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CSCW: Social Awareness and Availability

Interesting session on tools and research around awareness. The first two focused on technology and designing experiments to test them. The last paper highlighted research they are doing to explore how people might actually use this kind of technology. Extended entry has the details.

Controlling Interruptions: Awareness Displays and Social Motivation for Coordination by Laura Dabbish and Robert Kraut, Human-Computer Interaction at CMU (paper pdf).

The AWARE Architecture: Supporting Context-Mediated Social Awareness in Mobile Cooperation, Jakob Bardram and Thomas Hansen from the U of Aarhus (project homepage).

Putting Systems into Place: A Qualitative Study of Design Requirements for Location Aware Community Systems by Quentin (Gad) Jones, Sukeshini Grahndhi, and Keerti Chivakula from NJIT and Steve Whittaker of U Sheffield and Loren Terveen of U Minnesota (project overview, pdf paper).


Controlling Interruptions was an interesting look how to impact interruptions in an electronic world, primarily those where people are "on task" a majority of the time (bond traders, help desks, air traffic control) and where interruptions can lead to performance problems for the interrupted person. A long-term goal of the work is to help interrupters and interruptees better understand context and make more-informed decisions around those interruptions.

The study they conducted looked at the value of amount-of-information presented to the interrupter and the sense of shared-goals (teamwork) between pairwise teams. They found that any information about the "busyness" of the interruptee was valuable to the interrupter, but that too much information (live video) required too much concentration on the part of the interrupter. The questions also pointed out that additional research is happening around developing sensor-based techniques to measure busyness (phone calls; typing; other activity). They also found, not-surprisingly, that team members tried to interrupt less and at more opportune times (when they have the information).

The AWARE Architecture is the beginnings of a system of location aware phones / pagers / pda's that will help add to the traditional types of context-indicators, such as that in a hospital ward: printed calendar, whiteboard, surgery schedule, peephole into operating room, placement of papers, etc. The researchers have done field studies that determine the requirements of a technical support system, and they have done some laboratory work that confirms how people might interact with such a system.

The goal of their design is to provide appropriate clues to users to understand what is happening with someone they might want to contact. Their ideas completely extend upon how people need to interact. Unlike the previous talk, this work is looking at gross indicators of where people are and what they might be doing. They didn't want to interrupt people's normal business processes, where possible. (So they don't require people to give updates every few minutes: only once an hour or so.) An interesting comment during the questions was that the importance of various contextual clues depends on who you are looking for and what you want them to do. It's all about context, once again.

Putting Systems into Place looked at qualitative research that pointed out an interesting aspect. "Aware" technologies need to understand people-to-people-to-geographical-places interactions, something that the authors call P3-Systems. What this means is that these systems need to understand:

  • information about individuals
  • information about relations between individuals
  • information about places
  • information about how people want to interact in those places

. The speaker also talked about the idea that individuals' desires to interact with others also depends on aspects outside of just who they are and where they are, but also things like time of day, mood and other "intangibles."

This kind of work is clearly of interest to various social software + socially-aware technologies.

CSCW: Communities

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