Cityflocks: designing social navigation for urban mobile information systems

Bilandzic, M., Foth, M., and De Luca, A. Cityflocks: designing social navigation for urban mobile information systems. In DIS ’08: Proceedings of the 7th ACM conference on Designing interactive systems (New York, NY, USA, 2008), ACM, pp. 174–183. [PDF]


This paper presents CityFlocks, a mobile system to enable visitors and new residentsin a city to tap into the knowledge and experiences of local residents to gather information about their new environment. The main argument of the authors is that social navigation (e.g., the cue in front of a restaurant is an hint that the place is good) is one of the main mechanism that we use to discover new knowledge and find new places in the environment that we inhabit.

Unfortunately, social navigation cues are not available for digital information. While most of the previous projects discuss such different features around indirect and asynchronous interaction method (i.e., people attaching information to physical places), not much work has yet been carried out on studying direct interaction methods (e.g., phone calls, text message).

Therefore the author of this paper build an application for mobile phone called CityFlocks that allowed the user to be in contact with a local citizen when in the need of local information. The application allowerd the user to make a phone call to the local citizen or to send text messages. Interviewed participants reported to have preferred this latter method because they felt awkward to call a stranger. One of the major issues that was reported in the study was that users could not associate a specific level of trust to the strangers they were paired with using the application. Also they reported misgivings in the use of SMS for time-sensitive information because the method could not offer rapid feedback that was necessary in certain situations.

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