Humans need to feel connected to one another. With each new technology we create and re-create ways to connect with others we care about. Thanks to the ubiquity of powerful mobile technology in certain parts of the world, we have nearly immediate access to those remote others. Despite these advances our shared experiences are diminishing, and the ways we most often connect with our remote framily members seem to be superficial and at the expense of more meaningful interaction with collocated family members.
People are not likely to give up the convenience and entertainment afforded by their mobile technology, but might those same technologies be capable of supporting interactions that help the users be the selves they wish they were, rather than the consumers their technologies were designed to support?
To investigate the space of technological support for people's feelings of togetherness I conducted three studies. The first study was a diary study over 14 days where I asked about the current practices of middle schoolers for communicating with friends out side of school and for listening to music. In the second study, I conducted a design charrette where participants designed a technology to support co-listening, and then tried my first prototype.
CoListen is a streaming music player that supports a listener in listening to the same music at the same time as a friend or family member. CoListen is designed with the explicit intent of requiring as little of the listener's attention as possible.
In the third study, I deployed Colisten v1.0 in the wild and conducted a 14-day diary study asking participants about their experiences.
I found that many of the participants from my target population listen to music and communicate with their friends, and that phatic communication (as opposed to goal-oriented communication) was prominent. I also found participants to be interested in the idea of technology to support co-listening and intrigued by how few little the barrier to co-listening can be, and how little attention is required. In study 3 I found that people enjoyed the experience of remote co-listening and did listen to music as a background activity. Many participatns reported feeling more together with their framily members with whom they co-listened.