Beyond connection: Situated wireless communities

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Introduction As Kate walks into the mall on Saturday afternoon, she tries the Buddy Finder on her cell phone to see whether any of her friends are nearby. Her nearest buddy Tom, who she just met a week ago in a nightclub, is about two miles away. She smiles when she remembers how they met each other at a party after exchanging information through Proximity Dating on their phones. Of course, Kate would rather have one of her girl friends as a shopping companion. However, most of them are near the city concert hall. Wondering why, Kate checks the posts on the Digital City board, and notices that there will be a big event there this evening. The city council has posted a call for voluntary helpers who'll be rewarded with free tickets, and she expects that her friends could not resist the offer. Kate cannot go to the big event anyway because of a trip she has to take early next morning. She is here in the shopping center to look for some luggage. She posts a question in the Wireless Local Community and in a while she receives a reply from another shopper that one store has "real nice cases on sale." Kate goes to the store and finds a case she really likes. She then posts a thank you note and a picture of the case she just bought. Advances in wireless information technologies have placed users in a ubiquitous computing environment that allows them to access and exchange information anywhere and anytime through wireless handheld devices such as smartphones. Various wireless community applications have emerged which provide users with entirely new experiences. In the preceding episode, our heroine has used four different wireless community applications, the interfaces of which may look like those in Figure 1. Buddy Finder allows users to locate their friends through wireless positioning technologies (such as GPS). When a person finds someone they are acquainted with in a particular place, they can chat or talk and even arrange to meet if they are nearby. On the other hand, Proximity Dating helps people know each other, especially when they are in the immediate vicinity. Based on short-range wireless telecommunication technologies (such as Bluetooth), Proximity Dating covers a much smaller geographical area than Buddy Finder. In a place such as a clubhouse or party, people can get to know each other by exchanging information with handheld devices when their personal area networks (PAN) shake hands. Wireless Digital City is an application that allows people living in a town or city to organize and manage matters concerning their residential, business or political lives. For example, in Helsinki Finland, people discuss, plan and coordinate local events with handhelds through the Helsinki Virtual Village ( Wireless Local Community (WLC), on the other hand, fixes its coverage to an area that is both geographically and functionally defined, such as a shopping center, tourist park, or traffic system. People in such an area can join a WLC to share their local experiences with each other. In contrast to information pushed by the companies that supply and sell products and services, customers are likely to regard peer-to-peer reference groups as credible sources of product/service information and be open to informational influence. These wireless community applications are different from the Internetbased virtual communities commonly defined as "groups of people with common interests and needs who come together on-line to share a sense of community with like-minded strangers, regardless of where they live." In those tradition on-line communities, people are connected with one another, but they neither know each other in person nor do they necessarily care where they are at a specific moment. However, in the wireless communities mentioned here, people are more closely bound with each other through a sense of sharing common physical and/or social contexts. Thus they can be referred to as situated wireless communities (SWCs).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-125
Number of pages5
JournalCommunications of the ACM
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)


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