Post Doctoral Research Associate University of York

"Primary and peripheral participation in video-mediated communication"

A three-year post is offered to investigate the role of participatory status in video-mediated communication. This will involve designing, running and analysing experiments in which groups of three or more people communicate over a video link in order to complete a cooperative task. Results will be related to Clark's theory of language use and to practical concerns about the design of communication equipment. The salary will be on the 1A scale (maximum: 18,185).

Candidates should have a knowledge of experimental design and statistics equivalent to that obtained in an under graduate degree in Psychology. Post-graduate experience in one of the following research areas would be advantageous: human-computer interaction, CSCW, social psychology, cognitive psychology and theories of language use.

Informal enquiries may be made to Andrew Monk, (01904 433148 or

For further information please write to: The Personnel Officer, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, UK,(email: or see the web page

Please quote reference number /6080

The closing date for applications is 1 November.

Extract from grant proposal


Aim: To understand the communication requirements of peripheral participants in electronically mediated tasks, so that, video and audio links can be configured optimally for certain kinds of work.

Objective 1:

To operationalise the concept "degree of peripherality" in a variety of measures, these measures to reflect practical issues to be tested in experiments that manipulate: visibility, copresence, and audibility of one participant to another.

Objective 2:

To develop a model of participation in electronically mediated communication based on Clark's theory of language use that will explain the effects observed in these experiments and to test that model in further experiments.

Objective 3:

To use the understanding obtained to write principles and heuristics for the configuration of audio and video links where there may be peripheral participation. These will be written for the designers and users of video and audio links and will be tested in use.


As well as the primary participants in any electronically mediated task, there are often others who may overhear or see what is going on. Depending on the way that a video or audio link is configured the primary participants may be more or less aware of these peripheral participants, affecting the conversation that ensues and the consequent subjective experience of all concerned. It may also effect the ability of a peripheral participant to become a primary participant, or vice versa, with important practical implications for effective collaborative work. "Degree of peripherality" is a theoretical concept reflecting the experience of a peripheral participant in these respects.

Experiments will be carried out that measure degree of peripherality and manipulate: visibility, copresence, and audibility of participants communicating over an audio-video link. An experimental task and measures previously developed in this laboratory will be used. The measures assess social presence, inter-personal awareness, visual attention, memory and comprehension. The results of these experiments will be used to develop a model of participation in electronically mediated communication and principles and heuristics to be used by engineers and users when configuring synchronous electronic communication equipment for three-party conversations of this kind.


Manufacturers, suppliers and users of audio and video communication equipment:- Small changes in configuration, e.g., the scope of the image or the quality of sound, can have large effects in some work contexts. The understanding provided by this research will make it possible to predict these effects. This understanding is to be encapsulated as principles and heuristics to be used directly by this group of beneficiaries.

Researchers in university and industrial laboratories:- The measures developed in this research will have wide applicability in studies of mediated communication. The tasks and theory will also be of value to researchers. Transcripts from the experiments will be made available for analysis by other investigators.