Elderly's Comprehension on Facebook: a Communicability Evaluation

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Autores: Carolina Sacramento & Simone Bacellar Leal Ferreira

Publicado em: 7th International Conference on Software Development and Technologies for Enhancing Accessibility and Fighting Info-exclusion (DSAI 2016)

Ano: 2016

This paper describes a qualitative research using the Communicability Evaluation Method for Collaborative Systems. The objective is to evaluate the elders’ interaction with the most popular social network in the world (Facebook), using a different approach to the proposed by the HCI community: communicability. In our case, we use younger volunteers to compare the results. As a result, there was a necessity to review some interface aspects, such as the meaning system adopted by the designer. It was also realized the need to establish clearer criteria for the information organization and to correct usability and accessibility problems that influence on the communication failures that occurred during the elders’ interaction with the social network.

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Video Content

Slide 1 - Presentation

First of all, we apologize we could not attend the conference. We prepared some slides to present our article: "Elderly's Comprehension on Facebook: the Communicability Evaluation". This research was conducted by the doctoral student, Carolina Sacramento and the Professor Simone Bacellar Leal Ferreira. We are part of the Accessibility and Usability Research Group of UNIRIO, Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro.

Slide 2 - Research goal

Considering this scenario, we developed a research aimed at analyzing and comparing the interaction of elderly and non-eldery adults on Facebook, based on the application of a communicability evaluation method for collaborative systems, called MAG-g, and evaluating if aging limitations can generate different communicability results in elderly, compared with non-elderly users.

Slide 3 - Communicability evaluation

For a better understanding of our research, it’s important to explain the communicability concept, the main quality criteria of a system according to Semiotic Engineering, a Human–Computer Interaction theory based on Semiotics, science responsible for studying meanings and messages of signs. Signs, in turn, are anything used by a person to say something, which can be words, images, sounds, etc.

Semiotic Engineering focuses on the communication between the designer and the user during the system’s interactions, and considers that the system interface communicates to users the designer perception about who the users are, their desires and needs. Consequently, the communicability is the software property that transmits to users the intention of the project and its interactive principles. In short, the communication between designer and user happens through the interface: it is a mediated communication (a metacommunication).

To evaluate the communicability of an interface with user participation, Semiotic Engineering proposes the Communicability Evaluation Method (MAC, in Portuguese) which consists of observing users by experts who analyze how messages are interchanged between users and the interface in order to identify communication breakdowns that may take place during interactions.

Slide 4 - Communicability evaluation in groupware

In collaborative environments, it is necessary to expand the user-system-designer interaction point of view to a view that also considers interactions between users in the system, as shown in the illustration.

Slide 5 - Evaluation method for collaborative systems (MAC-g)

The Evaluation method for collaborative systems (MAC-g, in Portuguese) is an extension of the original MAC method and has three main stages: preparation, tests and analysis/interpretation of interactions. These stages will be detailed later.

As mentioned before, the main difference is that MAC-g considers the interaction between people in the system, not just the user-system interaction.

For this reason, the author of the method suggests that tags must be mapped from a combination of values that correspond to dimensions that are relevant to the interaction in collaborative contexts and represent possible communication breakdowns. These dimensions are used in the formation of tuples, which completely characterize the breakdown.

The dimensions are:

  1. Interaction level: where a communication breakdown may happen;
  2. Important collaborative aspects: to support communication activities, coordination and collaboration among the system members
  3. Time in which the breakdown occurs
  4. Communication breakdowns, that are identical to the original MAC method, only incorporating the tag "Who?", considering that in collaborative systems there are breakdowns related to the identification of who performed an action.

During the interpretation phase, the identified tuples were associated with four categories:

  1. "Lack of perception of virtual space": which occurs when there is no information about other group members or their interaction with the interface
  2. "Lack of discourse perception phenomena": which is the lack of information about the responses and reactions of other members;
  3. "Lack of coordination perception": which occurs when the user does not have enough information about mechanisms that support the coordination of the group, and
  4. "Lack of technology perception": when missing information does not allow the user to notice problems related to technology.

Slide 6 - Research method

We adopted a qualitative-exploratory approach, based on a case study with multiple analysis units and consisting of the observation and application of the MAC-g in the interaction of elder and non-elder people with Facebook in a comparative approach.

The method was divided in four stages:

  1. Definition of the social network system and the characteristics to be analyzed;
  2. Definition of the Facebook version;
  3. Definition of the evaluation method and
  4. Communicability evaluation.

Slide 7 - Limitations of method

Regarding the limitations of the method, we highlight: A mobile laboratory was used in order to facilitate elderly participation. Moreover, there was also the fact that tests were restricted to participant-researcher communication. No analysis of communication actions were made among the participants of the study.

Slide 8 – Definition of …

We chose Facebook because of its popularity in Brazil. The selection of the features took into account collaborative aspects of social networks such as interpersonal communication (such as chat and sharing) and the "like" a page, because it is a popular resource.

The Desktop Facebook version was chosen because it is most commonly used by the Brazilian elderly people, according to the results of a study made by the Brazilian government in 2014.

The MAC-g evaluation method was selected because it is a Semiotic Engineering method and because involves the users.

Slide 9 - MAC-g: preparation (participants)

Our study was carried out with five elderly members aged 70 to 90 and five non-elderly adults aged 30 to 50. In order to preserve the similarity between the profiles, we tried to select participants with similar characteristics.

The average age was 75 for elderly participants and 38 for non-elderly adults.

Slide 10 - MAC-g: preparation (tasks)

The tasks were:

  1. Start a chat session with a friend (a researcher). The conversation ends when the friend says goodbye.
  2. Access the profile of any friend: choose one of his publications and share it with the researcher.
  3. Access a public person’s page and click "Like" this page.

Two researchers performed the tests: one in the role of observer and the other as a participant, interacting with the volunteers in task 1.

To carry out the chat conversation the researcher performed the following actions: the researcher called the volunteer by chat and asked him to point out how many mutual friends he has with another friend from his contacts and to give some of the names of this friends. The task ended when the volunteer answered all the questions or after 10 minutes.

Slide 11 - MAC-g: preparation (support materials)

We prepared a Consent Form, with some guidelines for the tests and some ethical considerations, a pre-test questionnaire to collect demographic data and to identify the volunteer profile and a script for a post-test interview, in order to record the feedback of participants

Slide 12 - MAC-g: tests

The tests were conducted at the volunteers’ homes or workplaces. A mobile laboratory was used with a laptop equipped with a webcam to capture facial expressions.  User interactions were also captured with specialized software.

Slide 13 - MAC-g: analysis/interpretation of results

The analysis and interpretation of results were done in three steps: tagging, interpretation and semiotic profiling.

Slide 14 - MAC-g: tagging

The 140 minutes of recorded interactions were analyzed (92 minutes for the elderly and 48 minutes for non-elderly participants in order to identify communicability breakdowns that occurred during user interaction and relate them with the communicability expressions (the tags).
The table shows the number of each of the tags obtained, per profile.

Slide 15 - MAC-g: interpretation

Elderly participants took longer to perform the tasks, with an average of 18 minutes as compared to 9 minutes of non-elderly members.

This probably happened because elderly people type slower and systematically need to look down at the keyboard.

Regarding the amount of communicability breakdowns, elderly people presented a higher value: 158 as compared to 66 of the non-elderly participants.

Slide 16 - MAC-g: interpretation (elderly)

The more frequent tag between the elderly was "What is this?", with 49 occurrences. This may indicate the user’s unfamiliarity with the designer’s meaning system. During tests, participants tried to understand icons and page elements, by hovering the mouse over them in an attempt to find tooltips.
The second most frequently identified tag among the elderly was "What happened?" (27 occurrences), probably related to the use of low-contrast and of grayscale interface elements, common aspects in this social network.

Another frequent tag among the elderly was "Where is?" (21 occurrences), indicating difficulty in finding items in the interface.

Slide 17 - MAC-g: interpretation (non-elderly)

Breakdowns obtained by non-elderly members were very different among the participants. The interaction of just one non-elderly person caused 29 of the 66 communicability breakdowns among all non-elderly people (about 44% of total), while other non-elderly participant had no breakdown.

“Help!" and "What's this?” was the most obtained tag for non-elderly participants.

Slide 18 - MAC-g: interpretation (categorization)

Many communicability breakdowns could not be classified within the interaction problems categories, proposed in the MAC-g method.

There were no breakdowns related to "Lack of coordination possibilities perception" because there were no group tasks or coordination activities. Similarly, the category "Lack of discourse perception phenomena" was not identified in the obtained breakdowns because there were no situations where feedback of other members were absent.

Regarding the category "Lack of perception of the virtual space", only one communicability breakdown could be associated: the tag "Looks fine to me..." which was identified in an elderly interaction occurred, because she did not know that there was a Facebook page for the chosen artist.

The "Lack of technology perception" category was present in breakdowns obtained by one elderly and one non-elderly person. The internet connection of both participants presented a temporary failure, resulting in various communicability breakdowns.

Slide 19 - MAC-g: semiotic profiling

In the last stage, was created a semiotic profile based on the characterization of metacommunication’s messages.

Due to its size, the semiotic profile will not be read at this point.

Slide 20 - Conclusion

Results in communicability evaluation were very different for the elderly and the non-elderly.

One of the main differences was related to the comprehension of Facebook language by the elderly, given the quantity of tags "What's this?": they had difficulty in understanding interface signs, often represented by icons.

Although this research was basically conducted in order to analyze and compare communicability in Facebook with regard to the elderly and non-elderly, the results showed the necessity to review the intercultural metacommunication in long-range systems such as Facebook, because it integrates within the same environment, several generations with cultural differences related to behavior, values and communication styles.

In addition, some results reinforced usability and accessibility problems mentioned in other studies in the existing literature.

Slide 21 -Questions? Contact us!

Thank you so much!