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Awareness Systems Design

ID Master's programme 2006-2007

Target Competency area: Competency area 3.3 Interaction Design.

The aim of this course is to provide an in-depth treatment of the topic of awareness systems. We shall examine the history of such systems, theoretical models and foundations, state of the art knowledge regarding different concepts, visualisations and methodologies for the design of such systems. By extension the module shall provide to ID students good foundations in the design of mediated communication.

Awareness Systems can be broadly defined as systems whose primary purpose is not the efficient execution of information exchange tasks but rather to support people to build up and maintain a mental model of the activities of each other. A broad range of systems falls in this category, that could deliver diverse benefits:

Topics covered




Meetings / Lecture / Presentations


Mon 11/6

9:30-11:00 P.Markopoulos. Introduction to Awareness Systems

Briefing on focus and nimbus assignment

PowerPoster. Individual poster and poster-presentation.
Tue 12/6 9:30-11:00


Presentation "PowerPoster" IdAware. In pairs, slide-show and presentation.
Wed 13/6




IdAware Presentations.

N.Romero, J.Khan, G.Metaxas: Awareness Research at ID.


Focus and Nimbus assignment
Thur 14/6 - - -

Fri  15/6

14:00-16:00 Presentations of focus and nimbus assignment  

Bacground Reading

Deliverables Table

PowerPoster (assignment 1)

This is an individual assignment. You must prepare and present a poster describing an awareness system reported in the research literature. A list of papers describing systems you might choose to present can be found in the Background reading section.

The poster should include:

  • Your name and student number
  • Illustration of a system as this was found in the paper you read or other sources.
  • Simple description of 'what it does' - in a form of a scenario
  • Description of the main conclusions drawn from building and evaluating the system and your own reflection upon them. (e.g., do you subscribe to them? what open questions come to your mind? etc.)
  • Presentation of the design rationale: how does the system fit in the design dimensions discussed, why were specific choices made by its designers.
  • Impact of the system: try to trace related works. First, how this system builds on other works and second how it has (if at all) influenced later works.
  • Your own reflection on the system. How would you approach its design differently?


  • Present your poster on the allocated time slot
  • Had in a hard copy
  • Mail to Panos on the same day as the poster presentation a .pdf file, named as follows <myStudentName><studentNo>poster<systemname>.pdf

What I look to see in your poster?

  • The description should be accurate: the poster should be sufficient for your colleagues to use as a spring-board  for exploring this field further.
  • You should show awareness of more than the single paper you read, to judge critically claims made by authors and to discern the contrived from the essential in the reported works and potential variations of the same idea.

IdAware (assignment 2)

This is a team assignment for two . Please prepare and give a presentation (max 10') showing an earlier project you were involved in that concerns an awareness system (using the broader definition used in this course, and relating to connectedness, health care monitoring, etc.). Examples are Weasley's clock, Photomirror, etc.

The presentation should include:

  • Your name and student numbers
  • Illustration of the prototype or concept you worked on.
  • Description in text, e.g., through a small scenario
  • Your reflection on the design of this system and how you would approach it differently now.
  • Relating the system to awareness systems published in the literature and to their findings.


  • Present your presentation on the allocated time slot
  • Mail to Panos on the same day the presentation preferably as a .ppt file and failing this as a .pdf file, named as follows <studentName><StudentName>presentation.ppt, e.g., PanosMarkopoulosMarkosPanopoulos.ppt

What I look to see in your presentation?

  • A clear description that conveys in a very short time and space the essence of your conception
  • Your newly acquired ability to relate your own work to published works in this field.


Focus and Nimbus (assignment 3)

This is a team assignment for two . You are expected to have a partner whom you did not work for in an earlier assignment in this module. The focus nimbus assignment is to build a working prototype using Phidgets of an awareness system, based on the focus and nimbus model explained in the lecture.

The application domain is an office environment, e.g., your own working area at the ground floor. The purpose could be  to support you in planning a break, coordinating work, chatting, avoiding interruptions, making interruptions, etc. Depending on your luck you will be assigned to create an input (sensing) device and an output (display) device. Devices should be interoperable: I should be able to connect any input to any output. To do this you are requested to work from the example provided by E.Toering at:

On the allocated time slot you are expected to:

  • Show your working demonstration to the rest of the class. Connect your input device to at least one output, and vice versa.
  • Deliver a single A4 information leaflet including:
  • Your names and student numbers
  • Illustration of the prototype or concept you worked on.
  • Description in text
  • Mail to Panos on the same day the report as a .pdf file, named as follows <studentName><StudentName>presentation.ppt, e.g., PanosMarkopoulosMarkosPanopoulos.ppt

What I look to see in your presentation?

  • A working model shows that you have understood the focus and nimbus model
  • Your design should demonstrate sensitivity to the design issues discussed in the module.
  • The basis is to get it working, but of course I look to see good designs fitting the context that they should be used in (we shall of course ignore the wires that are needed for phidgets).