Computer Support for Social Awareness in Flexible Work
How do we conceptualize social awareness, and what support is needed to develop and maintain social awareness in flexible work settings? The paper begins by arguing the relevance of designing for social awareness in flexible work. It points out how social awareness is suspended in the field of tension that exists between the ephemerality and continuity of social encounters, exploring ways to construct identity through relationships by means of social encounters – notably those that are accidental and unforced. We probe into this issue through design research: In particular, we present three exploratory prototyping processes in an open office setting (examining the concepts of a shared calendar, personal panels, and ambient awareness cues). Field studies, conducted in parallel, have contributed to a conceptual deconstruction of CSCW concepts, resulting in a focus on cues to relatedness, to belonging, and to care. Analyzing these three prototypes in their microcosmic usage setting results in specific recommendations for the three types of applications with respect to social awareness. The experiences indicate that the metaphors a ‘shared mirror’ and ‘breadcrumbs’ are promising foundations on which to base further design. We present these analyses and suggest that the metaphors work because of their ability to map experiences from the physical space into conceptual experiences. We conclude that social awareness in flexible work must be constructed indirectly, presenting itself as an option, rather than as a consequence of being able to overhear and oversee.