Project Report

While much research in human-computer interaction (HCI) has focused on social or family photo sharing, little research has focused on photo sharing in romantic relationships, particularly when partners are geographically distant. Likewise, most publically-available photo sharing applications and websites are created for public or semi-public sharing, as illustrated by system defaults offering little to no privacy. RESEARCH QUESTIONS How is photo sharing in significant other relationships different than social or familiar photo sharing? What behaviors characterize photo sharing in geographically-distant romantic relationships? What are the unique design requirements of a computer system to support photo sharing in significant other relationships? FINDINGS Participants’ preferred medium for communicating with their partners is synchronous video chat When video chat is not possible (often the case due to 12-18 hour time differences), participants share photos asynchronously using email, Facebook, or other web-based services Photos are used to support conversation during video chat sessions to accomplish the following: Maintaining a Sense of Shared Daily Life: Participants are used to sharing their daily lives with their partners back home. To maintain a sense of sharing day-to-day activities, participants share photos of often mundane objects and activities such as meals, their walk to work, and their bedrooms. Presence-in-Absence: Presence-in-absence is the sense of another despite their physical absence. Participants described capturing photos with their partners in mind either because their partner enjoys the content of the photo (e.g., a particular food) or with the purpose of telling a story about the experience the photo captures in a future conversation. Storytelling: Participants use photos to support storytelling about their experiences abroad. The photos are used as prompts by both partners, helping the traveling partner remember specific experiences. Trip Planning: All participants whose partners have visited or will visit Taiwan (3 of 12) use photos to support trip planning. CONCLUSIONS The most important yield of photo sharing is maintaining intimacy when being together is not possible The act of sharing and the interactions sharing supports is what is most meaningful, moreso than the content of the photo "Communication of emotion is often not in the device output, but in the dynamics of use" (Vetere, et al.) REFERENCE Vetere, F., Gibbs, M. R., Kjeldskov, J., Howard, S., Mueller, F., Pedell, S., Mecoles, K., and Bunyan, M. (2005). Mediating intimacy: designing technologies to support strong-tie relationships, In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems, ACM Press, New York, NY, USA.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Office of International and Integrative Activities (IIA)
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Program Officer
Carter Kimsey
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Derthick Katie
United States
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