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

Friday, April 30, 2004

Social capital amongst strangers

This chapter addresses the use of impersonal sociotechnical capital. Several examples of personal sociotechnical capital are shown and compared with use of the same amongst strangers, which is promoted as a method of solving various societal problems.

One could argue that nearly any modern system with humans interacting is sociotechnical. Everything except face to face contact would fall into this category. However it is fair to say the technology does dramatically affect the resulting behavioral outcomes.

The examples shown are interesting and the conjecture about the effects of new technologies are thought provoking. The issue of the social needs and resources of large groups of people addressed here is worthy of consideration in the design of mobile devices.

Impersonal Sociotechnical Capital, ICTs, and Collective Action Among Strangers, 2004
Paul Resnick
[full-text pdf]

Monday, April 26, 2004

The value of human and social capital

This paper presents a skeptical view of the utility of the term 'social capital'. It reviews several different uses of the term and discusses the difficulty of quantifying it given the wide number of abstract variables it covers.

Several definitions:
world bank:
"social capital refers to the institutions, relationships, and norms that shape the
quality and quantity of a society’s social interactions . . . Social capital is not just the sum of the institutions which underpin a society – it is the glue that holds them together."

"the features of social life – networks, norms and trust – that enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives."

This all brings to mind the question of how ubiquitous mobile access to social networking services will affect human and social capital...

Social and Human Capital: The Search for Appropriate Technomethodology, 2000
Tom Schuller
[Full-text pdf]

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Why distance matters

This paper was designed to study the effects of perceived distance on collaboration effectiveness. The authors used a participant and a confederate collaborator who professed to either be in the same town or on the other side of the US. This person was in fact in the next room. They also had another condition which was IM vs. video. A number of results were collected including:
a) deception levels were higher for distant pairs
b) persuasion levels were higher for closer pairs
c) Initial cooperation was higher for closer pairs, but changes over time.

"Our findings indicate that the geographical distance of a collaborating partner affects one’s willingness to initially cooperate with, be persuaded by, and deceive that partner. If people believed that their partner was far away in a distant city, they initially cooperated less than if they believed the partner was close. However, cooperation increased with interaction. On the other hand, if one believed their partner to be close, the amount of cooperation did not increase with interaction. In addition, people were less persuaded by a person that they believed to be distant from them, compared to being in the same city. Also, people were more likely to give deceptive (positive) portrayals about themselves to a partner that they believed to be in a distant city, as opposed to the same city."

This has interesting implications for mobile communities. How do you perceive how far away a mobile collaborator is from you? What if they lie? Should you lie to improve collaborative power? ;)

Why Distance Matters: Effects on Cooperation, Persuasion and Deception, 2002, 10 pg.
Erin Bradner and Gloria Mark
[Full-text pdf] (published with permission of author)

Monday, April 19, 2004

HCI 2004

HCI2004: Design for Life

The 18th British Human-Computer Interaction Group Annual Conference is
taking place at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK from 6-10 September

May 7th 2004 is the deadline for industry day presentations, short
papers, posters, laboratory and organisational overviews, interactive
experiences, panels, and doctoral consortium. Visit
http://www.hci2004.org/sub-cats.asp and find out more about these
categories and submission information.

Our ambitious theme for this conference is Design for Life : design for
quality of life; design for real life; design for all aspects of life -
work, pleasure, travel and fun; design for community life; design for
the richness of life; design for the whole life from childhood to older
adulthood; and design for long life. Some of these concerns are
traditional ones for HCI; others are new challenges that we must face.

See the links below for more details.

Conference Overview: http://www.hci2004.org/overview.asp
Advance programme: http://www.hci2004.org/confprog.asp
Social programme: http://www.hci2004.org/over-social.asp
Registration: http://www.hci2004.org/reg.asp

We look forward to seeing you in Leeds,

Janet Finlay,
Chair of HCI2004
Leeds Metropolitan University

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Mobile contexts and storytelling

This is an intriguing paper on how people use space and follow goal-oriented activities while moving. The authors use ethnomethodologically influenced methods to construct a story of users' daily lives and then analyze that information to determine 'nodal points' between contexts and determine patterns in users' activities. They have given some fairly unique design recommendations as a consequence of this perspective.

"We hypothesize that situated actions vary richly in mobile contexts. Many actions and routines are performed simultaneously while being on the move. For these reasons, we believe, mobile contexts do not lend themselves to rigid general definitions or static taxonomies. Importantly, however, actions performed while moving and their contexts also have regularities that can be captured by context-aware devices."

Understanding Mobile Contexts, 2003
Sakari Tamminen, Antti Oulasvirta, Kalle Toiskallio, Anu Kankainen
[Full-text pdf]

Monday, April 12, 2004

Design for loosely-coupled mobile groups

This paper tracks the implementation of a custom application to support mobile health care workers using ethnographic and interview methods. It is rare to see a paper that actually looks at how a new technology is adopted and then compares that real-world feedback with the expected usage scenarios and requirements set during the original design. The target users of this application are mobile, but have cars and mobile phones and hence are able to work via laptops. How this design team chose to create their application to support asynchronous mobile workers is very good guidance for those of us creating similar applications.

The definition of a 'loosely-coupled mobile group' they give is:
where workers are not strictly dependent on synchrony and up-to-date information from other group members

"The results of our study show that four loosely-coupled group characteristics are particularly significant to mobile system design: autonomy and the partitioning of work, clear ownership of data and artifacts, asynchronous awareness, and explicit asynchronous communication."

[Full-text pdf]

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Effects of Mobility on Group Collaboration

This is a great paper comparing a paper-based collaborative math skills activity with the same activity implemented on mobile devices. The participants were first grade children in Chile. They used expert heuristic evaluations to examine both teaching methods and then ran a comparative study to determine which method worked better.

This comment about the design's affect on social interactions is intriguing.
"Handhelds regulated social interactions because children needed to read information off of their Handhelds in order to tell their number to the other children. The handhelds mediate the collaborative work and act as a referee to regulate behavior, leaving the children to interact socially, make decisions, and negotiate their differences of opinion." In other words, the program sets the rules and restricts behavior of the individual users for the benefit of the group goal (completion of the exercise). If this can be applied successfully to children it can be applied to adults.

Encouraging Face-to-Face Collaborative Learning through the Use of Handheld Computers in the Classroom, 2003
Gustavo Zurita, Miguel Nussbaum, and Mike Shaples

Unfortunately I haven't been able to get a pre-print for this paper either on the web or from the authors. So you will probably have to have a Springer subscription through a university to access this paper. If anyone finds a publicly accessible version, please mail me.
[full-text pdf or html]

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Workshop about spatial positioning in mobile collaboration

In the context of the Kaleidoscope Conference about CSCL (http://www.intermedia.uib.no/kal/cscl/) in Lausanne in October 2004, we are organizing a workshop about spatial positioning in mobile collaboration (description hereafter). It aims to study the relationships between space, collaborative problem solving and cognition in group. It will address basic research issues at the crossroads of human cognition and information technology.

If you are interested in participating, please inform us by April 23rd, with a short description of your research. The idea is that you will have to submit a position paper by July 15th.

Nicolas Nova, Mauro Cherubini and Pierre Dillenbourg

Workshop Proposal: Spatial Awareness in Collaboration and Group Interaction

The recent technical evolution in the field of mobile technologies allow
mobile devices users to have location based services such as optimal
route generation with GPS or nearest point of interest by SMS.
Positioning technologies are more and more precise and taking the
context into account is one of the new trend in computer software.
Collective uses of those 'locative media' are also on track. Mobile
computing should also be seen as an answer to the needs that emerged
from geographically distributed organizations. People still need to work
together from different places at the same time and collaboration must
be fluid. The use of location based services enable to bridge the
distance between teammates thanks to different features. The most
commonly used context of mobile systems is the location of the user
since it is easy to determine and it could be meaningful to use it in
order to adapt the behavior of a mobile application. However, spatial
awareness should not be restricted to location since information about
presence, direction, relative location, physical proximity with
resources could also be drawn from context cues.
This led designers and researchers to support collaborative work and
learning with mobile technology, namely handheld computers, mobile
phones, GPS-enhanced tools and wearables. One of the postulates is that
space and spatial features such as location could be considered as a
resource for collaborative problem solving. We hence aim to understand
the impacts of mobile tools on social and cognitive processes.

Location-Based systems (LBS) often propose various services such as:
- annotation of space: it is now possible to leave "virtual post-its"
attached to specific location.
- synchronous positioning: participants among a group can localize their
- location based storytelling/narratives
- matchmaking between participants of a conference
- video games that takes advantage of location-awareness to propose
augmented reality scenarios.

All those systems offer both innovative ways to create new affordance
for supporting collaborative activities like mobile work or mobile
learning as well as smart testbed to address research questions. What
are these research questions ? What are the methods ? The workshop will
bring together researchers and academics from or out of the KALEIDOSCOPE
NoE coming from several disciplines, including learning sciences,
psychology, computer science. It aims to study the relationships between
space, collaborative problem solving and cognition in group. It will
address basic research issues at the crossroads of human cognition and
information technology.

The objective is to:
1. Study the role of spatial awareness as a link between mobile
technology and collaborative activities.
2. Discuss emprical results concerning the role of space or spatial
features in group
cognition and collaborative activities (mobile work, mobile learning)
3. Discuss methods of how to study the impact of those Location Based
Services with regard to their efficiency as well their impacts on group

Position Paper Topics
Relevant paper topics include, but are not limited to:
- Evaluation of location based services in learning or work context
- Location based services design
- Users and usage of location based services
- Mobile learning scenarios
- Location-aware interaction
- User modelling
- Applications that use real world context
- Modelling of available physical and social resources

Workshop Organization
The workshop will last 1/2 day or 1 day depending on the number of
contributions. It will gather researchers among the Kaleidoscope Network
of Excellence plus some external participants. External participants
will have to apy an extra fee.
Outcomes may take the form of either papers for the edited CSCL book or
new KAL projects.
If you would like to participate in this workshop, please submit first
an abstract by April 23rd and then your position paper (max 8 pages) to
nicolas.nova@epfl.ch by July 15th. Work in-progress will be accepted,
but describe your research questions!

Workshop Comitee

Organization: Nicolas Nova and Mauro Cherubini
Chair: Pierre Dillenbourg and Mike Sharples

Nicolas Nova _ ___ _ __| | | '_ \ /|_| \__,_|- phD sudent
Homepage : http://craft.epfl.ch/page22410.html

Monday, April 05, 2004

Task walkthrough for groupware evaluations

This paper advocates adapting the cognitive walkthrough usability evaluation method (UEM) for the evaluation of groupware. They have introduced a task-analysis based approach to enhancing scenarios and are including some contextual information in the task description. There is also an increased focus on group-interaction effects.

They break the information used by evaluators down into the following parts:
Scenario: High-level description of activities related to achieving a specific outcome. Scenarios contain the following information: high level activity description, user specification, group goal, set of circumstances
Tasks: Basic components of scenario, usually explicitly stated in scenario activity description. Describes what occurs in a scenario event, but not how it occurs.
Individual subtasks: The loosely-coupled, individual work in a task
Collaborative subtasks: The tightly-coupled work in a task. Carried out by a mechanic of collaboration
Actions: Common ways to perform a collaborative subtask

Group Task Analysis for Groupware Usability Evaluations, 2001
David Pinelle, Carl Gutwin
[Full-text pdf]

Friday, April 02, 2004

Group awareness for collaborative tasks

Notice: Comments changes
I was getting more spam comments than 'real' comments, so I've disabled all blog comments and diverted the links to Tribe. I enjoy your comments when they come in - really I do! But Tribe is better equipped to handle spam as well as discussion threads. If you know of interesting papers, please post the links to Tribe so that everyone can have a look. Just click the 'comments' link below. Or if you're really shy you can just mail me directly. =)

And now back to our previously scheduled programming...

This paper reviews several types of group awareness (GA) interface enhancements as well as advocating the usage of several new ones.

Reviewed are:
- telepointers
- radar views
- multi-user scrollbars
- distortion-oriented views

The paper has a pretty strange definition of bottom-up and top-down, and of what user-centered means, but it does provide some interesting discussion on how to provide GA and what groups need to perform tasks.

All of these solutions are working within the boundaries of the limited screen space of a full-sized monitor. Group tasks done using mobile devices will obviously have to find other solutions to these problems. An interesting question is whether collaboration needs to be a degraded experience while working with a smaller screen device.

Methodologies and Mechanism Design in Group Awareness Support for Internet-Based Real-Time Distributed Collaboration, 2003
Minh Hong Tran, Gitesh K. Raikundalia, and Yun Yang
[full-text pdf]