See If You’re a Good Friend
When design student Steven Blyth moved temporarily from the Italian countryside to Berlin, he was struck by the ubiquity of mobile phones and PDAs in the city. But he noticed that, despite its prevalence, the technology wasn’t providing a usable context for real-life relationships.
So Blyth, a master’s student at the Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, Italy, began working on The Social Fabric, a project he hopes could ultimately help people see at a glance how well they’re tending to their friendships.
The Social Fabric features a display of avatars on a mobile device’s screen, representing individuals in a group of friends or acquaintances. The avatars use body language to show how recently you’ve contacted each person: Regularly contacted friends appear alert and look directly at you. Less frequent contacts might slouch and turn to the side, and infrequent contacts could have their backs turned.
“I wanted to capture the possible effect this would have and make us more aware of our actions and inactions in our social lives,” said Blyth. “Ideally, it (could) elevate our consciousness with regard to managing our social lives. It makes apparent, subtly, through the visualization, a negative trend or a positive trend. So we become more aware and see the repercussions of not nurturing our relationships.”
So far, Blyth has built only a Flash-based prototype of the software for his PDA, but he said he imagines it being widely available for public download soon.
Some feel that is a very good thing. “Steven Blyth’s ‘social fabric,’ or a close approximation thereof, is bound to join the ranks of the most popular (mobile social software) in the not-too-distant future,” said Judith Meskill, the author of the influential website, the Social Software Weblog. “Our lives are swathed in many layers of social fabric. Most of us use our cognitive abilities to keep these layers aesthetically organized, but mobile and MoSoSo (mobile social software) tools open a whole new level of awareness in communication.”
Blyth says his software offers people an “elegant” way to stay aware of their social lives. He has designed categories: best friends, events, professional groups and so on. In each case, users could quickly see how well they’re keeping in touch in those areas, and take action when they notice someone they’ve neglected.
Meskill applauds the way Blyth’s approach allows users to see distinct groups and to move between them as circumstances warrant.
“I would love a tool that would enable me to pull up a page on my mobile while traveling the planet, and pick out my Japanese blogger layer when visiting Japan on business,” she said.
Blyth said as he developed The Social Fabric, he experimented with various ways — beyond the human avatar motif — of manifesting cues about the health of social relationships.
“I have a pond visualization also,” he said, referring to a system in which flowers on a small body of water convey information about relationships. “But the people one is more visually powerful.” Autor: Daniel Terdiman