Coordination technology for active support networks: context, needfinding, and design

AI and Society 33 (1):113-123 (2018)
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Coordination is a key problem for addressing goal–action gaps in many human endeavors. We define interpersonal coordination as a type of communicative action characterized by low interpersonal belief and goal conflict. Such situations are particularly well described as having collectively “intelligent”, “common good” solutions, viz., ones that almost everyone would agree constitute social improvements. Coordination is useful across the spectrum of interpersonal communication—from isolated individuals to organizational teams. Much attention has been paid to coordination in teams and organizations. In this paper we focus on the looser interpersonal structures we call active support networks, and on technology that meets their needs. We describe two needfinding investigations focused on social support, which examined four application areas for improving coordination in ASNs: academic coaching, vocational training, early learning intervention, and volunteer coordination; and existing technology relevant to ASNs. We find a thus-far unmet need for personal task management software that allows smooth integration with an individual’s active support network. Based on identified needs, we then describe an open architecture for coordination that has been developed into working software. The design includes a set of capabilities we call “social prompting”, as well as templates for accomplishing multi-task goals, and an engine that controls coordination in the network. The resulting tool is currently available and in continuing development. We explain its use in ASNs with an example. Follow-up studies are underway in which the technology is being applied in existing support networks.

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Todd Davies
Stanford University


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