Monday, October 27, 2008

Augmenting the Social Space of an Academic Conference

The authors present the results of deploying two proactive displays into an academic conference setting: AutoSpeakerID (ASID) and Ticket2Talk (T2T). Both these systems leverage RFID tags that are physically installed into conference attendees' badges, which are paired with an profile containing personal affiliation information and a photograph. The ASID display consists of a RFID reader embedded in a microphone stand and an accompanying large display. In this way, when an attendee approaches the microphone to ask a question, their information is rendered on the display, providing context for their question. The T2T system is of similar configuration, in that it has a display which renders an attendee's profile when they come into proximate context with the display. However, T2T is installed at refreshment stations to promote personal interactions between attendees.

The novel element presented in this paper, as the authors point out, is the close focus on the evaluation of these devices. Each system is examined thoroughly by the researchers, gathering qualitative observational and questionnaire data. These results were used to gauge the systems' performance in the areas of Enhancing the Feeling of Community, Mesh with Established Practices, and Privacy Concerns. Some unexpected, yet somewhat beneficial results were produced when users attempted to 'game' the system buy providing falsified, comical profiles (ie. The Bill Gates profile).

Although the authors focused on qualitative analysis of their displays, I think further investigation is required before coming to definitive decisions on the systems' utility. Although this is clearly a difficult domain to measure, it is generally proposed that user surveys/questionnaires can skew results. For example, the results of the survey for the Ticket2Talk system reported 41% positive feedback and 3% negative feedback, with 66% of the attendees unaccounted for. If we take into consideration a variation of Self-Selecting Respondents, we could propose that the participants who found the system very useful were motivated to fill out the questionnaire, and those who strongly disliked the system were motivated to distance themselves from the system, it would not be a stretch to propose that the majority of the 66% unaccounted attendees had a negative view of the system, and so the results of the questionnaire are invalid.

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