Research Fellows Directory
Professor Eamonn O'Neill
University of Bath
The mobile phone is fundamentally a device for creating and sustaining human networks. This human networking is crucial at every level from individual wellbeing to the maintenance and effectiveness of societies and economies. The importance of such networks is reflected in part by the recent popularity of computer-based social networking applications. Beyond simply recording the user’s social network, they offer features to help maintain these networks. Most mobile phone users have recorded (much of) their social network on their device, in the form of their Contacts book, yet the device offers them few of the services of a computer-based social networking application.
Indeed, the mobile device’s very mobility – and very close mapping to its user’s patterns of mobility and encounter with other people, devices and places – potentially enables services that cannot be offered by the desktop-bound computer. With its reliance on explicit input of pre-established social links by the user, the desktop computer-based social networking application does not account for the important contextual factors of mobility, place and encounter in creating and maintaining social networks. In addition to the human network represented in a device’s Contacts book – those with whom you already have a relationship – mobile devices move through a different kind of social network: people you encounter in social and public places of all kinds.
Our fundamental research aim is the development of principles, methods, tools and techniques for the design, implementation and evaluation of novel mobile services with a focus on context aware mobile social networking service. We are building and evaluating prototype systems that take account of people’s physical and social context to offer facilities beyond voice and text for the maintenance of social networks, drawing lessons that have wider implications for the support of social networks and context aware mobile services.