Eating Alone, Together: New Forms of Commensality
Association for Computing Machinery
Eating with others, or commensality, is an enjoyable activity that serves many important social functions; however, many individuals eat meals alone due to life circumstances, meaning that they miss out on these social benefits. We developed and deployed a simple technology probe providing social awareness around mealtimes to explore how social systems might help alleviate the loneliness of solitary dining. Our findings suggest that these systems can convey a sense of connectedness around a meal; further, our analysis revealed three themes relevant to systems of this type: that contextually-located peripheral awareness engenders connectedness; that such tools can foster a feeling of shared social presence, and that they can be a catalyst for other forms of communication around the meal. These findings suggest that remote commensality" is not only possible, but that it may take on forms entirely different to that which we are accustomed."