The connectivity of distant communities could be reinforced through locative media technologies (e.g. WiFi, Bluetooth, public screens), which lend themselves to shared experiences, such as content sharing and collaborative interaction. In this project, we elaborate on the design aspects and the longitudinal evaluation of a communication system that brings together the physically distributed educational community (students, teaching and administrative staff) of the joint projects that take place in European Union's cultural exchange programs (e.g. eTwinning). There is a significant body of related research, but no integrated approach. In the 70’s and 80’s, several video-art installations have explored the links between television, architectural space and community identity. During the 90’s and onwards, the artistic inspiration has caught on with research labs, which developed several distant communication systems. Nevertheless, previous academic research has not been evaluated with casual users in public spaces for prolonged periods of time. As a matter of fact, the most interesting effects of distance communication systems on everyday life, such as social presence, community awareness, and civic participation have not been documented. We plan to deploy an ambient and social interactive TV platform (physical installation, authoring tools, interactive content) that is easy to use (e.g. presence interfaces) and that supports non-verbal social communication in a positive way. In particular, we focus on a systematical longitudinal evaluation of the social effects of the media communication system on casual users. Besides the foreseen benefits for the local community, the outcomes of this research could have wide applicability in similar community establishments that take place over a distance or in distributed organizations.
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