ContactMap: Organizing communication in a social desktop

Steve Whittaker, Quentin Jones, Bonnie Nardi, Mike Creech, Loren Terveen, Ellen Isaacs, John Hainsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Modern work is a highly social process, offering many cues for people to organize communication and access information. Shared physical workplaces provide natural support for tasks such as (a) social reminding about communication commitments and keeping track of collaborators and friends, and (b) social data mining of local expertise for advice and information. However, many people now collaborate remotely using tools such as email and voicemail. Our field studies show that these tools do not provide the social cues needed for group work processes. In part, this is because the tools are organized around messages, rather than people. In response to this problem, we created ContactMap, a system that makes people the primary unit of interaction. ContactMap provides a structured social desktop representation of users' important contacts that directly supports social reminding and social data mining. We conducted an empirical evaluation of ContactMap, comparing it with traditional email systems, on tasks suggested by our fieldwork. Users performed better with ContactMap and preferred ContactMap for the majority of these tasks. We discuss future enhancements of our system and the implications of these results for future communication interfaces and for theories of mediated communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-471
Number of pages27
JournalACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human-Computer Interaction


  • Email
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Instant messaging
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Iterative user-centered design
  • Personal information management
  • Personal social desktop
  • Social data mining
  • Social reminding
  • Visualization


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