Future Research Areas

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As discussed earlier, P3-system designs are still rudimentary. The comparative

utility of the four main P3-System design approaches described to support

proximate community members is to a large extent unknown. This is not simply

because of the need to address privacy concerns, but also because it is not

completely clear in what situations individuals would wish to use one system

design approach over another. Further, we do not know which interaction and

outeraction processes supported by various P3-system design approaches

would result in the strongest people-to-people ties and the extent to which

those ties are grounded in geographic places.

A number of approaches can be used to help address our lack of understanding

of the comparative utility of P3-System designs:

1. The design approaches could be assessed using the comparative

prototyping methodology (Trevor & Hilbert, 2002). This usability

research methodology uses a three step process of: (1) designing various

alternative applications that vary only around the key variable to be

studied; (2) deployment of the system in various situations; and (3) the use

of qualitative and quantitative field data to compare and contrast the

alternative designs.

2. The utility of various features of P3-Systems could also be assessed

through research into P3-System recommendation tools (Terveen & Hill,

2001). Such tools would help users choose appropriate interaction and

awareness spaces for the task and situation at hand. This will be crucial

in a future in which highly dense small urban environments might contain

large number of P3-System users that wish to interact with each other

virtually, without suffering from information overload. The value of any

recommendation would relate to the underlying algorithms used, which in

turn would relate the extent to which it took into account the utility of P3-

System features available to the user. Of course determining such utility

would require development and deployment in the field of various designs

and then determining in what situations users would find different features

and spaces of value. We hypothesize that such recommender tools would

have to take into account online community space interaction dynamics

(such as critical mass and discourse overload, see Jones & Rafaeli, 2000),

users’ preferences, social, and seasonal rhythms (Handel & Herbsleb,

2002), inter-personal interaction histories, user physical location, and

various P3-System design approaches.

3. Rather than simply comparing the usability of various features, large-scale

long-term field studies could be used to understand how P3-Systems

impact on social network formation and maintenance. Such studies could

also be used to understand how wireless information technology could

transform the social networks of proximate communities of various types,

such as residential communities and university campus communities.

Until the writing of this chapter, information systems that systematically link

people-to-people-to-geographic-place have not been considered as a related

or distinct category. However, with the recognition of P3-Systems as a distinct

class of applications we were able to distinguish between basic design-features,

and provide a theoretical/conceptual framework for future development in this

area. While we view the classification approach of P3 systems adopted here

to be still nascent and emerging with future modifications probably being

required as new systems arise, value has been demonstrated in trying to

understand the design space. In fact, it is the authors’ hope and belief that the

recognition of the P3-System category will encourage and help us develop and

enhance the future quality of P3-Systems.