Investigating new models of intergroup communication as a spatial practice through the implementation of a locative media system.

Dimitris Charitos, Harriet Mitrakou

The convergence of new mobile telecommunication networks along with geographical positioning systems and interactive graphical interfaces on mobile devices, are beginning to extend the potential of media technologies for supporting communication among mobile individuals. Locative media are systems of technologically mediated interpersonal and group communication. By introducing context awareness and by
supporting multi-user communication, these ICT systems alter the patterns of information flow as well as the situation within which mediated communication takes place, thus bringing to light new spatial contexts and experiences within which social interaction may occur and novel forms of cultural practices may emerge.

LOCUNET (LOCation-based Urban NETwork) is a research project that aims to investigate the social and communicational aspects of using such mobile multi-user location-aware systems in an everyday urban context. The outcome of this project is a theoretical framework which accurately and comprehensively describes locative use at various levels (HCI, interpersonal communication, inter-group communication). This framework aims to ultimately inform the design and development of locative media. For the purposes of evaluating this framework, a location-based pervasive game activity has been designed and implemented. This activity will engage a number of mobile and desktop users and will take place in central Athens, Greece in February 2008. Documentation of the activity will support the presentation of the paper.

LOCUNET investigates certain issues related to inter-group relations and group formation, and the relationship between individuals and the environment in the context of locative media. The project attempts to provide answers to the following questions:
�� What is the role of locative media users as members of mediated groups?
�� Does communication via locative media entail processes which generate individual and social meaning?
� How do users cope with the hybrid nature of such environmental experiences and how do these experiences affect the course of user activity?

LOCUNET adopts a methodological approach which includes both quantitative and in-depth qualitative research, for the purpose of evaluating the system and users’ attitudes towards locative media.

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