Document Type


Date of Award

Fall 2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems - (Ph.D.)


Information Systems

First Advisor

Quentin Jones

Second Advisor

Cristian Borcea

Third Advisor

Michael A. Ehrlich

Fourth Advisor

Jodi Forlizzi

Fifth Advisor

Katia Passerini


Despite the widespread and large variety of communication tools available to us such as, text messaging, Skype, email, twitter, Facebook, instant messaging, GroupMe, WhatsApp, Snapchat, etc., many people still routinely find coordinating activities with our friends to be a very frustrating experience. Everyone, has at least once, encountered the difficulties involved with deciding what to do as a group. Some friends may be busy, others may have already seen the movie that the others want to see, and some do not like Mexican food. It is a challenge everyone has faced and continue to face. This is a result of system designers and researchers primarily focusing on understanding and supporting workplace coordination. This workplace bias has led to an assumption that the same technologies employed to facilitate workplace coordination can easily transfer to social coordination. This has created a divergence between how people actually communicate and coordinate for social reasons versus how the systems and technologies developed to support such coordination and communication are designed. As a result, researchers and designers are faced with dearth of knowledge about how to design and research systems that support people engaging in coordination and communication for more social reasons.

This dissertation moves beyond previous work, both academic and commercial, which has either focused on providing structured and process oriented communication and coordination support or on the creation of yet another text chat. This research focuses on a narrower aspect of social communication and coordination, specifically, the problem of social group-activity coordination. Generally, this is the stuff people do to coordinate going out to dinner or the movies with a group of friends. This area has been under researched and as personal experience informs, poorly supported.

This dissertation contains four main contributions. First, a diary study of 37 young adults aged 18 to 28 investigated the current social group-activity coordination practices resulting in an expansion of the knowledge about how social groups coordinate social group-activities and what technologies people use and why. Second, via iterative design and testing following a research through design methodology the design space for social group-activity coordination is explored over multiple design iterations. This results in the design and instantiation of a social group-activity coordination support tool improving understanding of the design requirements of tools that support social group-activity coordination. Third, a quantitative survey which confirmed many of the findings discovered during the dairy study. Fourth, the tool is evaluated in a laboratory study with 84 participants during 21 sessions. This study finds that using the conversation centric design perspective presented in this dissertation it is possible to reduce information overload and support consensus building. Also, the features provided are overwhelmingly desired with 91.4% of the participants desiring the ability and interface to make suggestions about important activity details (vs open chat) and two-thirds of the participants reporting they would prefer to use this tool over text messaging.

The combination of all these different investigations into social group-activity coordination extends the knowledge about how to improve the support of social group-activity coordination and move beyond the process and systems oriented perspectives and towards conversation centric designs.



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