Background While digital text media (e.g., e-mail, instant messaging) is widely used for communication due to its swiftness and convenience, handwriting is still preferred in situations that call for sincerity (e.g., love letter, greeting card). However, outside particular situations, handwritten media is seldom used due to its slowness. In this paper, we investigated the effect of handwriting and physical representation in digital text communication using a novel prototype of a new hybrid communication medium, Tele-Handwriter (TH), which allows one’s handwriting to be instantly and physically delivered to the opponent through pen and paper.
Methods To investigate the user experience of Tele-Handwriter (TH), especially on the effect of using handwriting and physical representation, we conducted a comparative user study with eight couples who were in a relationship, and weused three different types of text media(e.g., TH, Shared Canvas, instant messaging). We asked them to have casual conversations and to write a long and affectionate message to each other. Participants were interviewed about their experience and the pros and cons of each medium. The interviews were thematically analyzed using a bottom-up affinity diagram.
Results The findings on TH largely regarded increased intimacy, wholly delivered effort and sincerity, and contextual cues being naturally added to the message. The use of handwritingenabled text-based communication with messages having a distinct characteristic that naturally incorporates the sender’s identity, the attitude in writing, and effort. Furthermore, physically representing the message using a pen and paper was effective in delivering the sender’s effort and commitment to the receiver in its entirety. It also allowed the sender to fully deliver the contextual cues within the message.
Conclusions We investigated the effect of adopting handwriting and physical representation in text-based communication using a novel hybrid communication medium, TH. We identified the effects of handwriting and the physical medium, which are the essential features of TH. Based on these findings, we discussed the applicable area of TH and the design insights to design physical handwriting systems for computer-mediated text communication.