Building Connections among Loosely Coupled Groups: Hebb’s Rule at Work
Awareness of others’ interests can lead to fruitful collaborations, friendships and positive social change. Interviews of groups involved in both research and corporate work revealed a lack of awareness of shared interests among workers sharing an organizational affiliation and collocated in the same building or complex but still physically separated (e.g., by walls or floors). Our study showed that loosely coupled groups were less likely to discover shared interests in the way that many tightly collocated groups do, such as by overhearing conversations or noticing paraphernalia. Based on these findings we iteratively developed a system to capture and display shared interests. Our platform includes an e-mail sensor to discover personal interests, a search algorithm to determine shared interests, a public peripheral display and lightweight location-tracking system to convey those interests. We deployed the system to two groups for two months and found that the system did lead to increased awareness of shared interests.