Abstract

We report the results of a long-term multi-sited field trial of a situated awareness device for families called the ‘Whereabouts Clock’. The clock displayed family members’ current locations as one of four privacy preserving, deliberately coarse-grained categories: ‘Home’, ‘Work’, ‘School’, or ‘Out’. In use, the clock supported not only family co-ordination but also more emotive aspects of family life – such as reassurance, connectedness, identity and social touch. This emphasized aspects of family life frequently neglected in ubicomp – particularly the ways in which families’ awareness of each others’ times and schedules contributes to a sense of identity as a family. We draw further on the trial results to differentiate between location as a technical aspect of awareness systems and what we characterise as location in interaction. Location in interaction is revealed as an emotional, accountable and even moral part of family life.