Being There, Being Interrotroned

Exploring the Qualitative Effects on Subjects of the
Direct-Address Video Interview (a.k.a. Interrotron)
 with Participatory Design Research

Gregory Whitmore
11 June 2013

INSC573:Design Methods for Information Science
Prof. David G. Hendry


Video-based interview traditionally utilizes a three-point camera/subject/interviewer configuration. It has been observed that camera placement in this configuration can contribute to feelings of alienation, as participants must reconcile the presence of the camera observing them from the side as they attempt to carry on a conversation. This problematic can be circumvented by employing an alternative hardware configuration known as a direct-address interview device. First employed by the film director Errol Morris in 1997 and nicknamed the Interrotron, the direct-address system is created by wiring two teleprompter equipped cameras in circuit. By embedding the recording camera into the line-of-sight between the interviewer and the subject it is possible to provide continuous eye-to-eye contact between the interviewer and interviewee during a filmed interview. Literature and film criticism has explored the aesthetic qualities of recorded interviews collected using this device, yet no empirical studies have explored the effects of the direct-address system on the subject.  

In this paper, I introduce the direct-address architecture and then frame the question, “What does it feel like to be Interrotroned?” Through participatory design research, I introduce a direct-address interview system to three sets of stakeholders and encourage them to use it. Through the use of researcher prompts I try to create a kind of reflection-on-action cycle whereby participants voice their comments on the design and usability and affect of the system – all the while being recorded by the system. A sampling of video collected via this process is followed by additional insights, observations and social context.


Three-point interview design ubiquity and prevalence

Imagine sitting down to be interviewed on-camera. As the red LED lights, signaling the start of recording, even trained actors and the most seasoned and experienced among us are confronted by a most pressing question: “ Where should I direct my eyes?” Usually, one of two options are available: Address the interviewer or, in some odd cases, address the camera.

Conversation is a discursive, iterative, complex process requiring the continuous summoning of attention, reflection, thinking and issuing of speech acts. Participating in conversation while attempting to consciously ignore a camera and crew perched to the side –or more difficult still while peering into the darkness of a camera’s lens as an interviewer looks on – can contribute to the alienation of any human subject.

The experience of using web-based video chat systems or video conferencing confers similar complications. With popular laptop-computer based “video chat” systems there is a significant angle of incidence between the web-cam and the eyes of the person with whom we are “chatting.” The physiological and aesthetic effect of this design flaw generates an image of the user looking down and sometimes additionally to the side. And on the far end of the conversation users same configuration multiplies the disconnect.  As audio/visual communication via web-based video chat (“Skype”, “Google Hangout”, etc.) increases and the need to address this alienation seem paramount.

Figure 1: “The Skype’s the limit.” Subtle angular gaze away from the camera lens is apparent in 6 of the 9 images in this array.

credit: Chris Creegan

In the realm of the social sciences and visual ethnography as well, the traditional video interview configuration has likewise been pervasive. Video ethnography has always placed a premium on the ‘fly on the wall’ approach. Current ethnographic and anthropological textbooks almost universally concur with the definition put forth by Schaeffer that “the video recording of the stream of activity of subjects in their natural setting (emphasis mine), in order to experience, interpret, and represent culture and society,” (Schaeffer, 1995, 255).

Figure 2: Scene from Jean Rouch and Edger Morin’s  Chronique d'un été (Chronicle of a Summer) (1960) where Rouch and Morin discuss whether or not it is possible to act sincerely in front of a camera.

Western/Continental film history is rich in “observed behavior” works -- obliquely filmed and in so-called cinema verité (film-truth) style. Chronique d'un été is widely recognized as an example of cinéma verité.

The Birth of the Direct-address Interview Architecture:
Errol Morris’s Interrotron

Errol Morris: “I worried at first. Would it frighten people? Would they run out of the studio screaming? Who could say? I used it for the first time in Fast, cheap and out of control. And it worked like a charm. (…)

Interviewer: But doesn't the device intimidate people?

Errol Morris: Oddly enough, no. It doesn't. People, if anything, feel more relaxed when talking to a live video image. My production designer, Ted Bafaloukos, said, "The beauty of this thing is that it allows people to do what they do best. Watch television." We often think of technology as working against the possibility of intimacy. But there are so many counter-examples. The telephone is a good counter-example. There are things we can say to each other on the phone that we would never say if we were in the same room. You know, "Being there is the next best thing to using the phone..."

13 Questions and Answers on the Filmmaking of Errol Morris by Errol Morris.”

The direct address system—a device which allows the subject to maintain direct eye contact with the interviewer, and transitively, with an audience at some future moment—has taken well over 15 years to more firmly root as a legitimate technique in the pantheon of so-called “documentary” cinema. It was first used in 1997 by the director Errol Morris, in his film, Fast cheap and out of control.  Morris’s wife nicknamed the device the Interrotron (jokingly conjoining the words interview and terror) -- though Morris claims that it has never struck fear in any subject’s heart. He has used it on every film and commercial he has directed since 1997. In Morris’s production design, the Interrotron is as important a tool as lights, microphones and the camera itself.



Figure 3: Diagram of three point interview setup with oblique camera angle. Subject is artist Jerry Gretzinger, from “Jerry’s Map” (Whitmore, 2012).


Figure 4: Interrotron interview diagram. Interview with Jerry Gretzinger including reverse shot showing the direct-address system from Jerry’s point of view. From “Jerry’s Map” (Whitmore, 2012).

Incorporating a direct-address device into an interview setting facilitates extended eye-to-eye contact and encourages empathic connection between subject and interviewer. The exchange of language as well as the nature of the face-to-face speech acts themselves – the physical traces of affective behavior including nods, winks, pauses, averted eyes, etc. -- is recorded by the system. It could be thought of as yet another stream of data: in addition to picture, sound, time-code, metadata, there is now the eye-contact track.  Whereas direct eye contact plays an important role in building empathetic identification during the interview, this new stream of data supplies implicit information about a subject’s physical and emotional state at the time of the interview. This stream of direct-address evidence, may permit audiences to more comprehensively interrogate the abstractions, social complexities, moral and linguistic ambiguities present in the interviews simply because there is now access to the subjects eyes (MacDonald, 2009).

Figure 5: Interview footage collected with an direct-address system. From Jerry's Map (Whitmore, 2012)

Direct gaze and neurocognition

Recent quantitative studies in the areas of neurocognition reveal deep-seated connections between eye-to-eye communication, and brain activity: 4-month-old human infants prefer to look at faces that engage them in mutual gaze. Neuroscientists have documented marked increases in their brain electric activity when interactions are accompanied by direct gaze (Farroni et al., 2002).

Likewise, a 2011 study proposed that a live face with a direct gaze is processed more intensely than a face with averted gaze or closed eyes, as the direct gaze is capable of intensifying the feeling of being the target of the other's interest and intentions. “Direct gaze elicited greater face-sensitive N170 amplitudes and early posterior negativity potentials than averted gaze or closed eyes, but only in the live condition,” (Pönkänen et al. 2011).



With direct-address video and film interview proliferating, fundamental questions about the nature of encounters it facilitates remain unaddressed. The nature and scope of this design investigation seeks establish and define a more formal investigative process of the technique. By employing techniques of participatory design research with in a series of direct address interviews I hope to generate insightful responses and reflections about the nature of direct-address based interviewing:

  • What does it feel like to be the subject of a direct address video interview?
  • Does the machine promote a more balanced, more level, perhaps more egalitarian encounter?
  • Do slight variations in hardware orientation facilitate or hinder this leveling?
  • Does it enable insights and connections for the interviewing participants that are hitherto unavailable using conventional face-to-face techniques? 
  • Does the artifice of the Interrotron allow conversant subjects to leverage the confrontational quotient of their conversation without alienating the other?
  • Likewise, can the device leverage improved listening memory and empathy?
  • What would subjects, given public access to such a device make with it?
  • Is the direct-address appropriate for all video recorded situations?



Theoretical Framing and Objectives

The theoretical underpinning of the methods involves three ideas: participatory design research, the use of designer prompts, and adherence to a reflective process Donald Schön has named “reflection-on-action.” More specifically for interview architecture research We will introduces a direct-address interview system to three sets of stakeholders and through stages of researcher prompts (part 1: responses to photographs; part 2: responses to the interview environment) creates a kind of reflection-on-action cycle. The prompts allow participants to practice open, participatory behaviors first and then second to voice their observations and insights on the design and usability of the system. All of this takes place while the system under scrutiny is recording them.

Theoretical perspective: Participatory Design Research

The school of participatory design research, (or so-called “Scandinavian Approach) (Floyd, et al. 1989) is an approach to design that seeks to actively involve stakeholders in the design process to ensure that needs and values of the are maintained and respected and implicated into the design outcomes. Stakeholders can participate during several stages of the process: during initial brainstorming and problem framing and later as they respond creatively to designer or self-initiated prompts. Creative input gathered in this manner can more holistically frame both problems and solutions. Participatory Design Research has historical roots in Paolo Friere’s Participatory Action Research (PAR) -- a critical pedagogy put forth in response to more traditional models of education where a teacher or expert maintains a hierarchical position in relation to students and ‘delivers’ information to them.

Theoretical framing: designer prompts

The design process begins when the first set of stakeholders seated and oriented toward the direct address device -- are prompting by the designer to respond to a series of images. These images present a scenario without the use of words. This scenario is meant to initiate the encounter, stimulate the visual imagination, and prompt speech: a meditation designed to warm stakeholders to the reflective process.

Theoretical perspective: “Reflection-in-action” and “Reflection-on-action”

Donald Schön, in The Reflective Practitioner outlines two notions fundamental to the examination of a design process: reflection-in-action, and reflection-on-action.  The former, could be best summarized as “thinking on one’s feet” – bringing attention to one’s senses, reflecting on one’s thoughts and feelings about one sees,  and (re)acting mindfully, bringing those reflections to bear upon the action --  in situ.

“The practitioner allows himself to experience surprise, puzzlement, or confusion in a situation which he finds uncertain or unique. He reflects on the phenomenon before him, and on the prior understandings which have been implicit in his behaviour. He carries out an experiment which serves to generate both a new understanding of the phenomenon and a change in the situation.” (Schön 1983: 68)

 The latter, reflection-on-action, is carried out after the encounter. Often compelled by prompts from a guide, mentor or designer, individuals are urged to reflect upon their prior actions with much the same critical mindfulness. Individuals are encouraged to spend time in conversation or through writing or artistic expression to reflect upon why they may have thought or acted the way we did.


Participants were chosen from a group of pre-existing contacts of the designer, based upon scheduling availability and prior experience with interviewing.Design research was conducted over four sessions.

The three stakeholder pairs were as follows

  • Spouse / Spouse
  • Mother / Daughter
  • Journalist / Source

Session one participants:

  1. Researcher
  2. Stakeholder 1: Researcher’s daughter, (age 6)
  3. Stakeholder 2: Researcher’s spouse (age 30)

NOTE: At this session I conducted basic testing of physical equipment with the assistance of my daughter.

Session two participants:

  1. Researcher
  2. Stakeholder 2: Monica (female, age 31)
  3. Stakeholder 3 Jason (male, age 33)

NOTES: Stakeholders were married and living in Seattle. Session was conducted in the home of the two individuals. Setup design space in their living room. Stakeholder 2 is a professional ‘interviewer’ (Journalist/Columnist).

Session three participants:

  1. Researcher
  2. Stakeholder 4: Opal (female age 7, family friend, mother was present)
  3. Stakeholder 5: Eliza (female, age 30, family friend of Opal)

Notes: Medical professional for whom daily patient interactions and interviews are common. Eliza has worked in documentary/anthropology film and has extensive experience doing “on-camera” interview work.

Design Technology

Figure 6: Custom Direct Address System built for use in this design project.

There is a great technical burden of operationalizing a direct address video interview with a small crew. In this experiment I sought to reduce the technical hurdles and lower the production standards so as to create a manageable design space. First off, I worked alone. Second, I opted to remove all artificial lighting from the setup. Third, I specifically developed a small, portable interview circuit to facilitate the setup in-situ -- in stakeholder’s homes.

The custom direct address interview hardware consisted of two “rooted” 7-inch Android tablet computers prepared with customized Android apps. These served as the primary monitors through which the video signal of the other participant would be displayed. These were chosen for reasons of portability in lieu of larger, bulkier teleprompters. Atop each tablet a pre-fabricated direct-address device called a SeeEye2Eye was affixed. In both settings the devices were clamped to a desk or a table using a low profile gooseneck holder/grip. No special seating was needed.

For the first unit, a standard definition USB webcam was mounted into the SeeEye2Eye device. The USB from this webcam was wired to the second tablet. Via the beta application, the direct signal from the webcam appeared on the screen. On the second unit – the primary recording camera – the ‘feed’ or video assist from a digital SLR camera with HD video capabilities was fed via USB to the first unit.

A wireless microphone was used for the subject only and synced directly with the HD camera.

The test system was designed to be as portable and minimally intrusive. The setup time for each session was approx. 30 minutes.

Design Space

The design space was always, in-situ -- in the homes and primary living spaces of the stakeholders.  Researchers and stakeholders made no attempts to ameliorate the disorder of furniture or household accouterment. Research took place in Seattle, WA, USA.


Design Prompt Part 1:
Presentation of (photographic) Evidence

Upon installation and activation of the interview system, the researcher prompted the participants to evaluate a series of three photographs of bridges. One photograph showed the collapsed Skagit River Interstate 5 Bridge in Western Washington State, USA. The second image was a 3d CAD visualization of  the bridge’s structural failure – printed in black and white. The third image was a photograph of Tokyo and revealed a train bridge and a canal. None of the images were captioned.  The subject and domain of these images were chosen based upon the researcher’s prior knowledge that participants had recently heard or viewed local news about the recent bridge collapse.

Figure 7: Grouping of Design Prompt Photographs presented to stakeholders. Filmed with direct-address device.

Upon receiving the materials, participants were encouraged to speak extemporaneously about the photographs for about 7 minutes.  To guide their conversation, the following prompts were provided:

What do you see?
What do you think of it?
What will you do about it

The ultimate purpose of this prompt (both the photographs paired with the sample questions) was not to generate user research on attitudes toward bridges – rather it was intended to place stakeholders in the design space as quickly as possible, give them a chance to warm to it and experiment with it. The prompt was designed to allow interviewer and subject to control the ebb and flow of the interview for themselves.

After seven to ten minutes of conversation, the designer encouraged the pairs to switch seats. 

Design Prompt Part 2:

For the second part the same familiar prompt framework was used to direct attention toward the design, operation and nature of the interview system itself. Based upon the same three question structure

(i.e. What do you see? What do you think? What do you make of it?) with the following, more pointed questions were posed:

  • What did you see in the interview device? What were some of its failings or shortcomings?
  • How did being interviewed in this manner make one feel? Vulnerable? Empowered? Who was in control here – the interviewer or the subject?
  • What kind of effect do you think your preserved eye-to-eye gaze – will have on a future audience?
  • What are some of the possible uses for this device?

In the same manner as prompt part 1, the designer encouraged the interviewer/subject pair to speak for  7-10 minutes, before prompting them to switch seats and roles.


The data collected was in the form of the interviews themselves. Additional documentation of oblique angles was collected by the researcher. Video was recorded in the HD 1920x1080 format using the system itself.


At least for the children participating in this research, it was noted that they were able to sustain concentration and attention in spite of the fact that they were both extremely tired. They were also able to distinguish that there was something qualitatively different about the interaction, though Opal could not put words toward a description:

Eliza: "Does this feel kind of like sitting with a person? Or does it feel good, bad, weird?
“I don't know. It just has a feeling. I don't really know how to answer that..."

Figure 8: View of "Opal" from "Eliza's point of view during interview.

For the participants using the machine, a heightened sense of awareness of the other was acknowledged. Though it’s not clear if this is a feeling of empathy, Monica, for example, noted that she was able to hone in on the eyes of Jason, despite the technical limitations, the diminutive video monitor and the video lag and judder:

Monica: “I feel like when I look -- when I look at your eyes in the screen, it's the same effect as when I look at anybody eye's really anywhere in the world. That becomes so big that whatever is around it becomes quite a bit smaller. I think it's just some effect of personal connection.

Figure 9: View of Jason from "Monica's point of view during interview.

Monica was also quite observant about the lack of context provided by bodily gestures and sheer physical presence – how that effected the enrichment of the sensory data taken in my the ears and the direct-address stream of visual data:

Monica: “So, the fact that we can't gesture to each other and feel like those gestures could interact somehow, I think does -- does get in the way a little bit of -- again -- "the authenticity of the encounter." It's not in person -- it's clearly not in person, but if the question is, how far would I go being candid through this -- I think I'd still be comfortable enough to be pretty candid.”

Figure 10: Video: Reflection-on-action responses, Part 1. Filmed with the direct-address device.

As for the technics of the machine, it was apparent from all the interviews that the small direct-address system was not as effective as originally imagined by the researcher.  The fact that it was placed, in situ – in the comfortable and familiar space of the living rooms seemed to be a hindrance to intimacy and concentration. Whereas most would feel comfortable in their own living room – on their own turf, so to speak – here, in the presence of an operational direct-address system, all stakeholders suggested a dedicated space for the interview process.

Here is Monica again:

Monica: "I would make the screen a lot bigger. I'd remove all of this -- just the whole house. If I could be sitting in a dark, quiet room with a big, big screen of your face, life size. Your face and maybe quite a bit of your body too. Probably bust up....I want to able to see your gestures. If it's just your face, detached, I think maybe. . .”

Figure 11: Video: Reflection-on-action responses, Part 2.


Towards a more egalitarian interview space

Watching the material connects us empathetically to the subject, but it also calls attention to the mediation itself. Which can be helpful. As Gerbaz says: “This ambiguity encourages us to think of the ways in which we ‘face up’ to people in general (i.e. perhaps not always as directly as we think), and to what extent we take responsibility for our behaviour towards others,” (Gerbaz, 2008, p25).

Documentary filmmakers and practitioners of news media arts as well as social scientists working in the domain of visual anthropology often claim to speak on behalf of the dispossessed or the disempowered. Oft asserted is a claim that broadcast media, video interviews and documentaries, by manner of coverage alone guarantee those dispossessed or ‘voiceless’ with a ‘voice’.  Debating the veracity of these claims is not within the scope of this paper. However, if those practitioners are truly in pursuit of an egalitarian ethics of communication, the design of the interview space itself reflect an architectural design built on egalitarian values.

In doing research on interview spaces we should ask if such traditional spaces (i.e. the traditional three point interview, the television studio, the cinéma vérité film) actually assist subjects to feel more empowered, more mindful of their surroundings and their thoughts while they are being interviewed.

We have observed here that participants using the direct address system seem simultaneously more intimate, more sincere with one another and yet more aware of the other person’s otherness. Perhaps because it facilitates an intimate eye-to-eye encounter between previously unknown individuals (individuals foreign to each other’s manner and mode of thinking, who may or may not possess empathy for each other) the direct-address system suggests an underlying communication architecture of ethical relation. 

“The ubiquity of [the two] screens does not mean the end of responsibility or empathy; rather, it makes the viewer responsible for reaching beyond the presence of images in order to ‘see’ and respect the conscious life of others.” (Gerbaz, 2008, p26)  Drawing attention to the artificiality of our interactions ­– calling into attention the artifice and framing of our language – the artifice direct-address may enable us to become more mindful of the frames of language and technology working around us. As Shawn Rosenheim has said, staring at a live television image of the other we can now further interrogate the very “conventions of authority predicated on the neutrality and the objectivity of the camera.” (Rosenheim, 1996) Suddenly, the subject is in a very powerful position.

A consensual (televisual) space for contemplation and reflection?

“Certain activities associated with education and learning – searching for information, collecting and superficially reviewing it – can be speeded up, while others – sustained reflection and contemplation – simply cannot. Vannevar Bush knew this, and hoped that the tools he envisioned would automate the more routine aspects of our information practices, including the non-creative dimension of thought, thus buying people more time for creative reflection.” (Levy, 2007) 

In this age of diffused attention and computers and screens everywhere we truly are at a loss for spaces where consensual contemplative conversations can be cultivated -- let alone cultivated for televisual preservation. Perhaps the odd combination of extreme intimacy and radical alterity engineered by the direct-address space could open up an altogether new mechanism for connection across existing social boundaries. Perhaps sitting and staring at one another through a direct-address interview system – via  Interrrotron - is in fact a consensual space for contemplation and reflection. This should be explored with future research.

Future Research Questions

Through my brief investigations here I have been challenged by a number of questions which have come up in the conversations not recorded on tape – at the margins of the process (as people unclip microphones). I suggest that the future of research into the mechanics and affect of the direct-address systems should confront some of the following questions:

  • How does the Direct Address footage affect our response to faces?
  • Can it improve empathic identification? How do we know that we empathize more?
  • Does it affect attention span? 
  • Does watching an interview affect learning and viewing styles?
  • Does it improve short-term memory—i.e. can spectators remember more details from a televised interview if they are looking directly into the tele-present eyes of the other?
  • Is it possible through use of this device to establish a foundation of mutual inquiry?  For example, is there a greater possibility for the two users of the device to jointly design their own experience, co-design ideas as collaborators, perhaps even solve problems together?

The Future of Documentary? Duplex Interrotron.

Perhaps to create an honest documentary in the future requires us to evolving the interview space even more radically. Are there ways to ensure the egalitarian implications of the interview architecture by adding another camera and placing the interviewer – the investigator himself –under equal scrutiny?  Television and film documentaries have always privileged the words of the subject and obfuscated or hidden the words and the intentionality of the interviewer. What if interviews were always seen in their light of their bi-modal nature? What if they were broadcast in such a way? Such that we as an audience were given access to both sides of the conversation? Technically, this is possible through the use of a duplex direct-address system and the rebroadcast of both eye-line data streams.


Creegan, Chris. (2011, March 16). The Skype’s the Limit. VideoJournalismOnline. Retrieved May 12, 2013, from’s-the-limit/

Farroni, T., Csibra, G., Simion, F., & Johnson, M. H. (2002). Eye contact detection in humans from birth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 99(14), 9602–9605. doi:10.1073/pnas.152159999

Floyd, C., Mehl, W., Reisin, F., Schmidt, G., and Wolf, G. (1989). Out of Scandinavia: Alternative approaches to software design and system development. Human-Computer Inter., 4(4), 253-349.

Gerbaz, A. (2008). Direct Address, Ethical Imagination and Errol Morris’s Interrotron. Film-Philosophy, 12(2), 17–29.

Levy, D. M. (2007). No time to think: Reflections on information technology and contemplative scholarship. Ethics and Information Technology, 9(4), 237–249. doi:10.1007/s10676-007-9142-6

MacDonald, K. (2009). Patient-clinician eye contact: social neuroscience and art of clinical engagement. Postgraduate medicine, 121(4), 136–144. doi:10.3810/pgm.2009.07.2039

Morris, Errol. “THE FOG OF WAR: 13 Questions and Answers on the Filmmaking of Errol Morris by Errol Morris.” (2004).FLM magazine : the voice of independent film., (Winter).

Morris, Errol, American Playhouse Theatrical Films, & Fourth Floor Productions. (2002). Fast, cheap & out of control. Culver City, CA: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.

Orgeron, M., & Orgeron, D. (2007). Megatronic memories : Errol Morris and the politics of witnessing. The image and the witness : trauma, memory and visual culture. London; New York: Wallflower Press.

Pönkänen, L. M., Alhoniemi, A., Leppänen, J. M., & Hietanen, J. K. (2011). Does it make a difference if I have an eye contact with you or with your picture? An ERP study. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 6(4), 486–494. doi:10.1093/scan/nsq068

Rosenheim, S. (1996). Interrotroning History: Errol Morris and the Documentary of the Future. In V. Sobchack (Ed.), The Persistence of History: Cinema, Television, and the Modern Event (pp. 219 – 234). New York and London: Routledge.

Schaeffer, J. H. (1995). Videotape: New Techniques of Observation and Analysis in Anthropology. In P. Hockings (Ed.), Principles of visual anthropology (p. 255). Berlin; New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Seidman, Irving. Interviewing as Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences. Teachers College Press, 1998, pg.91.



Interview Transcripts


Lucia: “That is so weird! Mama, did you see the pumpkin in the train tracks? Right there. Do you see it? Where my finger is pointing?
"There is a bridge that's fell over somehow -- I don't know how -- maybe there were too much cars going over it. And it fell into the water. And it was like a broken bridge in the water...
“That's where the pumpkin is.”
"Why is it there?"

Lucia: "Who knows!?"
"I bet it would be scary if you were about to walk over a bridge and it just breaked (sic). IT would be really scary slamming on the breaks. Probably, maybe a couple of people might fall into the water, but other people would help them."


Eliza: "Does this feel kind of like sitting with a person? Or does it feel good, bad, weird?
“I don't know. It just has a feeling. I don't really know how to answer that..."

“As far as an experience goes, it's fine. We can do an interview this way. That's fine. Um, but it's not -- it doesn' doesn't fade into the background.
“Describe the differences between this and someone sitting across from you, speaking directly to you?
"Well, you're a lot smaller. You're about that big. There is a bit of video lag. The audio and the video is out of sync. It's -- you know -- digitized. I'm looking at, you know, pixels.(…)
“I feel like when I look -- when I look at your eyes in the screen, it's the same effect as when I look at anybody eye's really anywhere in the world. That becomes so big that whatever is around it becomes quite a bit smaller. I think it's just some effect of personal connection. There is a part of me that definitely does know that I'm not looking at Jason. Just like in a Skype call -- if you're in a city far away -- I'm not really looking at you. In this case you happen to be a few feet away from me and the audio I hear is your actual voice. So it is still somewhat authentic. And one of my senses is getting the authentic you. 

Monica: Let's say that you really were in another place -- like in a completely different place. Then we were interviewing this way. What I'd be missing from you is the way that your co-presence with me would affect just the mood and feeling of the room and that can play a big roll. So, the fact that we can't gesture to each other and feel like those gestures could interact somehow, I think does -- does get in the way a little bit of -- again -- "the authenticity of the encounter." It's not in person -- it's clearly not in person, but if the question is, how far would I go being candid through this -- I think I'd still be comfortable enough to be pretty candid.


Monica: "I would make the screen a lot bigger. I'd remove all of this -- just the whole house. If I could be sitting in a dark, quiet room with a big, big screen of your face, life size. Your face and maybe quite a bit of your body too. Probably bust up....I want to able to see your gestures. If it's just your face, detached, I think maybe ...  I also think it would be good to remove even more of the illusion that I'm staring into a camera. So I am seeing your face instead of the lens but I can still see the body of the camera around the outline of the screen. And I can still tell that this is a teleprompter. And I can see all these wires. Plus our researcher is moving around every now and then back there. So I am sort of conscious of his presence and it takes me away from the illusion of face-to-face interaction with you...Which is benefiting quite a bit over my staring into a cold dark camera.

“You know, whenever part of my mind isn't disciplined to be in the moment or focused on you -- I'm more easily pulled away by all that stuff. So if there is a way to....You know I think of like double sided mirrors, right?

“You try to make it natural so people don't remember that there is somebody on the other side of the mirror. Same kind of thing: What can you do to make this so that you just don't—[make it so that] as little as possible in your environment reminds you that you are in fact talking to a camera that is recording you."

Appendix 2: Teleprompter definition and schematic

A teleprompter is a display device that mounts in front of a video or film camera and allows a subject to be presented with an electronic image of text – usually a speech or narration. The teleprompter reflects text onto a screen via a pane of clear glass or a specially coated beam splitter mirror-glass. Light from the subject passes through the front side of the glass into the lens. A housing or a shroud surrounds the lens and the back side of the glass, preventing stray light from entering the lens. The recorded visual material collected by such a configuration re-transmits the illusion that the recorded subject is staring directly at the audience. The teleprompter was invented in 1950 and has been used by politicians, news broadcasters, talk show hosts and in product commercials.


Figure 13: Teleprompter.

  1. Video camera
  2. Shroud
  3. Video monitor
  4. One-way mirror
  5. Image from subject
  6. Image from video monitor

Appendix 3: Diagram: Interrotron


Figure 14: A schematic of the Interrotron. Credit: Steve Hardie

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