CHI 2016 Paper on Sociality in Minecraft Getting Some Great Press!

I was recently interviewed by a reporter from the New Scientist who wrote a piece on our paper, “Will I always be not social?”: Re-Conceptualizing Sociality in the Context of a Minecraft Community for Autism, that I will be presenting on May 9 for CHI 2016.

We were also covered by “Don’t Hate the Geek” in their article Minecraft Server for Autistic Gamers on May 2, 2016!

Want to find out more? Please see our full paper that has been accepted to CHI 2016. Full citation and link to the pdf below:

Ringland, K.E., Wolf, C.T., Faucett, H., Dombrowski, L., and Hayes, G.R. “’Will I always not be social?’: Re-Conceptualizing Sociality in the Context of a Minecraft Community for Autism”. Proceedings of the 2016 ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, ACM (2016). To Appear. [Acceptance Rate: 23.4%]

POST LAST UPDATED: May 2, 2016.

Related Posts:

Making in Minecraft: A Means of Self-Expression for Youth with Autism

Preview: Maker culture values fabrication and production in both the digital and physical realms as well as the sharing of ...
Read More

PDF of Analog Games Paper

Here is the pdf version of my Analog Games Paper, "Who Has Access? Making Accessible Play Spaces in Minecraft for ...
Read More

QGCon Presentation Available on YouTube

My QGCon presentation, "Minecraft as a Site of Sociality for Autistic Youth," is now available on YouTube. My talk starts ...
Read More
Loading...

Advancement to PhD Candidate

I’m happy to report I successfully passed my advancement to become a PhD Candidate!

My talk was titled “Technology Mediated Socialization for Children with Autism.”

Committee: Gillian Hayes (Chair), Rebecca Black, Mimi Ito, Josh Tanenbaum, and Tom Boellstorff

Abstract: Traditional face-to-face social interactions can be challenging for individuals with autism, leading some to perceive and categorize these individuals as less social than their peers. For example, autism can be accompanied by difficulty making eye contact, interpreting some nonverbal cues, and performing coherent verbal utterances. While these challenges can be interpreted as an inability or lack of desire for social interactions, researchers have begun to explore how to expand the definition of sociality for those with autism. My research explores how technology can support alternative means of sociality, particularly for children with autism engaged in social play. In this advancement talk, I will present two research studies: SensoryPaint and Autcraft. SensoryPaint is a multimodal sensory environment built to enable whole-body interaction with the Kinect. Evaluation of SensoryPaint was conducted in two stages: a lab-based study and a deployment study. Results from this study show how these systems can promote socialization. My second research project explores Autcraft, a Minecraft community for children with autism and their allies. I will present results from on-going ethnographic work exploring the community’s Minecraft server and other community affiliated social media. Results from this study highlight ways in which community members use technology to create a safe environment for children with autism to explore alternative forms of social expression. Findings suggest an expansion of how sociality has traditionally been conceptualized for individuals with autism and how technology plays a key role in facilitating this new sociality.

“Will I always be not social?”: Re-Conceptualizing Sociality in the Context of a Minecraft Community for Autism

Preview: Members of the Autcraft community for children with autism and their allies use a variety of social media platform, centered around Minecraft. The community’s use of various technologies facilitates the expansion of how members can socialize with one another, giving them opportunity to explore their own sociality, expand how they would like to be able to socialize, and deepen their connection with other members of the Autcraft community.


Autcraft community members playing a game together.
Autcraft community members playing a game together.

“I love being a member of the [Autcraft] community and love spending time with my ‘family’ here. … A place I was accepted for …  just being ‘different’ than others.”

If a child finds face-to-face conversations challenging and feels isolated from their peers at school, where can they go to make friends? Online communities have the potential to support social interaction for those who find in-person communication challenging, such as children with autism. Unfortunately, online communities come with their own set of problems – cyberbullying is particularly troubling. We studied how one online community, Autcraft, through a variety of social media platforms, practices and defines how they are social.

Autcraft is a Minecraft community for children with autism and their allies run by parent volunteers. The goal of the Autcraft community is to have a safe space for children with autism to play Minecraft free from harassment and bullying (for more information visit the Autcraft website). As part of our study, I have been conducting an on-going ethnography within the community (see our paper for details). This study included analysis of activity within the Minecraft server, forums, website, Twitter, Facebook group, YouTube, and Twitch.

Our analysis demonstrates how members of the Autcraft community search for, practice, and define sociality. These results indicate more broadly how people may increasingly find new ways to express themselves and create a sense of community as emergent forms of media change the nature of our social landscape. Our exploration of Autcraft adds to a growing body of work about social platforms by showing how flexible, multimodal communications not only “keep the game going” but also can have profound effects for self-expression and feelings of social belonging.

Autcraft community members engage in the following:

  • Searching For and Finding Community. Minecraft serves as a bridge or means of entry for members of this community. The game plays a key role, coupled with other forms of social media, in supporting children who are particularly known to struggle with finding social support. Autcraft—including the game, forums, Facebook page, and community-related videos—helps community members to not feel “alone.” Much like for other youth online, Autcraft members describe “hanging out” with their friends in Minecraft. Although they may not be meeting in person, members consider these relationships to be meaningful friendships. Autcraft, by its very nature of blending social interaction with strict rules of behavior and appealing game mechanics, comes together to form a space of cohesion, not difference, and of support, not scorn.
  • Defining Sociality and Community. Although Autcraft community members often seek out social relationships through Autcraft as an augment to in-person relationships, some do not wish to seek out these in-person friendships. Those who prefer the majority of their socializing to occur online struggle with what it means to be “social.” Acceptance is a cornerstone to making being “different” more tolerable and reducing the social isolation and loneliness that frequently surrounds difference.
  • Practicing Sociality. In practicing their social behavior, social connections are formed and maintained through a variety of media technologies, allowing members to use communicative practices best suited for them, both as individuals and as a group. The community sets the stage for sociality by encouraging members to “Be Kind, Be Respectful, Be Responsible.”  On an individual level, Autcraft provides powerful common ground for players, a key foundation to many friendships. Not only do those who join the community share a common interest in Minecraft, they also all have claimed to be either an ally of, or someone with, autism. This is a requirement the community regulates carefully. These two components of the community help lay the groundwork for friendship because they represent part of a person’s shared interest.

By using various platforms, members of the Autcraft community are able to form deeper friendships with one another, if so desired. Being able to foster these relationships across the myriad platforms creates cohesion in the community. Two members may meet through an advertisement on the forums for builders, build a project together, and then go on to create YouTube videos together of the experience. This facilitates the expansion of how members can socialize with one another, giving them opportunity to explore their own sociality, expand how they would like to be able to socialize, and deepen their connection with other members of the Autcraft community.

For more details about our methods and findings, please see our full paper that has been accepted to CHI 2016 (to appear in May 2016). Full citation and link to the pdf below:

Ringland, K.E., Wolf, C.T., Faucett, H., Dombrowski, L., and Hayes, G.R. “’Will I always not be social?’: Re-Conceptualizing Sociality in the Context of a Minecraft Community for Autism”. Proceedings of the 2016 ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, ACM (2016). To Appear. [Acceptance Rate: 23.4%]

ResearcherKateAcknowledgements: We thank the members of Autcraft for the warm welcome to their community. We would like to thank members of LUCI for their feedback on this paper. We would also like to thank Robert and Barbara Kleist for their support. This work is covered by human subjects protocol #2014-1079 at the University of California, Irvine.

Related Posts:

Making in Minecraft: A Means of Self-Expression for Youth with Autism

Preview: Maker culture values fabrication and production in both the digital and physical realms as well as the sharing of ...
Read More

PDF of Analog Games Paper

Here is the pdf version of my Analog Games Paper, "Who Has Access? Making Accessible Play Spaces in Minecraft for ...
Read More

QGCon Presentation Available on YouTube

My QGCon presentation, "Minecraft as a Site of Sociality for Autistic Youth," is now available on YouTube. My talk starts ...
Read More
Loading...

CHI 2016 Video Preview of Minecraft Paper

Ringland, K.E., Wolf, C.T., Faucett, H., Dombrowski, L., and Hayes, G.R. “’Will I always not be social?’: Re-Conceptualizing Sociality in the Context of a Minecraft Community for Autism”. Proceedings of the 2016 ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, ACM (2016). To Appear. [Acceptance Rate: 23.4%]

Clothing Tags for Individuals with Visual Impairments

Kate at UMBC SURF Poster Session
August 8, 2012. UMBC SURF Poster Session

Self expression through clothing is inherently visual and is not readily accessible to those with visual impairments. Presently, the best method for conveying information is with high-tech devices that identify fabric colors, but don’t give information about pattern, graphics, washing instructions, or style. Designing clothing tags for the visually impaired user requires that the tags be discreet, comfortable, easy to locate, and that it be reasonably simple to retrieve information from them. With this study we contribute a collection of tagging systems that can be used in future research for the development and testing of fully functional tagging systems that will empower visually impaired users when making clothing decisions.

Ringland, Kathryn. “Accessible Clothing Tags: Designing for Individuals with Visual Impairments”.CHI 2013. Paris, France. May 2013.*

Williams, M., Ringland, K., Hurst, A. “Designing an Accessible Clothing Tag System for People with Visual Impairments”. ASSETS 2013. Bellevue, WA. October 2013.*

Related Posts:

ASSETS 2012 Conference

To be honest, I started this blog immediately after I returned from the ASSETS 2012 conference, but everything else in ...
Read More

Week 10

In a whirlwind of getting everything done, the summer is over!  This past week I created a video showcasing all ...
Read More

Week 9

I can't believe the summer is almost over!  I guess it's a good sign that I wish I were in ...
Read More
Loading...

Daily Log: CHI2013 Day 4

So, I’ve finally found time to write my last day of CHI entries. I was sad to see CHI be over, but on the other hand, four days of solid conference is a lot of conference.

I first attended Vint Cerf‘s talk in the morning (he was one of the inventors of the internet). I thought the whole talk was interesting. He discussed how everything is now going on the internet and it’s important that standards be created so everything can talk to each and talk to the aliens when they come to visit from outer space.  The best part of his talk, however, was when he ended the first part of his talk and launched into the necessities of accessibility. Now this just happens to be my area of interest. And apparently, not enough people are interested, unfortunately.

Vint Cerf talks about Computer Conversations
Vint Cerf talks about Computer Conversations
Star Trek and Ubiquitous Computing, Talking to a Mouse
Star Trek and Ubiquitous Computing, Talking to a Mouse
Vint Cerf at the Podium
Vint Cerf at the Podium
Slide on Accessibility
Slide on Accessibility

I then went the session on Autism. I enjoyed listening to all the papers presented. The first (Why Do They Still Use Paper? Understanding Data Collection and Use in Autism Education by Marcu et al.) covered why teachers and caretakers in schools were still using paper to keep track of all the student records. Basically it comes down to: there is no really good software solution yet for schools. The second paper (TOBY: Early Intervention in Autism through Technology by Venkatesh et al.) was about the Toby Play Pad, which is an app that is meant as an early intervention tool when parents find out their child is autistic. It targets four developmental areas: sensory, imitation, language (receptive and expressive), and social (eye gaze, joint attention). The third paper (Evaluation of Tablet Apps to Encourage Social Interaction in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Hourcade et al.) was on a method to evaluate tablet apps for encouraging social interaction. The fourth paper (Investigating the Use of Circles in Social Networks to Support Independence of Individuals with Autism by Hong et al.) was about social media and using social networks to support youth with autism. This helps shift the burden off over-reliance on the primary caregiver and spreads it around to other people in the youth’s social circles.

In the afternoon, I also attended a panel with Vint Cerf discussing accessibility and what’s currently being done. It’s nice to know some big names in computing are concerned about this and maybe it will get more attention this way.

Finally, here is a slide show of the rest of Paris, in case I don’t get around to a post about that part of my trip:

Daily Log: CHI2013 Day 3

Today I slept in and woke up in time to attend the Student Research Competition presentations. They were very good and gave me some good insight into how I should think about my own future presentations.

I then ate lunch from the grocery store at the bottom of the convention center. It is Labor Day and many of the restaurants are closed, along with most of the shops as well. Yesterday, Amy gave me some really great advice about how to choose sessions. So I looked over the schedule and tried to be more deliberate about the sessions I was choosing.

After lunch I attended two sessions. The first was on Mental Health. I really liked all of the papers presented there. These included a discussion about personhood in dementia, using a mobile app to track elements in Bipolar Disorder, supporting caregivers of patients with depression, and objects to help with Dialectical Behavioral Training for those with Borderline Personality Disorder. The first paper had interesting insights about the sense of self. People often talk about it as if it is something you can lose, but perhaps it is better to think of it as something that can be externalized by the people around you. The app for Bipolar Disorder was interesting, of course, because of my closeness to that particular topic. The paper about depression was interesting because the study was conducted in Japan. There caregivers are reluctant to tell their close friends and family about their loved one suffering from depression. I wonder if the same would be true in the US. And finally, the paper on DBT was great because it is another topic dear to my heart. The researchers actually created physical objects to help patients understand and go through their DBT training. For instance, they created a crystal ball that pulses with the heartbeat of whoever is holding it. The ball can be personalized by embedding meaningful objects into the crystal. The user can hold this ball while doing their mindfulness exercises. It’s really fantastic and I would love to have one of my own!

The second session I attended was Design for Children. These papers were also very good. I learned a lot about how researchers can use children in the design process (for things that will ultimately be used by children). I got a good glimpse of the idea of Participatory Design, which I hadn’t really formally encountered before.

After the sessions I walked back to the hotel in a torrential downpour. Seems like a good evening to stay in a take it easy. I am on vacation in Paris, after all!

Daily Log: CHI2013 Day 2

Today was day 2 of CHI for me. It was a long, but wonderful day. I started by attending the CHI Women’s Breakfast. The food was very good and we got some very cool swag from Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. I met a table full of very interesting people including Bonnie John and Arnie Lund. While I was not very happy with the logistics of the breakfast (the organizers tried to direct our conversation, which ended up just making the conversation more stilted and less about what I would have liked to talk about). We still ended up running over into the first morning session.

During the first break I was supposed to talk to people about my poster. Unfortunately, my poster did not get put up after the judging session. I am sad to know I will probably not get it back because a lot of hard work was put into that poster and I was hoping to hold onto it.

My favorite paper for the morning was Analyzing User-Generated YouTube Videos to Understand Touchscreen Use by People with Motor Impairments by Lisa Anthony et al. This was another study that looked at a specific set of videos found by searching on YouTube. I learned about how valuable user generated content on the internet can be as a source of information about a group of people.

Then I went to lunch with my UMBC family. It is really nice to be able to spend time with some people here that are friendly, familiar faces. CHI is so large that it can be quite overwhelming at times. After lunch, I spent some time with Amy and Lisa. They both gave me a lot of really excellent advice about my upcoming transition to grad school. It was nice to get some insight into my journey ahead and also to know that there are safe people I can turn to for advice if I need it. It’s these connections to a support network that will ultimately be the most important thing I foster as a grad student, I think.

In the afternoon session, I especially liked the paper entitled Technology Preferences and Routines for Sharing Health Information during the Treatment of Chronic Illness by Carolyn Pang et al. This was a study of how families with an individual with chronic illness uses different technologies to connect with each other for comfort. This was probably one of my top favorite papers thus far, it’s up there with the Motherhood paper from yesterday.

I then spent about five minutes at the hospitality reception at the convention center. It was way too crowded with not enough to drink, eat, and do. I met up with a bunch of people later to attend the joint UW, U of Michigan, and Georgia Tech party. I met a couple of people that I was happy to meet. Otherwise it was another loud, crowded place with not enough to drink and eat.

I’m happy for all the connections I am making here at the conferences. I feel like I can start this summer of research at UCI strong now. But first! Two more days of CHI!!

Daily Log: CHI2013 Day 1

Woke up at 7 this morning in order to give myself plenty of time to get ready and head to the convention center before the morning keynote. The weather turned really nice today so it was a very nice walk to the convention center from our hotel. It takes about 15 minutes if I walk a little briskly.
The keynote speaker was Paola Antonella from the MOMA. Her talk was about design- what is it and how people perceive it. People often mix up design with art, but they really aren’t the same thing at all. She talked about how design is about the interaction, how people interact with objects and their environment. She explained her video game installment. She maintains that these video games are one way users interact with their world, often times intertwining the physical with the virtual. To me, it now makes sense why Dwarf Fortress would be the perfect sort of interactive object for her installment. I really enjoyed her talk and it made me think a little differently about how I personally view the things I’m interacting with and how I would like to approach design in the future.
CHI 2013 Dwarf Fortress
CHI 2013 Dwarf Fortress
I then went to the Enhancing Access session. My two favorite papers from the session were Older Adults as Digital Content Producers by Jenny Waycott et al and Health Vlogger- Viewer Interaction in Chronic Illness Management by Leslie Liu et al. The first was interesting because it looked at how older adults can be users and creators of digital content and how that interaction played out amongst themselves. The second showed what vloggers on youtube have done when suffering from chronic illness. The vlogging actually acted as a wider support network for the person suffering from the illness and actually gave them a sense of purpose and comfort by educating viewers on their illness (like showing people they are still a human being even though they are HIV positive or demonstrating how chemo works). I connected with this paper because I have found blogging and making videos therapeutic in my own life.
Then I had lunch from the grocery store at the lower level of the conference center. I just sat on a step and watched people go by for an hour (and there were plenty of them). It was quite refreshing.
I then went to Technologies for Life 1 in the afternoon. Overall, I think I enjoyed this session more than the more session. I don’t know if I was just more awake or if the speakers were just more engaging, or I liked the topics more- or all three. I think my favorite paper was called Digital Motherhood: How does technology help new mothers? by Larna Gibson and Vicki Hanson. This was a study on how new mothers use technology, such as smart phones and the internet, to stay connected to the outside world. As I know a lot of people who have recently had kids I have personally witnessed this phenomenon. I liked the way the study was conducted- the researcher had just had a child so she was already attending “mommy and me” groups. She basically did an anthropological survey and recorded relevant information as it surfaced during conversations. She then later interviewed a select few of the mothers for a more in-depth follow up. The note Access Lens: A Gesture-Based Screen Reader for Real-World Documents by Shaun Kane et all was also really cool. The technology used was a camera that could help a visually impaired user find their way around a paper map, for instance.
I then attended the Student Research Competition judging session. It was a complete mess from an administrative standpoint. The room was too small and there was no where to hang our posters. Students had to alternate holding posters when it was not their turn to talk. Because of the time crunch, the judges had to split into two groups, which meant we had to present our poster twice, once for each set of judges. And the groups went at the same time, so the room was completely silent except for two people talking about their posters at once. Then it was timed, so we had exactly one minute to speak and then 1.5 minutes for questions. The timer would yell “STOP!” really loud at each interval. It was all very nerve-wracking. I think my talk went okay, but I probably could have prepared more. Anyway, I did not win, so I will not have to give a presentation on Wednesday. I still am giving my poster presentation to the public during the first break tomorrow, but then after that I can relax and enjoy the rest of the conference.
I ended my evening with dinner at Oresto just down the street from the conference center. It was my very first Abowd family meeting. I was even presented to the group as the newest family member (second generation apparently). It was really nice. Everyone seems super great and I’m really happy to have such a supportive group of people around me.
A street on my walk back to my hotel in the evening.
A street on my walk back to my hotel in the evening.
Now it is late and I have another long, full day ahead of me tomorrow!

On Getting Into Grad School, Part 3

Have you read Part 2 yet?

October 2012: More Traveling Fun

Amidst getting through my senior year classes (which were amazingly more difficult than my previous courses), I traveled some more in the fall. At the beginning of October I went to the Grace Hopper 2012 Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. I had been given a scholarship to attend, all expenses paid. It was great because I was traveling with some of my friends from the west coast. We all stayed in the same hotel and I got to show them a little bit of Baltimore (like the train from the airport to downtown).

At Grace Hopper, I was sure to visit the booths of some of the schools I was planning on applying to. It was nice to connect up with people I had made connections with the previous year and with those I had made connections with over the summer.

Later in October, I attended ASSETS 2012 in Boulder, CO. This conference was a lot smaller than anything else I had been to, but it was definitely worth the trip. Here again, I connected up with people from the summer and learned a lot about the assistive tech scene. It was sort of an affirmation that this was the field that I wanted to go into and was proof that it was a viable field to go into. I think one of the best parts was going to dinner with Amy and Michele (that I worked with over the summer) and getting all sorts of advice on how to proceed with my grad school application process. It was a lot more information in one evening than I had ever gotten from anyone at my home institution. I am glad to have made these connections and definitely don’t want to ever turn up the opportunity in the future to make more connections like these.

November 2012: Wrapping Up the Semester and the Applications

By the time I came home from ASSETS I was ready to finish up my applications and get everything done. I had a much stronger idea of what to write for my personal statements and a stronger overall story for the application package. I spent the rest of November writing all the different personal statements and starting to turn in my applications. For the most part, I was able to get all of my applications done by the first of December. This gave me a little breathing room before finals. While the majority of the applications were due December 15th, I didn’t want to be trying to turn them all in last minute.

It was at the beginning of November that my first paper (I was second author) got presented at a conference. The conference was in Taiwan, so I didn’t have the funds to go, but it was still exciting to have a paper published.

December 2012: This is the End?

I got all my applications done before finals and wrapped up the semester completely exhausted. And broke. Did I mention how much money this whole process ended up costing? I’m a little scared to actually tally up the total, so I won’t. But it was a lot. It was probably in the neighborhood of $1000 after application fees, GRE tests, and transcript requests.

Then the worst part of the entire process began. The waiting.

Knowing that my entire future was in the balance and that the outcome of these applications would determine where I would be living and what I would be doing in less than a year was completely nerve-wracking. And it wasn’t just my life I was messing with- it was also my husband’s.

January 2013: Dealing with Rejection

Luckily, schools were on the ball and started culling their applications by mid-January. I got a couple of rejections right away. While this was a bit discouraging, I had mentally prepared myself for such occurrences. And a rejection was much better than not knowing at all.

But I didn’t have much time to feel sorry for myself or worry too much because I was also keeping myself busy with school and MORE travel! I was prepping at this point to head to the Tapia Conference in Washington, DC. I was to present a poster on work I had done in the fall for my professor.

Right before I left for the conference I found out that I had a phone interview with UC Irvine the Monday after I got back. While I was very nervous about this, I was happy I had made it past the culling phase with at least one school!

I also got invited to interview with Facebook at the Tapia Conference and invited to a Google workshop called Google.GetAJob(). I felt like I would have a lot of hard decisions to make in the next couple of months about our future.

February 2013: It All Starts Coming Together

The first week in February is when I attended the Tapia Conference. While I was there I spent a day visiting my friends at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. I talked to them about my grad school applications and interviews. It was really great to catch up and also know that what I was going through was completely normal. The conference itself was also really great. I got to meet people from all over and network with the research labs. I did a poster presentation, which I had only done once before. I got a lot of really great feedback and most of it was positive, too.

During the conference, immediately after my Facebook interview, I got an email saying that I had been accepted to present my poster at the Student Research Competition at CHI 2013 in Paris. If I had had any thoughts of just skipping graduate school and going to industry, they instantly vanished. I knew I wanted to do well at CHI and continue doing research that I enjoyed so much.

After I came home from the Tapia Conference, I had my interview with UC Irvine. It was very informal and a really positive experience. I was able to tell them I had gotten accepted to CHI, which really helped my own confidence.

I also found out that I was invited to an interview on campus at University of Colorado, Boulder set for the 14th of February. So, off I went on another trip after having just come back from Washington DC.

The night before I left for Boulder, I found out that I had gotten into UC Irvine. I was over the moon. It also made me feel much more comfortable while traveling to Boulder. There I met with students and faculty on the campus. I really loved the town, at least until I got snowed in and ended up staying an extra day. I’m not sure I could live in a place where there’s that much snow. It was still a great learning experience and I got a good idea of what I wanted to find out about Irvine when I visited them in March.