Designing to Support Social Connectedness: The Case of SnowGlobe
Thomas Visser, Martijn H. Vastenburg, David V. Keyson


Social awareness systems aim at supporting social connectedness by providing users with subtle cues about what is happening in their social network. In developing such systems, designers are faced with many design choices that influence the way social connectedness is affected. Typically, the designs and evaluations of social awareness systems lack foundations in formal models of social connectedness. This paper first describes a conceptual model of social connectedness, which provides a guideline for the design and evaluation of a social awareness system called SnowGlobe. SnowGlobe is a lamp that creates interpersonal awareness of movement between people in two remote living rooms. It displays movement of a remote user by glowing brighter, and users can exchange nudges by users shaking their SnowGlobes, making the remote SnowGlobe blink. The user-system interactions and the effect of system use on social connectedness were evaluated in a field trial. Participants used a SnowGlobe for several weeks and experienced SnowGlobe as a complementary form of communication. Interviews and log-data show that participants enjoyed using SnowGlobe, and that it contributed to relationship saliency and closeness as dimensions of social connectedness. Key design aspects for this effect were found to be the low-bandwidth level of communication, the ambiguity of the interaction, and the physicality of the interactions.

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