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p829-chiasson - Testing the Media Equation with Children...

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Unformatted text preview: Testing the Media Equation with Children Sonia Chiasson and Carl Gutwin Computer Science Department, University of Saskatchewan 110 Science Place, Saskatoon, SK, S7N 5C9, Canada sonia.chiasson, carl.gutwin @usask.ca ABSTRACT Designers of children’s technology are often more interested in user motivation than those who design systems for adults. Since children’s technology often has aims such as education or practice, keeping the user engaged and interested is an important objective. The Media Equation – the idea that people respond socially to computers – shows potential for improving engagement and motivation. Studies have shown that people are more positive about both themselves and the computer when software exhibits certain social characteristics. To explore the possible value of the Media Equation as a design concept for children’s software, we replicated two of the original Media Equation studies, concerning the effects of praise and team formation. Our results, however, were contrary to our expectations: we did not find evidence that children were significantly affected by social characteristics in software, and adults were influenced in only a few cases. These results raise questions about using the Media Equation as a design principle for children’s software. Author Keywords Media Equation, CASA, children’s technology. ACM Classification Keywords H.5. Information interfaces and presentation: User interfaces ( Interaction styles, screen design ) INTRODUCTION Children are becoming primary users of software and technology, and more attention is being paid to the specifics of how to design for children. There are several ways in which designing children’s technology is different from designing for adults (e.g. [7,12]). One difference in particular is the focus on ways to improve engagement and motivation for younger users. Designers of children’s technology are often more concerned about user motivation than are those who design systems for adults. Utility and usability for a particular work task are primary objectives for mainstream software, but children’s technology often has different aims, such as teaching school subjects or providing practice with particular skills [6]. Since the value provided by these systems is only obtained if the child actually spends time with the application, motivating a child to continue is an important design issue. One commonly used motivation is entertainment: by making a computer system fun, it is likely that children will remain on task longer. However, entertainment is not appropriate for all applications, and it would be valuable to have other means to engage and motivate users. One possible means is the Media Equation....
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