Exploring and Promoting Family Connections at a Distance Through FamilySong
Tibau Benitez, Javier Alejandro
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This work explores the design of domestic Media Spaces by introducing and studying FamilySong (FS), a system that allows the synchronous playback of music between two remote households. FS does not share live audio or video, yet our studies show that FS provides a context for increasing serendipity as families integrate it into their ecology of communication practices and devices. Through three design iterations involving Autobiographical Design, Research-Through-Design, and qualitative research methods, we study six Latin American migrant families (with parents and children in the United States, and grandparents in Ecuador and Mexico), and one from the U.S., interact with FamilySong. We have found that, individually, family members have differing motivations and reactions to using the system. However, participants felt that the shared experience was meaningful to them and that they could use FamilySong to communicate important intentions, values and emotions as well as musical experiences. In the most recent iteration, the main interactions empowered very young children's participation in music selection. This has been met with joy and excitement by all but also with occasional behavioral dilemmas. This work explores and expands the design space of Media Spaces to include a set of artifacts that forgo its central definition yet provide similar emergent qualities including enhanced mutual awareness, connection, and communication. FS design explores the intersection of family practices and values---of togetherness and longing, parent-child dynamics at all ages, kinship, identity and culture---, and divided versus focused attention in the home. It also enriches our understanding of designing technology for meaningful interaction that supports loved ones and their values.
General Audience Abstract
Telecommunication technologies have improved the lives of migrants by allowing them to maintain connections with far-away loved ones. Although the opportunities to have a conversation have increased drastically with inexpensive video-chat systems, the quality of these connections leave families wanting for more meaningful experiences. FamilySong was designed to help far-away loved ones sustain significant interactions over time by playing music at the same time between two connected homes. The music acts as a medium for a shared-experience between parent and children's homes, and their grandparents' home. As participants went about their daily lives, music would begin playing making them feel together. Music also allows for a range of interactions that our participant families have come to describe as communication. People choose to play songs in the system that could be interpreted as "I love you," "I am thinking of you," "good morning," "this is my/your favorite song," "we are home," "are you available to talk," "we are dancing," "happy birthday!" These messages have the potential for being more influential to a developing relationship than merely asking for a "hi" or a "smile" on a video-call. Such calls are typical when interacting with very young, pre-verbal children. Other researchers have promoted focused activities that would capture a young child's attention, in order to provide a moment of connection at a distance with them. Some of these approaches include playing games and reading books. Our proposed method of sharing music is aimed at a similar objective, developing participants shared interests, but also facilitating an opportunity for a long sustained experience through the day with music as the background for everyday home activities. FamilySong is a design for the home and for the family, we build upon the family's communication and cultural practices in order to augment their experience through the day, and the video-calls they typically hold where they might now have found new reasons to connect (talk about music or sing together). In this dissertation we have used design to extend our understanding of what constitutes a significant interaction between family. Three large steps were taken, culminating in the design and creation of a high-fidelity prototype for a system to facilitate synchronous-playback of music between homes. A total of twelve copies of the final prototype were created and deployed at the homes of participants, for a total of six families using the system for over six months at the time of publishing. An additional three devices were created to begin exploring future work opportunities. In exploring these interactions between people we have found that family members have differing motivations and approaches to enjoying the system communicating. However, the opportunities for increased connection was received with joy by most of our participants who expressed to us deep feelings of longing for togetherness, identity, and culture. These significant aspects of enduring human and family values provide meaningful motivations for designing for the home.
- Doctoral Dissertations