This doctoral work aims to explore how working professionals living in urban cities want to gain location-specific knowledge of their community through technology. While previous research has explored location-based systems and urban informatics, much of the work has focused on social and community life, and systems to support it. In this doctoral work, my goal is to go beyond social and community engagement by exploring organizational routines in the home, and designing a location-based technology to put community information in the context of the locations in which they occur. This includes exploring the facets of domestic life that involves community awareness and routine travel via public transit in urban cities.
This dissertation is comprised of four studies presented in a cumulative format. The four studies include 1) a mixed-methods study exploring the usability of city portals, 2) an exploratory study investigating the community information needs and routines of families, 3) an iterative design process that produced a community information system: a location-based game, City Explorer, and 4) another qualitative study that evaluated City Explorer by way of a field deployment.
This work poses a critical reflection on how to design for people in urban cities and the role that mobile technology plays in people capturing, sharing, and viewing community information. Moreover, I offer a reflection on the changing definitions of community and the complexities that arise with the emergence of the Internet of Places and location-sharing. I conclude with a methodological reflection on the research methods used throughout my doctoral work. Finally, this dissertation is addressed to HCI and mobile computing researchers who are interested in designing location-based technologies to support community awareness and engagement.
Many people use public transit on a recurring basis to travel for work, school, or other activities. Yet rides can be isolating despite encountering the same people on a regular basis. We designed City Explorer, a city exploration transit game, to provide transit riders with a channel to strengthen the sense of community. In City Explorer, players collect points as they ride public transit. They can complete route-specific challenges and collaborate with other riders to multiply points by riding the same route. Players can also create geo-tagged posts to describe and share community-related information. We share our design requirements, followed by details of game features, and our implementation of City Explorer.
Video communication systems work relatively well for family members and friends when they want to converse with each other between their homes. Yet it is much more challenging to share activities using mobile video conferencing in outdoor settings. We explored the design of mobile video conferencing systems that focused on allowing family and friends to participate in outdoor leisure activities together over distance. We created and studied two technology probe setups: shared geocaching and shared bicycling. Both used mobile cameras and streamed audio and video between remote family members or friends as they participated in the activities. Through these design and study explorations, we explore how family and friends make use of mobile video during leisure activities, what elements are important for the design of such systems, and how mobile video for outdoor leisure activities compares and contrasts to video calling in the home and, more generally, while mobile. Our research points to design considerations around camera views, when and how audio and video should be presented, and the privacy concerns of users and how to balance them with the benefit of the technology.
Government organizations have begun to consider how to provide families with information about their communities, yet their current design strategies focus on providing any and all of their information. This makes it difficult for families to find what is relevant to them. To help address this problem, we conducted a diary and interview study to explore what community information families are actually interested in, how and when they acquire it, and what challenges they face in doing so. Results show that location-based information in their environments triggered people to want to know more about their community while time-based information helped people plan family activities. Family members also wanted to have information resurface at particular places and points in time to support face-to-face interactions. Our analysis suggests design opportunities to leverage the affordances of print and online media and the use of in-home technologies to support the interactions between family members. We also suggest considerations for location-based experiences within communities.
Cities have recently begun to focus on how digital technology can better inform and engage people through an online presence containing web portals for desktop computers and mobile devices. Yet we do not know whether common user interface design strategies apply to government portal design given their vast repositories of information for citizens of varying ages. This mixed-methods study compares the usability of desktop and mobile interfaces for two types of city portals, textual and visual, using the System Usability Scale, a standardized usability questionnaire. Using a set of twelve tasks, we evaluated three usability aspects of two city portals: effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction. Our results suggest there was a main effect between textual and visual designs, with users rating the textual design on a mobile device higher than a visual design. From this, we suggest that responsive design may not be the best fit when designing city portals to be experienced for use on desktop and mobile devices.
Video chat systems such as Skype, Google+ Hangouts, and FaceTime have been widely adopted by family members and friends to connect with one another over distance. We have conducted a corpus of studies that explore how various demographics make use of such video chat systems in which this usage moves beyond the paradigm of conversational support to one in which aspects of everyday life are shared over long periods of time, sometimes in an almost passive manner. We describe and reflect on studies of long-distance couples, teenagers, and major life events, along with design research focused on new video communication systems—the Family Window, Family Portals, and Perch—that explicitly support “always-on video” for awareness and communication. Overall, our findings show that people highly value long-term video connections and have appropriated them in a number of different ways. Designers of future video communication systems need to consider: ways of supporting the sharing of everyday life rather than just conversation, providing different design solutions for different locations and situations, providing appropriate audio control and feedback, and supporting expressions of intimacy over distance.
Mobile payment services have recently emerged in North America where users pay for items using their smartphones. Yet we have little understanding of how people are making use of them and what successes and challenges they have experienced. As a result, we conducted a diary and interview study of user behaviors, motivations, and first impressions of mobile payment services in North America in order to understand how to best design for mobile payment experiences. Participants used a variety of services, including Google Wallet, Amazon Payments, LevelUp, Square and company apps geared towards payments (e.g., Starbucks). Our findings show that users experience challenges related to mental model development, pre-purchase anxiety and trust issues, despite enjoying the gamification, ease-of-use, and support for routine purchases with mobile payments. This suggests designing a better mobile payment experience through the incorporation of users' routines and behaviors, gamification and trust mechanism development.
As smartphones continue to increase in popularity in North America so too does the opportunity to expand their use and functionality. Our study looks at one of these new opportunities, Mobile Payment Services (MPS). This study investigates user behaviors, motivations and first impressions of MPS in Canada and the USA through interviews with veteran users and interviews and diaries with new users. Participants used a variety of MPS, including: Google Wallet, Amazon Payments, LevelUp, Square and company apps geared towards payments (e.g., Starbucks). Our preliminary findings are presented as user successes and challenges.
Conducting research and technology design for domestic life is by no means easy. Methods commonly used in the field of Human-Computer Interaction in settings like the workplace may not easily translate to the richness and complexity of domestic life.
This book documents new ways in which researchers are studying domestic life, as well as designing and evaluating technology in the home.
Much ICTD research for sub-Saharan Africa has focused on how technology related interventions have aimed to incorporate marginalized communities towards global economic growth. Our work builds on this. We present results from an exploratory qualitative study on the family communication practices of family members who communicate both within and between rural, suburban, and urban settings in Kenya. Our findings reveal that family communication focuses on economic support, well-being, life advice, and everyday coordination of activities. We also outline social factors that affect family communication, including being an eldest child, having a widowed sibling, and having reduced access to technology because of gender, literacy, or one's financial situation. Lastly, we discuss new opportunities for technology design and articulate the challenges that designers will face if creating or deploying family communication technologies in Kenya.
In this paper we present results from an exploratory qualitative study on the family communication practices of family members in Kenya. We reveal that family communication focuses on economic support, well-being, life advice, and everyday coordination of activities. Lastly, we discuss new opportunities for technology design and articulate the challenges that designers will face if creating or deploying family communication technologies in Kenya.
Generally, participants were concerned with the wealth of information contained with both government portals, on both desktop and mobile interfaces. Participants also expressed concern with the layout and structure of information, and indicated their frustration with the system’s design and usability. In prior work, Sauro & Lewis noted the average SUS score was 68 for over 500 studies that employed the SUS (2012). None of the interfaces evaluated during our study met this average, with the highest score of 61 attained by the visual design on the desktop interface. A mean SUS score of 33 for the visual design on the mobile interface reflects major concerns with the system’s usability.
Shared geocaching is an outdoor activity where pairs of individuals geocache together but in different locations. Video streaming allows two players to see each remote person's view and converse during the activity. This allows players to help each other out while searching for geocaches. We envision that shared geocaching will provide a way for family or friends to share experiences together over distance where they are both participating in the same activity at the same time, only in different locations.
Our research explores the use of mobile video chat in public spaces by people participating in parallel experiences, where both a local and remote person are doing the same activity together at the same time. We prototyped a wearable video chat experience and had pairs of friends and family members participate in ‘shared geocaching’ over distance. Our results show that video streaming works best for navigation tasks but is more challenging to use for finegrained searching tasks. Video streaming also creates a very intimate experience with a remote partner, but this can lead to distraction from the ‘real world’ and even safety concerns. Overall, privacy concerns with streaming from a public space were not typically an issue; however, people tended to rely on assumptions of what were acceptable. The implications are that designers should consider appropriate feedback, user disembodiment, and asymmetry when designing for parallel experiences.
Group shopping sites are beginning to rise in popularity amongst eCommerce users. Yet we do not know how or why people are using such sites, and whether or not the design of group shopping sites map to the real shopping needs of end users. To address this, we describe an interview study that investigates the friendship networks of people who participate in group shopping sites (e.g., Groupon) with the goal of understanding how to best design for these experiences. Our results show that group shopping sites are predominently used to support social activities; that is, users do not use them first and foremost to find 'deals'. Instead, group shopping sites are used for planning group activities, extending and building friendships, and constructing one's social identity. Based on these findings, we suggest improved social network integration and impression management tools to improve user experience within group shopping sites.
We report the findings of a small scale exploratory qualitative study on 13 participants from rural and slum regions of Kenya communicated with remote family members using technology. We focus on communication practices that enabled family members to support economic sustenance activities and also investigate the social aspects of using technology to provide or receive moral, emotional or other forms of support from distributed family members.
Most family members want to stay aware of each other’s activities on an ongoing basis to maintain a sense of connectedness. In situations where a family member is ill, the desire to stay connected increases, as many families face the challenges of coping with the diagnosis and treatment of a chronic illness. Previous research has evaluated technologies designed to support patients and caregivers with personal health information management and sharing. However, we still do not have a detailed understanding of which technologies are preferred and what challenges people still face when sharing information with them. To address this problem, this thesis reports on a mixed-method study that explores technology preferences and health information sharing routines of distributed families coping with a chronic illness. The aim of these studies was to explore the nuances of technology selection and usage in such situations. The findings illustrate the reasons why people choose certain technologies over others, the ways in which they use them, and the challenges they face. Findings also point to the need for tools that mediate sharing health information across distance and age gaps, with consideration to respecting patient privacy and supportive roles while sharing such information.
When a patient has a chronic illness, such as heart disease or cancer, it can be challenging for distributed family members to stay aware of the patient's health status. A variety of technologies are available to support health information sharing (e.g., phone, video chat, social media), yet we still do not have a detailed understanding of which technologies are preferred and what challenges people still face when sharing information with them. To explore this, we conducted a mixed-method study-involving a survey and in-depth interviews--with people about their health information sharing routines and preferences for different technologies. Regardless of physical distance between distributed family members, synchronous methods of communication afforded the opportunity to provide affective support while asynchronous methods of communication were deemed to be the least intrusive. With family members adopting certain roles during the treatment of chronic illnesses, our findings suggest the need to design tools that mediate sharing health information across distance and age gaps, with consideration to respecting patient privacy while sharing health information.