Posted on 29 April 2003
They'll be asked to sit at home, they will be connected up to a group of their friends or family for free, talk about anything they like for 30 minutes - and will be entered in a £500 prize draw for their trouble.
"We want people to have a bit of fun," said Dr Darren Reed of the Department of Psychology. "The project is a serious attempt, using a group telephone call, to understand just how a conversation works when people are talking with friends, but it could also be a highly entertaining experience! It's like a virtual pub: everyone will be in their own home but the technology will allow them to chat as if they were together."
"We want to understand what makes a conversation between a group work well when using this type of equipment. After the call we'll contact the group and ask them what was good or bad about the experience. We want to understand how today's new technologies can be improved to make things like group telephone conversations even more rewarding."
The volunteer group telephone project, headed by Professor Andrew Monk, is the latest in a line of research at the University into communication between people using various electronic methods. Earlier work concentrated on the business world but the current project is aimed purely at people's use of the telephone for leisure purposes.
Professor Monk's group has looked at how fun can have serious outcomes and has a book published by Kluwer entitled 'Funology: from usability to enjoyment'.
"We've already discovered that the research can be applied to bringing together older people who find loneliness a real problem. Too often technology has isolated people - we think we can see a way to reverse this trend," Professor Monk added. "The next generation of mobile phones will make group chats easier - at the moment they are too expensive to set up and too expensive to take part in."
Anyone interested in taking part should contact Dr Reed on email email@example.com or telephone 01904 434369 (preferably during office hours, although evening calls are welcome); all ages are accepted.