Computers offer wonderful potential for "telerelating" -- sustaining and even enhancing close personal relationships among professionals, students, family and friends. Technological advances proliferate in email, chat rooms, audio and video conferencing, virtual meeting tools and avatar world technologies. However, the human, interpersonal, social dimensions of collaborative technologies have not received adequate design or research attention.

Heeter is studying telerelating by living it every day. The majority of her friends, family, colleagues, bosses, employees and students are 2500 miles away. She has both the need and the yearning to optimize telerelating technology and processes. Technologically, during the first year of telecommuting she was limited to dial up connectivity. In September of 1998, DSL 384K bidirectional internet service became available at the West Portal, and Heeter and her associates will be experimenting with ways of using the increased bandwidth to enhance telerelating.

Heeter writes and gives talks about Telerelating. She and her lab hope to develop telerelating information appliances and software enhancements. She is involved in a Telerelating Consortium with other social science researchers to begin to define the field of research. Heeter recently submitted a research proposal to the National Council on Aging called "Telewindows: Changing the Social Fabric of Homebound Life for the Elderly."

Earth to Avatars '98 Abstract of Heeter's talk
October, 1997

TeleRelating in CyberSpace: Research and Practice
February 9, 1998
Visuals to Accompany Presentation by Carrie Heeter
Originally presented at the "Earth to Avatars" conference in October, 1997 and adapted for an MSU advanced hypermedia design class on February 9, 1998.

Telerelating Consortium of Social Science Researchers

Carrie Heeter and Frank Biocca are collaborating with communication researchers at University of Texas, Stanford University and University of Illinois. We will be holding the first plenary session to identify a social science research agenda for high performance computing environments.


TeleWindows: Changing the Social Fabric of Life for Homebound Elderly:

Proposal submitted to the Communication Technology Innovations program sponsored by the National Council on Aging and Ameritech. Heeter will also serve as a virtual client for an advanced design course at Yale University as they work on design issues related to TeleWindows.

Friendship, community and communication have positive impacts on morbidity, mortality, self esteem, well being and quality of life for the elderly. Communication with friends is a stronger influence than communication with adult children or health care professionals. As our population ages, more and more seniors will live to reach a point in life when, through illness or other life event, they find themselves prohibited from continuing to participate in social groups. We propose to conduct case studies in which we apply TeleWindows to connect recently homebound seniors with the Senior Center or Adult Day Care Center they had visited regularly. The TeleWindow technology we will test uses a dedicated standard phone line, a ViaTV picturephone unit with optional TTY feature for the deaf, and a speakerphone on both sides of the TeleWindow. Unlike a typical telephone vall, a TeleWindow stays open for long periods, providing a virtual presence. This project is a partnership between gerontology and communication technology researchers at Michigan State University, the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging, the Michigan Association of Senior Centers and the Michigan Association of Adult Day Care Centers.