News & Events

Workshop: Living inside mobile social information


Workshop at Boston University’s College of Communication
April 29-30, 2013

About the Workshop

Visit the workshop website

For more details, including a schedule, list of speakers and registration information, visit the workshop website. Questions? Contact Allison Keir at

What will social life be like when each of us has instant personal information about those around us? It is easy to conjure utopian and dystopian visions of this future. By contrast, the purpose of this workshop is to draw upon empirical evidence we already have to construct frameworks for rigorous understandings of these likely changes. Emerging technologies are increasingly offering mobile people convenient heads-up displays of situationally relevant data on an individualized basis. Such data could be based on cues such as eye-tracking or physical location in an environment. Data streams could include co-location of friends, commercial offers, tourist information, news and sports updates, and even running scans of personal characteristics of passers-by on the street. When chatting with friends, voice stress analysis and other psychological state indications could be detected and displayed to users. A host of issues will arise as people begin interacting with these technologies which will likely engage a gamut of utopian and dystopian possibilities. Google offers a point-of-view video characterizing what life might be like.

Having readily accessible information concerning the ambient environment is for many an exciting prospect though for others it is a source of concern and distress. Yet despite strong reactions to these developments, commentary on how such technologies may affect social relations and individuals’ internal states has too often remained the province of casual commentators. By contrast, drawing on research – including on topics such as ubiquitous and immersive computing, media and locational badges, and distributed context-aware applications – insights may be available concerning interactions that future users may face. Historical analogies should also prove illuminating. The purpose of this workshop therefore is to move past casual speculation and instead draw on systematic social-science based analyses of relevant issues regarding interaction under mobile conditions when information, especially socially relevant information, is widely available.

Who will be presenting?

For those who may have researched this topic from any of a variety of perspectives, this workshop provides an opportunity to explore these questions in greater depth. Scholars and researchers will be presenting peer reviewed papers with other experts. One goal of the workshop is to draw on the best of current thinking to develop a conceptual map as to what is known and what are the pertinent research and policy questions that can be reasonably addressed. In addition, ideas will be gathered about what data are needed to better understand the issue area. In essence, then, the workshop aims to overlay and integrate perspectives from communication research, social psychology, anthropology and sociology with what has traditionally been a heavily gadget-centered/ubiquitous-computing line of research.

This event is sponsored by the Division of Emerging Media Studies, College of Communication, Boston University and co-sponsored by Microsoft Research and Motorola Mobility.

More on our Scientific Advisory Board:

  • Naomi Baron, American University
  • Nancy Baym, Microsoft Research
  • Genevieve Bell, Intel
  • András Benedek, Budapest University of Technology and Economics
  • Scott Campbell, University of Michigan
  • André Caron, University of Montreal
  • Letizia Caronia, University of Bologna
  • Deven Desai, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
  • Jonathan Donner, Microsoft Research
  • Leopoldina Fortunati, University of Udine
  • Gerard Goggin, University of Sydney
  • Joachim Höflich, University of Erfurt
  • Christian Licoppe, Telecom Paristech
  • Richard S. Ling, IT University of Copenhagen
  • Yu-li Liu, National Chengchi University
  • Vic Nalwa,
  • Kristóf Nyíri, Budapest University of Technology and Economics
  • Elin Rønby Pedersen, Google Research
  • Satomi Sugiyama, Franklin College Switzerland