Matti Nelimarkka defends his PhD thesis on Performative hybrid interaction on January 9th, 2018

M.Soc.Sci., B.Sc. Matti Nelimarkka defends his doctoral thesis Performative hybrid interaction: Understanding planned events across collocated and mediated interaction spheres on Tuesday the 9th of January 2018 at 12 o'clock noon in the University of Helsinki Main Building, Auditorium XII (Unioninkatu 34, 3rd floor). His opponent is Senior Researcher Kenton O'Hara (Microsoft Research Cambridge, United Kingdom) and custos Professor Giulio Jacucci (University of Helsinki). The defence will be held in English.

Performative hybrid interaction: Understanding planned events across collocated and mediated interaction spheres

There is a division among computer-supported collaboration tools by location (collocated/distributed) and by time (synchronous/asynchronous). Collocated synchronous tools were once given focus in research through studies of group support systems. Today, ubiquitous computing has led to collocated synchronous computing becoming a part of day-to-day life. The practices involved take place in hybrid space - a mixture of face-to-face and computer-mediated communication. This very real, concrete phenomenon has been subject to study in the human-computer interaction domain; however, theories examining social interaction in the hybrid space, or hybrid interaction, are rare. Such theories may help to advance the design and utilization of tools for hybrid interaction.

Aimed at helping practitioners understand and benefit from hybrid interaction, a study of one form of it was undertaken, with the emphasis on cases wherein the event is organized as a performance and there are spectators and performers. Hence, the focus is on performative hybrid interaction: hybrid interaction that is used as part of a performance. The work builds on 14 instances of hybrid interaction examined through mixed-methods approaches. The following observations about social practices were made on the basis of the empirical research:

(i) Hybrid interaction has social rules that govern how interaction takes place. In this respect, hybrid interaction is like any social interaction. However, the social rules of hybrid interaction emerge from the rules of both computer-mediated and face-to-face interaction. These two communication channels are interlinked and, therefore, influence one another.

(ii) In performer-oriented settings, it is important to establish social rules that support the performance. Performative hybrid interaction benefits from active guidance by performers. This active guidance establishes the social rules and communicates them to spectators. Performers establish these rules in several ways, both onstage and offstage. Yet the technical systems employed do not scaffold and support the active guidance.

(iii) The choices surrounding social rules are normative decisions. Therefore, frameworks that account for and reflect these decisions can be helpful for designers and researchers. Frameworks of this nature might be adapted, for example, from political science. They benefit research and design in two ways. Firstly, they often provide a set of validated empirical methods that make the research more solid. Secondly, they support the design of systems: they justify the design goals and provide a backdrop against which the design ideas evolve.

Discussion proceeding from these findings considers how to improve practices of performative hybrid interaction. The thesis project investigated the importance of accounting for these social practices. Also, I propose further tools for supporting these social practices, such as the script. Furthermore, the thesis contributes to the use of social theories for human-computer interaction, with a synthesis of elements from several fields of research: political science, performance studies, event studies, and sociology. This combination offers insights related to the difficulties and potential problems in performative hybrid interaction. It also provides insight into the role of normative decisions that ought to inform designers and researchers working on performative hybrid interaction.

Availability of the dissertation

An electronic version of the doctoral dissertation is available on the e-thesis site of the University of Helsinki at

Printed copies will be available on request from Matti Nelimarkka:


01.02.2018 - 17:02 Pirjo Moen
02.01.2018 - 16:02 Pirjo Moen