Media Lab Europe
Human Connectedness research group


Humans have a fundamental need for contact with other humans. Our interactions and relationships with other people form a network that supports us, makes our lives meaningful, and ultimately enables us to survive. A variety of personal factors, such the need to travel or live in a different place apart from family and friends, threaten our ability to form and attain balance in the kinds of relationships that we want and need to have with others. The impact of customs and trends that exist at a societal level, such as the widespread use of certain technologies that may have isolating effects, is a subject of increasing study. These conditions put our mental and physical well-being at risk and, in turn, jeopardize the health of our communities and civilizations as a whole.

The Human Connectedness research group explores the topic of human relationships and how they are mediated by technology. Our mission is to conceive a new genre of technologies and experiences that combat the effects mentioned above and allow us to build, maintain, and enhance relationships in new ways. We also aim to enable new kinds of individual bonds and communities that were not possible before but may be beneficial or fun.

Beyond imagining new forms of social interaction, we wish to explore how new technologies change the way people can be related to each other -- in the same way that, for example, we feel related to people in our families, attached to things that are important to us, or bonded to friends and loved ones. Some other key research questions for the group are:

  • How can we convey a sense of presence and togetherness over space and time?
  • How can we promote and support collaboration between different groups of people?
  • How can we share a sense of intimacy and closeness in new ways?
  • How can we enable new forms of cultural exchange?

    We seek to build a technological framework for applications in this domain, taking advantage of the infinite bandwidth and processing-rich computing environments of the future and the opportunity to extend these networked media environments into our architectural surroundings as well as into interfaces that sit close to our bodies and are always with us. We are equally interested in forming a design framework that includes an understanding of sociological and psychological factors to help shape these systems in a fashion that reflects the needs and sensibilities of the groups within which they operate.

    We gain inspiration for our projects from a variety of sources that include the results of scientific studies, observations of people and how they interact, ongoing dialogues with potential users of new technologies, as well as personal experience in relationships. While we wish to project ourselves into the future to the greatest extent possible in imagining new technologies, we place emphasis on building working prototypes, the use of which we can study and learn from.

    The Human Connectedness group was established in September 2001 and was based at Media Lab Europe in Dublin, Ireland. Media Lab Europe closed on 14 January 2005.