SCADs: Social Connection Awareness Devices to Reduce Isolation during Social Distancing

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths College
Department Name: Design

Abstract

This project's impact will be to benefit wellbeing and advice adherence during social distancing by supporting remote social relationships with lightweight communications devices. Teleconferencing systems such as Zoom or Teams relieve social isolation, but demand focused attention and largely fail to recreate the peripheral awareness supporting ongoing social connection in co-present situations. In this R&D project we will develop a series of dedicated Social Connection Awareness Devices (SCADs) that complement teleconferencing by offering undemanding, non-verbal communication to increase awareness of and feelings of social and emotional connection with remote friends and family. To allow immediate and widespread impact, SCADs will be circulated as self-build ICT products: electronic devices that people make at home using off-the-shelf electronic components, software downloaded from our website, and housings made from everyday materials. Highly accessible, illustrated instructions pitched to a similar skill level as online food recipes will guide their construction, and an online forum will support a community to grow around them. This strategy has already supported 1000s of people to build our designs in recent projects. We will release a series of monthly designs starting soon after the project starts; rapid development will be facilitated by developing shared hard- and software infrastructures. Each new design will be improved based on the large-n qualitative research made possible by previous ones into how different features of lightweight communication devices support social and emotional connections. SCADs will thus enhance the knowledge base in HCI and make timely impact with this relatively underdeveloped form of telecommunications.

Publications

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