ActiveCampus: location awareness usage

W. G. Griswold, P. Shanahan, S. W. Brown, R. Boyer, M. Ratto, R. B. Shapiro, and T. M. Truong, ActiveCampus - Experiments in Community-Oriented Ubiquitous Computing'' IEEE Computer, To Appear:

The UCSD ActiveCampus project is an exploration of wireless location-aware computing in the university setting. ActiveClass supports classroom activities such as anonymous asking of questions, polling, and student feedback. ActiveCampus Explorer supports several location aware applications, including location-aware instant messaging and maps of the user’s location annotated with dynamic hyperlinks of nearby buddies, digital graffiti, etc. This paper describes results on the use of these systems by several hundred students, drawing on observations, aggregate usage data, anecdotes, and the analytical perspective of Ecologies. Analysis exposes novel behaviors, the relevance of proximity in social computing, and a willingness to share location information with others.

Why do I blog this? the usage analysis is interesting:

we performed aggregated, anonymized analyses of our server data from ActiveCampus Explorer’s “launches” in April 2002 through May 2003. (...) We instead examined how many distinct people were creating content for each feature.

The top chart in Figure 3 [reproduced below] shows the number of distinct individuals who created each type of content during each month. The peaks correspond to the two launches. Generally, use decays at an exponential rate, a factor of two, over a month to month basis, until it stabilizes around 25 users. About a third of these are members of the ActiveCampus project. This disappointing outcome can be attributed to the ecological deterrents cited above.

Here are the most significant results:

Since one of the underlying principles of ActiveCampus is that location matters, we analyzed message sender and receiver locations. This analysis was limited to the 1597 messages for which both the sending and receiving PDA had been located by the automatic geolocation system within the previous 100 seconds. There are numerous reasons why a user might not be currently geolocating, including use of a non-located computer or the user’s choice to to hide location.

Next, we compared each sender-receiver pair’s average distance at the time of messaging to their average distance in general. The lower chart Figure 3 shows this relationship. For 473 out of 539 pairs the distance when messaging was less than the average distance. For 311 pairs the average messaging distance was less than 50 feet. This tendency held up when members of the project were excluded from the analysis, as well as data from the Explorientation. In short, relative location as a context seems to matter in community-oriented computing. Perhaps ActiveCampus Explorer’s presentation of nearest buddies at the top of the list highlighted their proximity. At the shortest distances, the pairs may have physically seen each other in the same room (using IM as a back channel) or knew they should be in class together. Finally, we examined privacy issues. Just 1% of users changed their default privacy settings to hide location from buddies, and 8.2% exposed their presence and location to non-buddies (0.3% more exposed just presence). In short, users seem unconcerned about location privacy with friends. A modest percentage will even trouble themselves to share location with non-buddies, perhaps as a way to meet people.