We are interested in encouraging conversation by providing a means for people to discover mutual interests. Conversations engender knowledge of one's community, which in turn encourages collaboration and social awareness. To support these broad goals, we have designed a system that makes available implicit relationships amongst people cohabiting an environment equipped with ubiquitous sensors and displays . Sensors in this environment track people's interaction with documents, places, and other people. Another component analyzes this contextual information to discover specific relationships between people. To present found relationships, we employ a composite system integrating a public ambient display that provides aggregate, abstract information and a PDA display that displays more specific information (Figures 1 and 2). The public ambient display notifies users in the space of the existence of relationships and the PDA supports inquiry and communication.
We are deploying this system to several spaces and are evaluating its impact. Before deploying the system, we use interviews and contextual inquiries to gauge the communication processes in deployment spaces. Then, during deployment, we use surveys and direct observation to discover how the system changes group communication.
Figure 1: An ambient public display showing files (left), people (center), and places (right) of mutual interest
Figure 2: A PDA display showing a list of related people