|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.