Throughout the day, people spend time in public spaces. This might be while sitting at a subway station, eating in a restaurant, walking down the street, or strolling in a park. People in public spaces enjoy the benefits of face-to-face interaction, shared surroundings and affordances, and proximity. This creates a setting that can encourage interaction among acquaintances, yet does not often fascilitate interaction among strangers unless there is a direct need to do so.
Public spaces in the virtual environment similarly have many visitors each day. People congregate in chat rooms, post messages to usenet groups, and visit homepages. People, in disjoint spaces, come together in a virtual public space and interact. Be it for reasons of anonymity, less risk or accountability, people are more likely to converse with strangers. This highlights a different communication pattern than what we often see in physical public spaces.
The goal of this work is to create a communication link between disjoint public spaces for sociable casual conversation by combining the ease of conversation in public online forums with the physicality and the affordances of a public space.
Mediated communication between public spaces is a relatively new concept. Two examples of this are internet cafes and video connections.
Internet cafes allow for different forms of conversation. One might converse with fellow cafe-goers or choose to use the internet fascilities. This scenario often divides the room into two and does not allow for a unified integration of the sociable aspects of the space. One section exists for those who are using internet access, and one for those who arent. The semblance of the traditional cafe begins to fade: internet goers are zoned in a different section staring as if they had tunnel vision while the others go on as if they did not exist.
Large scale video-conferencing walls have begun to appear in public areas such as workplace lobbies and kitchens. These connections provide video and audio links. Those placed in public work spaces are designed for casual encounters among people within an organization. Some drawbacks to such systems are lack of privacy, gaze ambiguity, and the fear of appearing too social in a work environment.
In this work, we explore a different
goal and approach to linking public spaces.
One main idea is to provide a
common goal for people as a catalyst to conversation.
A sign of a great place is triangulation. This is the process by which some external stimulus provides a linkage between people and prompts strangers to talk to each other as if they were not.