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Mobile Community Design
Research and design information for mobile community developers.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Building a Path For Future Communities

This is a draft copy of a chapter I will be submitting for inclusion in a book, which is a compilation of research and design articles titled ‘Handbook of Research on Socio-Technical Design and Social Networking Systems’ to be published in 2008. I would appreciate any corrections or comments so that I can integrate them into the final version. If any of you have already suffered reading through my thesis, you may want to skip sections 3 and 4 which re-use some of the original content.


With mobile technologies increasingly weaving themselves into the fabric of our communities, it would be beneficial to increase our understanding of how these devices will affect our quality of life. This chapter presents a case study where a set of prototypes of future social technology concepts were generated and used by groups of backpackers in a mobile community. One of these concepts, which facilitated viewing the locations of other group members, is evaluated with regard to how it might affect community development.

This and other examples illustrate that communication technologies form a social path which guides individual and emergent behavior of societies. Determination of where these paths lead can be accomplished through the creation of development projects with positive social aims. Using collaborative research methods, considering design outcome spectra, and adding features with implicit cultural values are promising strategies for influencing future communities.

Full draft version:
PDF 3.2M

Excerpts from the paper:

"Social technologies are analogous to a path or sidewalk we take through a park or university. The path suggests a direction and location of travel. Many people follow it because it is easier, safer, and more socially acceptable. However, people are also free to take deviations from the path to explore, challenge, or provide variety, and some do. The path itself was probably designed with some forethought and it greatly influences the majority of people who use the space. Communication technologies provide similar paths by which individuals get to the destination of forming groups and communities. The following sections explore how these social paths should be constructed and what factors affect how they are used."

"The determination of reasonable social paths is a combination of more thoughtful technology development, humanist social policies regulating technology deployments, and self-regulation by users through choice in usage and purchasing power. By virtue of being first in the process, designers lay the path which users tend to follow, and have the resulting responsibility to guide them to a prosperous destination."


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