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

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Active Badges and Mark Weiser

It seems appropriate to post something about one of the earliest forays into electronically mediated mobile community research. Mark Weiser is probably one of the best known proponents of the idea of ubiquitous computing. He had a vision of computers that disappeared into their surrounding environment. Some of the work of Weiser and his colleagues touches on supporting mobile communities.

I particularly like the idea of the voting system described in this paper, which enabled users to avoid uncomfortable social situations while still providing feedback to better improve their environment.

"We have built a voting application called Arbitron for the PARCTAB system. It has proved particularly interesting in the context of presentations. Audience members with PARCTABs vote on the quality and pace of the material being covered by a presenter. The votes are collected anonymously and displayed on the Liveboard. The board is visible to both the audience and the presenter; the feedback is intended to help match the presentation with the interest and intelligence of the audience."

An Overview of the ParcTab Ubiquitous Computing Experiment
Roy Want, Bill N. Schilit, Norman I. Adams, Rich Gold,
Karin Petersen, David Goldberg, John R. Ellis and Mark Weiser
[full-text pdf]

There is also an interesting paper on the sociology of active badges and looks at why people want to share information with a group.

Why Do People Wear Active Badges?
Richard Harper
[full-text pdf]

Monday, December 29, 2003

Mobile devices for motorcyclists

Some research done by the Mobility, Interactive Institute in Sweden describes the evaluation of a mobile device designed to help motorcyclists learn more about each other while riding their bikes. This is a great example of using computer mediated communication to foster face-to-face meetings.

Motorcyclists using Hocman – Field Trials on Mobile Interaction
Mattias Esbjörnsson, Oskar Juhlin, Mattias Östergren

We have performed an ethnographic study that reveals the impor-tance of social interaction, and especially traffic encounters, for the enjoyment of biking. We summarized these findings into a set of design requirements for a service supporting mobile interaction among motorcyclists. The Hocman proto-type is designed to meet these requirements. It is an application for handheld devices equipped with wireless ad hoc networking interfaces. It uses a peer-to-peer architecture to accomplish sharing of HTML documents with peers in the immediate proximity. The aim of sharing is to spark social interaction among motorcyclists during brief encounters. We report a field trial on the prototype service in its naturalistic setting. Despite the unmanageable setting, e.g. the vast area, the speed, and unacquainted users, we demonstrate field trials as an effec-tive approach to get feedback on how well a prototype service fulfils the design requirements. The results indicate that the conceptual idea of Hocman was ap-preciated, which suggest that the focus on interaction in traffic encounters fit with current practice of motorcycling.

[full-text pdf]

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Three cheers for smartmobs

One of the first people to identify the emerging concept of mobile communities was Howard Rheingold in his book Smart Mobs. He also wrote an interesting article on Mobile Virtual Communities prior to publishing the book. As if that wasn't enough, he runs the great weblog Smart Mobs which covers current news stories and discusses the cultural impacts of mobile communities.