Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Constructing a feedback loop between social behaviours and content delivery at large public displays

  James Burnett (2012 cohort)   www.nottingham.ac.uk/~psxjrbu


Large displays are currently used in a variety of ways in public spaces, either to display content or allow interaction with the public. There are multiple factors that will affect the use of these displays, including;

  • Situation i.e. how and where the display is located in the space
  • People i.e. other people in the space and the relationships between them
  • Content i.e. the physical layout of items on the display

While this list is not exhaustive, the factors above prove to be extremely important in the manner of interaction seen at a display. In many cases the situation, or location, of the display is fixed due to constraints of the space, which results in the major impact stemming from the layout of content and the people interacting to determine the nature of the interaction.

People - How is space used and how do interactions unfold

There has been considerable research conducted to address social behaviours at and around displays. Ranging from observation and approach behaviours [1], including attractors such as the Honey Pot affect [2] to actor profiles of those using the display and observing these interactions [3]. These factors are extremely rich and are closely linked to factors of the spatial layout ( i.e. Situation of the display - which are usually fixed for a given environment ). There are also strong links to the presentation of the content on the display, which will directly affect how and where users will choose to interact from.

During these types of interactions there are multiple factors used to consider the behaviours seen. The main factors addressed are Proximity and Orientation, which are seen in multiple areas of interaction research as they are easily observable and help to identify the underlying social behaviours of the people being considered. Proximity was initially used in Sociology to describe the level of comfort between individuals [4], this was later expanded to include Orientation as well to describe areas of interaction based on the level of comfort and the task being carried out [5].

Content - Layout for interaction

The physical layout of display content is shown to affect the positions that people will interact with the content from [6]. This is closely related to the affordances ( i.e. what can be physically achieved - standing, sitting ) in the space and the ergonomic use of the display ( i.e. comfortable viewing position or to allow physical interaction ).

While most examples of content delivery will be static content in a fixed environment ( Situation ), the resulting organisation of the users can be approximately predicted based on these factors. This proves interesting when delivering information e.g. such as train station or exhibition space, however, there is far less understanding of the effects of dynamic or adaptive content, as this will alter the affordance of the display and so create a miss-match between user expectations for viewing and available spaces to interact.

Dynamic and Adaptive displays

While dynamic displays introduce a new element in to the space that will influence how interactions unfold, there is no relationship between users and content delivery. Recently there have been several types of adaptive displays based on physical factors or relationships of people to the display and the content shown. Greenberg introduced the Proxemics Toolkit [7] to adapt what was shown on displays based on the users distance, as well as that of other people within the space to maintain a personal interaction with a display. Separately, Schiavo considers the orientation of the head towards content to determine a measure of interest in content shown for more effective content delivery [8].

While these approaches are begin to consider the relationship of users to content on displays in a similar manner to sociological factors, such as Proximity and Orientation, these experiences are limited to a single users and do not consider the relationships of multiple users in groups, or multiple groups.

The Problem Space - Interactions at Public Displays

There is currently an understanding of how people will move in space, what will attract them to displays and how they approach interactive exhibits, as well as the effects of content layout on social behaviours and interactions. Work is being undertaken to deliver content that responds to these factors, but only for individuals. The current focus does not consider how groups are using the space or interacting between one another.

As the role of social behaviours is extremely important in the way interactions unfold there needs to be a greater focus on the role of inter- and intra- group interactions in the delivery of content. This should consider the Roles [3] undertaken by users as well as their relationships to one another [5], in order to better understand the factors that are influencing the way these interactions are taking place. With this information it should be possible to streamline the interaction experience for all persons using, wanting to use or observing the display, to ensure richer experiences for all involved.

What has been done and What next

After conducting several user studies to investigate dynamic displays and the effects of content layout, as well as multiple groups, I have a better understanding of the factors that relate to interaction experience and the roles that people play in one-another's perceptions of an interactive / adaptive / dynamic display.

Based on these findings, the next step will be to construct a system aimed at real time data capture and adaptation of a display. This will provide actual data on the interactions, as well as user interviews to relate behaviours to Roles / Actions to better fine-tune the controlling model. This method will allow for further investigation in to the factors relating to "ideal" layouts in relation to on-going behaviours and should help to reduce the complexities of social behaviours at public displays, bringing content to the user.

With the inclusion of classification and decision making software, it should be possible to model the unfolding interactions at and around the display to adapt the layout in real-time based on users "predicted" intentions and needs. A predictive system like this should ensure maximum usability of the display and a more streamlined set of interactions for users.


  1. Müller, J., Alt, F., Michelis, D., & Schmidt, A. (2010, October). Requirements and design space for interactive public displays. In Proceedings of the international conference on Multimedia (pp. 1285-1294). ACM.
  2. Reeves, S., Benford, S., O'Malley, C., & Fraser, M. (2005, April). Designing the spectator experience. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 741-750). ACM.
  3. Peltonen, P., Kurvinen, E., Salovaara, A., Jacucci, G., Ilmonen, T., Evans, J., ... & Saarikko, P. (2008, April). It's Mine, Don't Touch!: interactions at a large multi-touch display in a city centre. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1285-1294). ACM.
  4. Hall, E. T., Birdwhistell, R. L., Bock, B., Bohannan, P., Diebold Jr, A. R., Durbin, M., ... & Vayda, A. P. (1968). Proxemics [and comments and replies]. Current anthropology, 83-108.
  5. Ciolek, T. M., & Kendon, A. (1980). Environment and the spatial arrangement of conversational encounters. Sociological Inquiry, 50(3‐4), 237-271.
  6. Fischer, P. T., & Hornecker, E. (2012, May). Urban HCI: spatial aspects in the design of shared encounters for media facades. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 307-316). ACM.
  7. Marquardt, N., Diaz-Marino, R., Boring, S., & Greenberg, S. (2011, October). The proximity toolkit: prototyping proxemic interactions in ubiquitous computing ecologies. In Proceedings of the 24th annual ACM symposium on User interface software and technology (pp. 315-326). ACM.
  8. Schiavo, G., Mencarini, E., Vovard, K., & Zancanaro, M. (2013, April). Sensing and reacting to users' interest: an adaptive public display. In CHI'13 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1545-1550). ACM.

This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (RCUK Grant No. EP/G037574/1) and by the RCUK’s Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute (RCUK Grant No. EP/G065802/1).