Connectibles: Tangible Social Networks

J. J. Kalanithi, V. Michael Bove, Jr.


This paper presents “Connectibles,” a prototype instantiation of a tangible social network, a new type of social network application rooted in physical objects and real world social behavior. This research is inspired by theoretical work that suggests that gifts act as physical symbols of social relationships. The Connectibles system leverages gift-giving practices, presenting users with gift objects (“connectibles”) that they exchange with one another. These objects automatically form always-on communication channels between givers and receivers. As a user collects more and more of these objects, he or she begins to acquire a dynamic, physical representation of and interface to her social network. The community of users’ interactions implicitly represent the structure of the social network; these data can be accessed with a GUI application, allowing users to explore and interact with their social network. This system was implemented and subject to three user studies. The overarching goal of this work is to examine how a set of devices might naturally and harmoniously interface the physical, virtual and social worlds.

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