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Elin R¿nby Pedersen: AROMA revisited – providing activity information without attention overload and privacy violation

She describes a particular system that translates
activity in a room in terms of number of people, movement, and amount of noise
into an abstraction consisting of a flat display of a blue sky with a few
clouds, wiggling balloons, and migrating birds.

Elin R¿nby Pedersen
is from Denmark and has an impressive history of research and designs projects
in Denmark as well as Xerox PARC and other cutting Silicon Valley research labs.
She now runs her own company called Kraka after a wise and
resourceful Viking woman in the Nordic Sagas (link).

Elin’s
general findings on designs that have to do with social interactions are: (1) do
not enforce explicit decision making — a lot of rituals of politeness require
ambiguity, (2) do not force attention, (3) respect privacy (see also Jason
Hong’s talk summarized below). The art of providing (social) activity
information is walk a delicate line between too much and too little attention
she calls “dynamic minimalism”. She describes a particular system that
translates activity in a room in terms of number of people, movement, and amount
of noise into an abstraction consisting of a flat display of a blue sky with a
few clouds, wiggling balloons, and migrating birds. The number of balloons
represents the number of people, the wiggling of balloons represents movement,
and the number of migrating birds represents the noise level (thereby providing
a short history of noise as these flocks of birds float
by).

Elin did not provide any
quantitative proof that this design actually lead to less interruption. She also
cautioned that the assessment of these designs is difficult since users often
have to first learn and get used to the meaning of these abstractions. These
abstractions also seem to require a rich shared
context.

At the end of the talk during
the discussions I found out more about IRIS. It’s like Outlook but with chatting
and blogging, outlining, and so on — but everything is individually
addressable. So one can put an email into the calendar, or annotate it.
Basically, a “Zettelkasten” with all communications integrated. Elin pointed out
that other people at Almaden (Tom Rand?) and
Victoria
Bellotti
at PARC are working on similar stuff (see for example “Taking
Email to Task
” and “What
a To-Do
“, or more generally, Nicolaus
Ducheneaut
‘s site).

Whoa!
Need to check out the technical program at CHI2004.

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