As our work takes dialogue as one of its most salient goals, we began by studying the conversation and dialogue from an analytical perspective. In our initial experiments, we considered dialogue when it is one-on-one and, face-to-face simply to understand how certain rules and structures shape this most analogue form of exchange. During our desk research and expert interviews, we noted the importance of structure in dialogue, and designed a series of experiments to isolate and examine rules that set, guide and restrict dialogue in a person-to-person, face-to-face environment.
We call this the very “inside” of any dialogic experience - that is, the act of talking and listening.
Here we ask - how do various sensual constraints impact communication? What happens if you cannot use your voice to communicate at first, and then 6 minutes later, you are again allowed to use it? Does closing your eyes necessarily lead to a decrease in understanding? Or might such isolation of a sense (just hearing) actually improve our ability to focus and listen more carefully?
We conducted experiments to test these dialogue-specific questions, creating experiences to learn more about the effect of these constraints. These experiments took place at:
1) An open-house design event at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (Copenhagen, Denmark) where we conducted sessions with 6 pairs of individuals, where each individual was from a different country and none of them knew one another previously.
Experience + feedback:
2) A workshop at Space10 Future Living Lab (Copenhagen, Denmark) with 20 conversational design experts, approximately half of whom knew one another previously.
Experience + feedback:
Though rules such as “make no eye contact” or “no voice, only face and body expression” often frustrated participants, the relief and increased attentiveness upon return to full expression became a key insight for our design of dialogic mechanisms and tools. That is - to design experiences that guide participants through different modes of expression and abstraction of communication and dialogue - physical, verbal, written, craft - as opposed to relying on one sole form of communication as the only mechanism for dialogue.
We also learned about timing, patterns of body language as they match or do not match open expression of opinion, level of depth of information needed around a given topic, and people’s willingness to enter into a discussion - even without a goal of conclusion - if they have a time restriction and direction to start.