Jokebox: Coordinating Shared Encounters in Public Spaces

in CSCW '16, Conference paper (text), San Francisco


Eye contact is crucial to shared encounters in public spaces.
However, most urban technologies that aim to foster social
interaction tend to rely on screens, directing a significant
proportion of the users' attention towards the device rather
than to those with whom the encounter is shared. We present
the design and evaluation of the Jokebox, a lightweight
technology that requires two passers-by to coordinate actions
to hear a joke. In three in the wild studies at different
locations we found that our design supported micro-level
coordination in a consistent manner: by encouraging people
to make eye contact and by using audible jokes, users engaged
in interactions that often led to further conversation
and laughter. We describe how opportunities for macrolevel
coordination were key to the success of the installation,
but varied by context. Finally, we present design implications
for considering both the micro and macro levels
of social coordination.