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Awareness Systems Design

ID Master's programme 2007-2008

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 another individual or group, where this mental model provides a context in which to place your own activities and interactions with those others.

A broad range of systems falls in this category, that could deliver diverse benefits:

Topics covered




Meetings / Lecture / Presentations


Mon 26/11

HG 3.18




P. Markopoulos. Introduction to Awareness Systems Assignment 1: PowerPoster. Individual poster and poster-presentation.
Tue  27/11

Traverse room 5




Presentation "PowerPoster" Assignment 2: Awareness Display for Hotel
Wed 28/11

Traverse room 5




Interim meeting: discussion of your scenario and potential technical solutions 

Thur 29/11 - - -

Fri  30/11

HG 3.21

14:00-16:00 Presentations Assignment 2   

Bacground Reading

Deliverables Table

PowerPoster (assignment 1)

This is an individual assignment. You must present 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.
  • Analysis with respect to one of the papers listed below
    • Bellotti, V. & Sellen, A. Design for Privacy in Ubiquitous Computing Environments. Proc. 3rd European Conf. on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, (ECSCW 93), G. de Michelis, C. Simone and K. Schmidt (Eds.), Kluwer, 1993, 77-92.
    • Pousman, Z. & Stasko, J.T. (2006). A taxonomy of ambient information systems: Four patterns of design. In Proceedings of the Working Conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces (AVI), 67-74, ACM Press.
    • Shami, N.S., Leshed, G. & Klein, D. (2005). Context of use evaluation of peripheral displays. In Proceedings of the IFIP TC13 International Conference on Human Computer Interaction (INTERACT), 579-587, Springer.


  • Your own reflection on the system. How would you approach its design differently?



  • Present your poster on the allocated time slot
  • Hand in a hard copy
  • Submit to studyweb on the same day the poster as 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) CANCELLED

This is an individual assignment.. Please prepare and write a report (max 1000 words) 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, whether and how you would approach it differently now.
  • Relating the system to awareness systems published in the literature and to relevant research findings.


  • Mail to Panos on the specified day the report preferably as a .pdf file named as follows <studentName1><StudentName2>reprt.pdf, e.g., PanosMarkopoulosMarkosPanopoulos.pdf

What I look to see in your report?

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


Awareness Displays for Hotels (assignment 2)

This is a team assignment for one or two (but not three) . If you have a partner, you should have not worked together before in an earlier assignment in this module.

The assignment is to design and build a working prototype of a physical awareness information display.

The application domain is hotel. Users could be business travelers arriving at a hotel for a business meeting, or conference attendees arriving the day before the conference starts, or students going to a study trip to Milan the weekend before the course starts.

Guests travel and arrive individually. In the hotel there are others they know, or they don't know, whom the share interests with. In the next few days they will get to know the others, coordinate some activities, socialize, even bond. Much of the motivation is the latter, meeting and networking with others...Only when they arrive they do not know who is who, where to meet, where to go, etc. Later on, they sometimes join the crowd, and sometimes not. Sometimes they choose to spend time privately and others they try to meet specific others.

Guests have awareness and privacy needs. When arriving, they need some time on their own without the obligation to meet and socialize. Others like immediately to meet others to socialize with, though without burdening them. Perhaps some others they know from beforehand and they even chose to come to the same hotel in order to meet - they somehow want to coordinate.

The assignment is

  • to create a scenario of information one guest could 'publish' about him/herself or want to see about others. Discuss this scneario and how you will create an appropriate prototype
  •  to create a display for this information, that fits the hotel context. The display should be physical rather than screen based and multi-modal rather than graphical/textual.

Assume a luxury hotel. Design a display would add to the experience of guests staying there. What would fit their room? How does this display meet the information needs of the guest?

On the allocated time slot you are expected to:

  • Show your working demonstration to the rest of the class. 
  • Deliver a single A4 information leaflet including:
  • Your names and student numbers
  • Illustration of the prototype or concept you worked on.
  • Description in text
  • Submit to studyweb on the same day the report as a .pdf file, named as follows <studentName><StudentName>presentation.ppt, e.g., PanosVanMarkMarkVanPanos.ppt

What I look to see in your presentation?

  • A working model is preferred. You can use whatever technology you wish. We shall try to support with advice and even some help in cases Phidgets are used.
  • Coherence with the scenario you described. The design should have a clear rationale linking back to the information needs described in your scenario. 
  • The originality and aesthetic quality of the display. A copy of an existing concept will be frowned upon, as well as a prototype that shows little effort has been put in designing it and putting it together.
  • Link to related works (I will provide pointers at the interim meeting). How does this differ or add to existing works? What are the privacy issues? What choices were made considering the design space of awareness systems?


Earlier Runs of this course

March 2007