Lab, telepresence robots, and more recent prototypes, we can reflect on what we have already learned about social interaction in these spaces. This historical perspective can help inform our approach to tackling current design challenges to enable people to have a sense of social presence when interacting with others in online environments. [Video Available]

Speaker: Jose Maria Barrero

Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM)

When: Mon Feb 14, 11:00 AM EST

Where: Virtual Chair Academic Metaverse

Why Working From Home Will Stick

Abstract: COVID-19 drove a mass social experiment in working from home (WFH). We survey more than 30,000 Americans over multiple waves to investigate whether WFH will stick, and why. Our data say that 20 percent of full workdays will be supplied from home after the pandemic ends, compared with just 5 percent before. We develop evidence on five reasons for this large shift: better-than-expected WFH experiences, new investments in physical and human capital that enable WFH, greatly diminished stigma associated with WFH, lingering concerns about crowds, and contagion risks, and a pandemic-driven surge in technological innovations that support WFH. We also use our survey data to project the consequences: First, employees will enjoy large benefits from greater remote work, especially those with higher earnings. Second, our data on employer plans and the relative productivity of WFH imply a 5 percent productivity boost in the post-pandemic economy due to re-optimized working arrangements. Only one-fifth of this productivity gain will show up in conventional productivity measures because they do not capture the time savings from less commuting. (See full paper here) [Video Available]

Speaker: Crista Videira Lopes

University of California, Irvine

When: Mon Feb 21, 11:00 AM EST

Where: Virtual Chair Academic Metaverse


Abstract: Second Life and its open source doppelganger OpenSimulator have been providing immersive social experiences since the early 2000s. I got involved with OpenSimulator in 2008 and eventually became one of its main architects and developers. Specifically, I lead the design and implementation of a peer-to-peer federation architecture, known as the Hypergrid, that supports the seamless integration of avatars between virtual worlds operated by different organizations. The OpenSimulator community has been organizing  an annual virtual conference since 2013, which has been one of my regular conferences lately. In this talk I will give a first-person ethnographic account of the things I observed about online social presence, both in immersive 3D worlds and in the purely text chat-based environments that bind open source communities together. [Video Available]

Speaker: Anita Blanchard

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

When: Mon Feb 28, 11:00 AM EST

Where: Virtual Chair Academic Metaverse

The Psychology of Copresence

Abstract: Copresence, the awareness of other people, is an important component of online interactions. Nonetheless, it has a history fraught with issues in the field of psychology. In this seminar, we will discuss copresence as a social cognition, the challenges of its definition and measure, and the sociomateriality of copresence. We will also discuss how groups, particularly, workgroups, in a post pandemic world will have to attend to copresence including issues of hybrid meetings, informal interactions, and the psychological effects of physical dispersion. [Video Available]

Speaker: Richard E. Ladner

University of Washington

When: Mon Mar 7, 11:00 AM EST

Where: Midspace

What Makes a Virtual Event Accessible

Abstract: There are many things to consider when holding a physical event that is accessible to everyone.  There is the built environment where people can easily get around, including coming to the stage, in wheelchairs.  There are accessibility needs from deaf participants who may need captions or sign language interpretation.  Blind participants may need a tactile map or a guide to fully participate.  There are even accessibility issues that can come up with individual reactions to certain foods and flash photography.   Many of these issues go away at virtual events but new ones arise.  In this presentation, I will review some of the accessibility issues that arise that may prevent or inhibit participation by attendees with disabilities.   I will also suggest some solutions to these issues.  Some of the solutions can be solved with technology, but others may need behavioral changes by participants.   In terms of enhancing social presence, I will discuss some approaches that may work with diverse participants including those with disabilities. [Video Available]

Speaker: Hancheng Cao

Stanford University

When: Mon Mar 14, 11:00 AM EST

Where: Midspace

Leveraging Digital Trace to Understand Remote Collaboration Dynamics 

Abstract: As increasing number of information workers shift to work and collaborate over online workplace, the availability of their digital trace at work enables exciting new research opportunities. In this talk, I will present findings from two research projects which leverage such data to study remote collaboration dynamics. Study 1 analyzes multitasking behavior during remote meetings, where we studied in-meeting multitasking behavior through an analysis of a large-scale telemetry dataset collected from February to May 2020 of U.S. Microsoft employees and a 715-person diary study.  Study 2 explored the possibility of leveraging text conversations of online teams to understand and predict team viability — a team’s capacity for sustained and future success. Both studies help provide management insights, and suggest design implications for the future of work. [Video Available]

Speaker: Carla Florencia Griggio

Aarhus University

When: Mon Mar 21, 11:00 AM EST

Where: Virtual Chair Academic Metaverse

Augmenting ecosystems of messaging apps

Abstract:  In this talk, Dr. Griggio will present two field studies of prototypes that augment messaging apps with functionality dedicated to close relationships. “Lifelines” is a visualization of contextual information (e.g., battery level, steps, distance from home) for couples that lives in a sticky Android notification. “Dearboard” is a mobile keyboard with colors and shortcuts to emojis and GIFs that friends, couples and relatives can share and customize together across all their apps. Both prototypes supported a sense of presence between communication partners, directly and indirectly. This approach to augmenting apps rather than building new ones can mediate presence, intimacy and rich expression in novel ways while allowing users to preserve their usual messaging apps. [Video Available]


Katherine Isbister

University of California, Santa Cruz


Josh McVeigh-Schultz

San Francisco State University

When: Mon Mar 28, 11:00 AM EST

Where: Virtual Chair Academic Metaverse

Embracing and Creating a ‘Weird Future’ for Social VR Meeting Spaces

Abstract: UCSC’s Katherine Isbister and SF State’s Joshua Mcveigh-Schultz will discuss an ongoing collaboration between their labs aimed at better augmenting meetings in social VR to support collaboration and connection, with designs that move away from imitating ‘real life’ meeting support toward design possibility spaces that take advantage of VR’s particular characteristics, giving participants ‘social superpowers’. We’ll briefly present our landscape analysis of current social VR meeting tools, and give a preview of research-through-design prototypes of meeting support that our team has been building and testing out, one of which will be on display at CHI 2022’s Interactivity display. This research has generous support from the National Science Foundation. [Video Available]

Speaker: Siddharth Suri

Microsoft Research

When: Mon April 4, 11:00 AM EST

Where: Virtual Chair Academic Metaverse

The Effects of remote work on collaboration among information workers

Abstract: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused a rapid shift to full-time remote work for many information workers. Viewing this shift as a natural experiment in which some workers were already working remotely before the pandemic enables us to separate the effects of firm-wide remote work from other pandemic-related confounding factors. Here, we use rich data on the emails, calendars, instant messages, video/audio calls and workweek hours of 61,182 US Microsoft employees over the first six months of 2020 to estimate the causal effects of firm-wide remote work on collaboration and communication. Our results show that firm-wide remote work caused the collaboration network of workers to become more static and siloed, with fewer bridges between disparate parts. Furthermore, there was a decrease in synchronous communication and an increase in asynchronous communication. Together, these effects may make it harder for employees to acquire and share new information across the network. [Video Available]

Speaker: Tarleton Gillespie

Microsoft Research

When: Mon April 11, 11:00 AM EST

Where: Virtual Chair Academic Metaverse

Content Moderation, Trust and Safety in Virtual Events

Abstract:  In this fireside chat, content moderation expert Tarleton Gillespie will engage in conversation with Nicole Immorlica about the implications of content moderation for virtual events. Drawing upon analogies to moderation in other online platforms, the conversation will cover the implicit and explicit mechanisms of moderation in physical events, the translation of those mechanisms to virtual events, and the new opportunities and challenges for moderation presented by virtual technology. [Video Available]

Speaker: Erzhen Hu

University of Virginia

When: Mon April 18, 11:00 AM EST

Where: Virtual Chair Academic Metaverse

FluidMeet: Enabling Frictionless Transitions Between In-Group, Between-Group, and Private Conversations During Virtual Breakout Meetings

Abstract: People often form small conversation groups during physical gatherings to have ad-hoc and informal conversations. As these groups are loosely defined, others can often overhear and join the conversation. However, current video-conferencing tools only allow for strict boundaries between small conversation groups, inhibiting fluid group formations and between-group conversations. This isolates small-group conversations from others and leads to inefficient transitions between conversations. We present FluidMeet, a virtual breakout meeting system that employs flexible conversation boundaries and cross-group conversation visualizations to enable fluid conversation group formations and ad-hoc, informal conversations. FluidMeet enables out-group members to overhear group conversations while allowing conversation groups to control their shared level of context. Users within conversation groups can also quickly switch between in-group and private conversations. A study of FluidMeet showed that it encouraged users to break group boundaries, made them feel less isolated in group conversations, and facilitated communication across different groups. [Video Available]

Speaker: Sean Rintel

Microsoft Research

When: Mon April 25, 11:00 AM EST

Where: Virtual Chair Academic Metaverse

Presence: Fidelity vs Goals

Abstract: The current hype around how the VR revolution in “presence” will improve online meetings and encounters is exciting, but we’ve been here before. Not only have we been here before about VR itself, but we’ve been here before about prior communication technologies, from the telephone, email, chat rooms, videoconferencing, and more. If we’ve been here before, why are we still seeking it? This overview of the research and commercial technology history of mediated presence, and some recent concepts, will interrogate the pursuit of mediated presence. The link between presence and fidelity to being in person is interesting, but both not as strong as we might assume, and only a piece of the communicative puzzle. Ultimately, goals should drive media choice. As we build new VR/AR experiences, we need to ensure that new systems don’t treat presence as an end-point, but as part of the broader achievement of goals. [Video Available]

Stay tuned for future programming! See our past talks here.