P3-System Designs Based on People’s Use of Space

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Place centric P3-Systems that provide online visualizations of current use of

defined geographical areas/spaces that have been prototyped to date are useful

in terms of outeraction. That is, the provision of awareness of how a space is

being utilized, or where a person is within a predefined area, to support the

coordination of future and current activities. These systems present user

location data that is public and anonymous, public and identified, and or private/

restricted. Using the Active Campus Explore Map, users can see only those

individuals that make their location data available to everybody, or those

included in the represented user’s buddy list. In this case privacy issues arise

with the added complexity of location data ownership. For example, do

individuals wandering in a private office complex own their location data, or

does the owner of the physical space have some rights to the location data of

people that using his or her physical space?

P3-System Designs Based on Interactions in Matching

Virtual Places

P3-Systems designed around this approach by definition enable proximate

community interactions. Further, because they link messages to locations, they

are also good at enabling outeraction processes. For example, a user could

leave a digital Post-It note/graffiti in a room notifying people about an upcoming

event, this in turn could help other users coordinate their activities.

A design issue that confronts these types of systems is how to explicitly link a

message to location. This has been in one of three ways: (1) through labels that

describe the matching virtual place; (2) through use of cartographic visualizations;

and (3) through user locatability. An example of the user locatability

approach is that used by Geonotes which allows only local/in situ reading and

authoring of “Geonotes” so that a user clearly knows the location to which a

message is relevant. This contrasts with the visualization approach of the Active

Campus Explorer Graffiti, which allows both local and remote reading and

authoring, but ties messages to location by placing the messages on an online


Privacy is an issue with these systems if messages posted are identified by

author or if physical presence in location is required. However, it is clearly

possible to design a system that allows for anonymous postings and remote

authorship as discussed above. Further, in the majority of situations it is likely

that message posting would be voluntary, meaning that users make the decision

as to when they are willing to reveal themselves.

Global P3-System Design Issues

The review of the four basic P3-System design approaches leads us to discuss

a number of interrelated issues that designers of all P3-Systems must address.

These are scalability, online community space construction, geographical

contextualization of interactive communication, and approaches to the management

of privacy.

Scalability refers to the extent to which the system maintains functionality and

usability as the number of users being located, geographical coverage, and

interactive communicators increases. If functionality is reduced then users may

lose sense of what is happening in a geographic area covered by the system, or

suffer from information overload (Jones & Rafaeli, 2003b).

Closely related to scalability is the issue of use of online community space

segmentation strategy (Jones & Rafaeli, 2000) and approaches to geographical

contextualization. Online community spaces through labeling or visualization

can be used to geographically contextualize interactive communication, alSupporting

though it is not required. Online community spaces support online community

by enabling ties between people to be formed through public shared interactions.

While online community spaces are of value, their use is not automatic

(as noted above in regards to Social Net). A decision by designers not to

provide an online community space may arise for a variety of reasons, such as

privacy concerns, which may be amplified if users’ locations are publicly

shared. For example, the use of location-aware descriptors next to each instant

messaging buddy on a buddy list would geographically contextualize instant

messaging discourse, but not through use of an online community space. If

online community spaces are to be used, then to make the system scalable, an

online community space “segmentation strategy” has to be adopted. “Segmentation

strategy” refers to any systematic method used to divide the overall

interaction space into a number of related online community spaces. For

example, Amazon.com’s segmentation strategy is that each book has its own

online community space. As the number of books Amazon sells grows, the

number of online community spaces it maintains expands. For P3-Systems

based on enabling interactions in matching virtual spaces, an online community

space segmentation strategy could be tied to cartographic visualizations, i.e.,

linking each online community space to a different point on an online map.

In building P3-Systems, designers have to address how user location data will

be managed. In other words, designers have to deal with location privacy

management. Privacy management needs to be addressed as both a social and

design issue. For example, the adoption of a big brother approach to the public

tracking of users raises various ethical and social issues but does not represent

a major technological design challenge. On the other hand, we are a long way

from knowing how to design systems that enable seamless user control of

location data to satisfy personal data privacy needs while maximizing overall

system utility. Here we are only interested in privacy as a design issue. In this

regard, the focus in the privacy literature has been on ensuring data privacy,

using means such as including access control lists (providing a list of users that

must be authenticated in order to access some information), and cryptography

(to protect the data being transmitted). However, in this case, the important

issue to be addressed is in what situations should personal location data be

made public and when should it be kept private. This is complicated by the fact

that the precision of data about individuals (e.g., individual, member of

subgroup, anonymous user), location (room, building, street, city, state, etc.),

and time can be adjusted. The question then becomes, when and how, and in

what situations, are users willing to share their location data with other users,

at varying levels of precision. For example, an individual might be willing to

share with a friend or member of his family that he is in a restaurant but not with

anybody else. On the other hand, that same individual might be willing to share

with everybody anonymously that there were 20 people in the restaurant on

Saturday afternoon and that the food was quite good. There are a very wide

variety of ways to address this issue. These range from privacy management

practices being hard coded by designers through systems that enable full user

control of their location data, to systems that use emergence to enable utility

through the aggregation of anonymous location data.