Using GeoTemporal Social Matching to Support Community

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project concerns a new class of location-aware information systems that link People-to-People-to-geographical-Places (P3-Systems), based on technologies that can locate individuals as they go about their daily activities, including the near ubiquitous mobile phone. Specifically, the research will explore how P3-Systems can strengthen community by helping individuals leverage location information to make new social ties and to coordinate better the interactions with colleagues, friends, and family to reinforce existing social ties. To achieve this goal, the project will work towards gaining an understanding of how to 1) capture and utilize geotemporal histories to identify social matches, 2) provide users with trustworthy face-to-face introduction tools and 3) provide geotemporally relevant introductions and social reminder alerts that do not overly interrupt the users or invade their privacy. Unfortunately, knowledge in regards to each of these key issues is lacking. We do not know how to effectively manage the capture of personal geotemporal histories from mobile networks of heterogeneous devices in order to compute social matches that take into account place types, recurring patterns of co-location, and place-linked roles. Nor do we have a basic understanding of how to effectively enable face-to-face introductions between users while simultaneously ensuring appropriate exchange and control of personal identity data. Important questions in regards to identity exchange to be examined include: In what order and at what rate should basic demographic details be transferred between users? How is the revelation of identity data affected by situational variables such as place, time and social company? How can the process be tied to social networks in terms of reputation and trust?

These key issues will be studied intensively using the New Jersey Institute of Technology's (NJIT) NSF supported SmartCampus location-aware community system test-bed. The SmartCampus test-bed will provide hundreds of students with heterogeneous wireless, locatable, lightweight, mobile, computing devices and deploy a variety of P3- Systems. A key SmartCampus P3-System that will be used to support this research is CampusMesh, a location-aware geotemporal social matching and reminding system. Multiple research methods will be employed, ranging from laboratory studies of how 'strangers' engage in identity revelations, through usability studies of various software prototypes on different types of devices, through large scale field trials on the NJIT campus that will include user surveys and longitudinal monitoring of who-to-whom network traffic to identify changes in social networks. In the final year, field trials in one or more corporate locations will assess the generalizability of the findings. These studies of using P3-Systems to build and sustain community will directly result in: the development of design guidelines and theoretical frameworks that will inform system developers and HCI/CSCW researchers; empirical findings that will inform social scientists concerned with 'introductory communication' and the relationship between measurable affinities and the potential for growing social ties; and a variety of novel software applications.

This project will support several educational goals. First, the system developed will be field tested at NJIT, by the NJIT community. NJIT is a leader in minority education, and the city has a large minority population. Thus, the benefits of the technology to be developed will accrue to a population with fewer resources and more limited opportunities than the U.S. as a whole. Second, the project will provide excellent training and learning opportunities for numerous students through: courses in Human-Computer Interaction, Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Research Methods, Sensor Networks, and Pervasive Computing where students will work together in team projects that will either use CampusMesh and other SmartCampus applications or be directly involved in its research and development. Research assistants will participate in research using leading-edge technology, where they will learn a diverse set of empirical research methods. Finally, the research outlined will result in the creation of a technology rich, friendly, and welcoming campus experience for the NJIT student population.

In the early 20th century, people often came together face-to-face to make new acquaintances and to form voluntary associations such as social clubs, professional societies, and religious institutions that supported civil society. In subsequent decades the frequency of individual participation in these traditional associations and face-to-face meetings has declined along with associated measures of local social ties and social capital. P3-Systems offer one path to developing geographically concentrated social capital by enhancing community cohesion and by helping people to meet each other and coordinate their actions. To the extent that this research leads to effective, usable and trustworthy P3-Systems, it moves us closer to realizing this potential. The project will also benefit the research community through the release of usage data from the field trials (in a form that preserves privacy) and CampusMesh system software. Finally, the novel geotemporal matching algorithms and privacy mechanisms developed for this class of systems, and understanding of determinants of use of such systems, will be applicable in the military, government, and business sectors, as well as in academia.

Effective start/end date11/1/0511/30/10


  • National Science Foundation: $793,608.00


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