Still time to attend CHI 2012!

I’ll admit that, like a moth to light, I am attracted to activities that might ordinarily be considered, well, a bit on the nerdy side.  Just because something might be a bit, well, out there, doesn’t mean you can’t lear a lot of cool valuable stuff.  Well, one such conference is fast approaching, and if you have the time, might I suggest that you plan to attend the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems?

The ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems is the premier international conference on human-computer interaction.  CHI 2012 focuses on the centrality of experience—from the models, theories and practical insights we need to understand and design for user experience to experiencing innovation through hands-on interactivity.  The experience of CHI 2012 is centered in vibrant Austin, Texas, the Live Music Capital of the World®. Home to the University of Texas and the annual SXSW music, film, and interactive festival and conference, Austin offers CHI attendees state-of-the-art conference facilities together with outstanding food and vibrant nightlife.

I know every presentation will be excellent, but I am especially looking forward to the presentation by Anthony Tang and Sebastian Boring of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.  They used Twitter to crowd source highlights from American football games to show that sports fans who tweet while watching the game could help create more exciting highlights than those compiled by professional broadcasters.  Their system, called #EpicPlay, gauges fans’ excitement by sudden spikes in Twitter activity, then selects video from the previous minute.

According to Jacob Aron, writing in New Scientist, the pair found few similarities between their highlight reels and the professional versions.  That’s because sportscasters assemble their reels retrospectively, constructing a narrative around the game’s outcome, while the crowd sourced highlights reflect fans’ emotions moment by moment.  Tweeters typically select impressive displays of skill, rather than just scoring touchdowns.  The crowd also spiked on “lowlights” when teams performed poorly or referred made controversial decisions.  Tang and Boring categorized tweets by the teams’ hashtags, making it possible to produce customized highlight reels for fans of either side.

As a season-ticket holder (for some unknown reason) to the KC Chiefs, I have no doubt that their system is correct.  I like things in advertising that seem intuitively correct and this is one of them.  I admit it – I like to communicate during the game with other fans.  There is something to the shared experience of those around you, but also those watching outside of the stadium.  I use the Chiefs mobile app to communicate during the game,  which works essentially the same way as Twitter.  I prefer to keep my eye on the game, but the good thing about football is that there is always a gap at the end of a play – even in hurry-up offense mode, you usually get 20 – 30 seconds between snaps.  Generally speaking, when I think back on the VERY FEW plays that I tweeted about during the game, all of them would have been followed by a longer stoppage of play (booth review, field challenge, change of possession, etc.), so even passive fans have the opportunity to participate.

I also agree with the highlight reel.  I watch a game in person and catch highlights later, but the highlights never seem to have the emotional impact as what I saw – a great hit on 2nd down, for example.  ESPN will show a stop on 4th and 1, but breaking up a pass, no matter how athletic, on 2nd and 10 isn’t as sexy.

The bigger issue here really seems to (and I’ve been poking around this for a bit) using media to set direction aka crowd sourcing.  From an analytic perspective, group think makes sense – it’s simple math – more participation = more influence.  From an advertising perspective, it still points to the need to control the crowd.  EpicPlay, for example, is dependent on big plays to generate action.  There will be people who Tweet during the game, but the spike that triggers their system relies on many individuals emotionally driven to action.  Something, or someone, has to generate that emotion.

In football, fans hope it’s a great play.  In advertising, we hope it’s creative.  It’s all about impact and emotion and a call to action.

Tang and Boring will present their work in May at ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

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