Chs: Small: Context-Aware Mobile Systems To Facilitate Synergistic Face-To-Face Interactions

Project: Research project

Project Details


Cyber-Human Systems hold the promise of seamless mobile social navigation, where people on the move are able to make connections to the right people at the right place and the right time. Chance encounters, the unintended meeting between people unfamiliar with each other, are rare but powerful incidents that offer people an opportunity to develop new social ties. Building new social ties and thus increasing social capital is important because individuals embedded in richly connected social environments are, for example, better able to handle personal setbacks, such as financial failures and illness, and to provide social support for others. While we often are surrounded by potential new friends it is problematic to identify who they are and how to connect with them. Context-aware systems have the potential to mediate such chance encounters and, hence, traNational Science Foundation orm the way we make new social ties. The goal of this project is to understand the dynamics of chance encounters and to develop, deploy and test mechanisms for systems that can facilitate such chance encounters leading to new social ties.

The project has two phases. In the first, the investigators will conduct a prospective cohort study (n=500), in which two cohorts of freshmen students will be followed over 18 months, exploring both the extent of changes in their social networks that are the result of chance encounters and how formation of new ties might be enhanced by a context-aware system. A combination of ethnographic and experience sampling studies will provide insights into the dynamics of chance encounters and the contextual variables that influence people's motivations for meeting others when on-the-go, such as the nature of place; number of people nearby (social context); the individual user context, e.g., current activity (cognitive context); the nature of the relationship between two potentially matched people, e.g., shared attributes (relational context), and privacy concerns. The second phase involves design research to generate innovative mechanisms and designs for systems that will be validated in field use. Findings from these studies will identify ways that contextual data can identify opportunities for chance encounters and support serendipitous introductions, fulfilling the CHS missions of creating systems that enhance human capabilities and advance society's cohesiveness.
Effective start/end date8/1/147/31/17


  • National Science Foundation


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