I am a sociologist of communication technology and human-computer interaction (opens in new tab), exploring remote and hybrid work in the Collaborative Intelligence (opens in new tab) theme at Microsoft Research Cambridge (UK).
My research group
I currently lead the Blended Reality for Effective Workflows (BREW) (opens in new tab) research group. We investigate how remote/hybrid teams can feel present and achieve goals throughout the workday, from meetings and events to ambient awareness and spontaneous encounters.
My training is ethnomethodological, drawing on video-recorded conversations and ethnographic data, and analysing that data using qualitative methods such as conversation analysis and membership categorisation analysis. I specialized in field research but also conduct interview, diary, and survey studies, as well as lab-based studies of prototypes. Increasingly, however, I combine qualitative with quantitative approaches, such as surveys and telemetry, to answer questions at scale.
I have been a member of 5 global category first-place winning projects in Microsoft OneWeek Hackathons, including one global Grand Prize winner. You can read about one of these that became a feature in our Garage Wall of Fame post Mobile Sharing and Companion Experiences for Microsoft Teams Meetings (opens in new tab). One day I might even be able to say what the other ones were! 😉
I received my PhD in 2010 in the field of Sociology specializing in Communication, from the University at Albany, State University of New York (opens in new tab). My dissertation was chaired by Professor Emerita Anita Pomerantz with committee members Professor Teresa Harrison, Professor Glenna Spitze, and Professor Ronald Jacobs.
Prior to working at Microsoft, I was a Lecturer in Strategic Communication at The University of Queensland (opens in new tab), Brisbane, Australia.
I have been a PC member of CHI and CSCW several times and review for many major HCI, communication, and technology journals and conferences. I was the Senior Editor of the Communication Technology section of the online Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. I have guest-edited special issues of Human Computer Interaction, the Electronic Journal of Communication. and the Australian Journal of Communication. I co-chaired the Microsoft 2020 New Future of Work Symposium (opens in new tab) (with Gloria Mark) and the 2012 conference of the Australasian Institute of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis (with Richard Fitzgerald).
I am the former Chair and a former Board Member of Electronic Frontiers Australia, a non-profit group advocating for digital access, freedom, and privacy.
I lead the BREW research group, which investigates the principles for social and technological telepresence that enable remote/hybrid teams to feel present and achieve goals throughout the workday.
Best Paper DIS2023: Beyond Audio: Towards a Design Space of Headphones as a Site for Interaction and Sensing
Via Research through Design (RtD), we explore the potential of headphones as a general-purpose input device for both foreground motion-gestures as well as background sensing of user activity. As a familiar wearable device, headphones offer a compelling site for head-situated interaction and sensing. Using emerging sensing modalities such as inertial motion, capacitive touch sensing, and depth cameras, our implemented prototypes explore sensing and interaction techniques that offer a range of compelling capabilities. User scenarios include context-aware privacy, gestural audio-visual control, and co-opting natural body language as context to drive animated avatars for “camera-off” scenarios in remote work–or even to co-opt (oft-subconscious) head movements such as dodging attacks in video games to enhance the gameplay experience. Drawing from the literature and other frameworks, we situate our prototypes and related techniques in a design space across the dual dimensions of (1) type of input (touch, mid-air, or head orientation/motion); and (2) the context of user action (application, body, or environment). In particular, interactions that combine multiple inputs and contexts at the same time offer a rich design space of headphone-situated wearable interactions and sensing techniques.
Honourable Mention CHIWORK 2023: Hear We Are: Spatial Audio Benefits Perceptions of Turn-Taking and Social Presence in Video Meetings
Relative to in-person meetings, conversations in video meetings have long been reported as stilted. Spatial audio in video meetings can simulate the way we hear the world by separating audio streams based on speakers’ virtual locations. We report on a within-subject experiment in which 75 employees of a global technology company completed two group survival tasks with spatial audio enabled or disabled. Spatial audio increased perceptions of interactivity, shared space, and ease of understanding. Women experienced effects for social presence while men experienced effects for turn-taking. We discuss implications for inclusion, task performance, fatigue, and future research.
Competitive overlaps, acknowledgement tokens, back channels… the more you know about meeting mechanics, the easier it will be to keep things running smoothly
The Future of Work Report summarizes the most important research and developments that can help us understand and improve the future of work. This report is organized by changes in work practices at four different “scales”: individual, team, organization, and societal. About this video: Great collaboration requires thoughtful choices that improve (or eliminate) meetings. Discover how we can use technology like video and AR/VR more intentionally—reducing employee stress and security challenges—in the New Future of Work Report 2022: https://aka.ms/NFW
Social Presence in Virtual Event Spaces - 2022 - Pre-CHI workshop talk series (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/publication/social-presence-in-virtual-event-spaces/) Speaker: Sean Rintel, Microsoft Research Abstract: The current hype around how the VR revolution in “presence” will improve online meetings and encounters is exciting, but we’ve been here before. Not only have we been here before about VR itself, but we’ve been here before about prior communication technologies, from the telephone, email, chat rooms, videoconferencing, and more. If we’ve been here before, why are we still seeking it? This overview of the research and commercial technology history of mediated presence, and some recent concepts, will interrogate the pursuit of mediated presence. The link between presence and fidelity to being in person is interesting, but both not as strong as we might assume, and only a piece of the communicative puzzle. Ultimately, goals should drive media choice. As we build new VR/AR experiences, we need to ensure that new systems don’t treat presence as an end-point, but as part of the broader achievement of goals.
Hybrid meetings—meetings in which there is a mix of remote and in-person participants—aren’t a new phenomenon, but the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought their opportunities and challenges to center stage. The Microsoft approach to hybrid meetings is informed by our long history of videoconferencing and workplace research, especially social successes and failures and technical configurations, as well as what we have learned during the pandemic. However, it is also clear now that current systems were not ready for hybrid to be the primary meeting modality. It's also come to light that the future of hybrid meetings—including those in future mixed and virtual reality technologies—will need to reconsider each remote and local room participant's perspective on the meeting as unique. In this session, a panel of Microsoft and external researchers, along with Microsoft Teams developers, will explore the nature of perspective in hybrid meeting technologies. Learn more about the 2021 Microsoft Research Summit: https://Aka.ms/researchsummit Speakers: Sean Rintel, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research Cambridge Shiraz Cupala, Partner Group Manager, Microsoft Abigail Sellen, Deputy Director, Microsoft Research Cambridge John Tang, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research Jaime Teevan, Chief Scientist, Microsoft Research Carman Neustaedter, Dean of the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology, Simon Fraser University
Mobile Sharing and Companion Experiences Video meetings traditionally limit each person to one device, hindering the ways that people can participate, share, and interact. Microsoft Teams empowers users to achieve more by using their computer and phone together as companions…