Who Has The Time?

Mixed Methods for Formative Research.

Personal Communication Across Time Zones

As part of a graduate course in Human-Computer Interaction, my team and I performed a formative study to investigate how users leverage communication technology to cope with the unique challenges posed by residential moves across time zones. We distributed an online questionnaire (N=26), the results of which we used to develop a semi-structured interview (N=10). We coded and analysed interview results using a grounded theory methodology.

Prior studies of cross-time-zone communication at CHI and CSCW focused mainly on collaboration with remote co-workers, not with family members. Studies that focused on family members did not capture recent changes in technology use, such as the rise of group chats. Many of our interviewees reported making use of group chats to stay in touch with family and friends, across a wide range of technologies.

Some highlights from the semi-structured interviews are presented in the table below.

Contributions: Concept, Experiments (one third of interviews), Analysis, Report Writing. This work was completed with two other graduate students, John Kanji and Harris Chan.

Partic. No.Previous LocationPrevious Time ZoneOccupationExample of ICT use for communicating across time zones
P1Oregon, United States(EST - 3)GS (M.Sc.), Computer ScienceHas a nightly group chat (both text and audio) with 4 close friends.
P2Netherlands(EST + 6)GS (Ph.D), NeuroscienceReports gradually decreasing communication in the months following their residential move.
P3Germany(EST + 6)US, Computer ScienceUses multi-person audio call to chat with their friends while multitasking (gaming).
P4Iran(EST + 7.5)GS (Ph.D), Civil EngineeringUses group chats to share their experience as a newcomer to Canada.
P5Alberta, Canada(EST - 2)Medical StudentUses time difference to make an emergency call late at night.
P6British Columbia, Canada(EST - 3)GS (M.Sc.), Aerospace EngineeringCalls parents using cellphone as they walks home from class.
P7Switzerland(EST + 6)US, Biomedical EngineeringUses video calls with long distance relationship partner
P8British Columbia, Canada(EST - 3)US, Engineering Science (Robotics)Uses group chats to keep in touch with high school friends, and used video calls for special occasions such as birthday surprises.
P9Colorado, United States(EST - 2)GS (Ph.D), Computer ScienceUses Skype to call parents every day after returning from work at 1 am.
P1United Arab Emirates(GST + 8)US, Life ScienceShares jokes and memes in group chat.