In between mobile meetings : Exploring seamless ongoing interaction support for mobile CSCW

Abstract: This thesis is a collection of seven papers reporting a research effort that started in January 1999. The theme of the thesis is interaction support for mobile CSCW (Computer Supported Cooperative Work). The interest in this theme is motivated by the trend towards a networked and nomadic society, the technical trends towards embedded, ubiquitous, and mobile technology, and the emergence of mobile CSCW settings. It is also motivated by current trends within the area of CSCW to focus on actual work practices, invisible and ubiquitous computer support, and mobile work settings where interaction with others is critical to get the work done.For some time now mobile technology has been widely used to support dispersed mobile interaction, and recently the importance of co-located ”mobile meetings” to get the work done, has been recognized in the area of CSCW. However, current technology is not well suited when it comes to support interaction in mobile work settings across co-located and dispersed settings. Here, this problem is approached from an informatics perspective. Informatics can be described as a theory and design oriented study of information technology use. The scope of this thesis can be defined as understanding transformations of work practice through the use of mobile technology, and how it might be supported. The overall research question is: What are the specific needs of interaction support related to mobile meetings and dispersed interaction, how might these be supported, and what are the implications for current interaction models and support within CSCW? To answer this question several activities have been undertaken. This thesis contains empirical studies of mobile work among service technicians at Telia Nära, models of mobility and mobile meetings, and design and evaluations of a prototype system called RoamWare.The overall conclusions related to the question stated in this thesis are that mobile interaction can be described as ongoing across mobile meetings, including both co-located face-to-face and dispersed interaction. Further, the interaction is maintained by the mobile workers through their efforts of re-establishing different threads of interaction across co-located and dispersed settings. Overall: There is a need to bridge co-located and dispersed meetings with sustained interaction support. Concerning the second part of the overall research question one conclusion is that sustained interaction across co-located and dispersed settings can be supported with mobile physical/virtual meetings support systems through the use of personal and public interaction histories. To illustrate and test this idea a prototype system called RoamWare was developed. However, evaluations of RoamWare revealed that synchronous support for sustained interaction divides users’ attention between co-located and dispersed interaction. As a consequence a second version of RoamWare was developed as an unobtrusive support for sustained interaction in between mobile meetings through seamless reestablishment of different threads of interaction, by offering support for converting interaction histories into project contexts. Finally, and according to the last part of the question stated above, this thesis concludes that current session management models need to be extended to handle sustained and dynamic sessions of interaction across co-located and dispersed mobile meetings and that, techniques for addressing groups need to be extended to enable dynamic addressing of participants in co-located mobile meeting. Finally, the exploration of how to support sustained interaction in between mobile meetings reveals important aspects to consider when trying to automatically frame spontaneous interaction with mobile technology.Directions for future work include questions of how to design filters to support: maintenance, participation in, and negotiation about participation in between, different mobile meetings. Further, more work is needed related to how to capture spontaneous face-to-face interaction technically. Finally, new methods are needed to enable good evaluations of the impact of IT in mobile work settings.