Michael Koch, Alessandro Rancati, Antonietta Grasso, Dave Snowdon
Bullinger, H.-J., Ziegler, J. (eds.): Proc. 8th Int'l Conf. on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI'99), Munich, Germany, August 22-27, 1999
Looking at different examples of real life "communities", one can roughly distinguish communities formed by
people who are interested in the same topic and communities of people that share some kind of common
environment. The first kind of communities can be called "communities of interest". Examples for such
communities are experts in a particular domain or collectors. Examples for communities of people who share
some kind of common environment are "communities of practice" [Lave and Wenger 1991] or communities that
share a place where they live or work (e.g. the inhabitants of a city). The latter type of communities will be
called "local communities" in the rest of the paper. Support for building and maintaining communities can be
classified in classical approaches like private letters, leaflets, magazines, paper whiteboards, specialized radio
and TV programs, and approaches based on networked computers (bulletin board systems, MUDs, MOOs,
"community networks" [Schuler 1994]). Both support approaches, the classical and the electronic ones, have
their advantages and disadvantages. For classic media the advantages are availability, familiarity, and ease of
use. For electronic media the advantages are dynamicity, speed, ease of replication, and distribution;
disadvantages are barriers to usage, problems with access, and lack of availability. It seems obvious that both
strategies should be integrated with each other. Especially for local communities which have a close
relationship with some kind of physical space this integration of community support systems into the physical
environments is essential. We believe that electronic support for local communities can only be successful if
the access to it is broadly extended into the real places through new user interface metaphors and mixed with
classical community support media, and not only accessible from home or work PCs. In this paper we briefly
present our work on combining paper artifacts and electronic information systems for community support.
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