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Social Menu As Mobile Probe To Understand Impacts Of Contextual Social Networks

Social Menu as Mobile Probe to Understand Impacts of Contextual Social Networks

The talk addresses the question of how virtual social information affects just in time decisions. The question is significant due to the pervasiveness of mobile devices in our just in time decisions and the way we are connected to our social network at various scales through such communication channels. An empirical inquiry on social influence and social networks utilizing mobile phones will help us foresee the impacts of the interplay of social network and mobile communications in our society. Decisions in the physical world are augmented using smart phones as Internet can be accessed on demand from your palm. The mobile phones also provide any-time, any-where access to our social networks at various scale. We investigate the impacts of online social networks in offline just-in-time decisions by capturing people's choices in the context of dining at a restaurant. A digital menu iPhone application was developed as a mobile probe to capture people's choices and their menu browsing behavior when ordering (in-time) at the restaurant (in-place). People were randomly assigned to different experimental groups to expose them to different contextual social networks at the time of ordering: no social information, individual friends, groups of friends, and popularity by other participants. Results show that virtual friends influence people more to divert to new choices than maintaining their pre-selections. On the other hand, popularity information incorporating all participants choices are more likely to help maintain preselected choices. With respect to co-present influences, in the two people table, patrons were more than twice more likely to divert from their pre-selections. Co-present friends are more effective on maintaining choices when group size is larger than two people. More co-present people slowed down the decision process while virtual social information also increased the time spent using the menu.

The presenter:

Kwan Lee is a Ph.D. student in the Viral Communications Group at MIT Media Lab. He has previously worked in the telecom and consumer electronics industries (Samsung, GTE, Bose Corp) and most recently in personal finance at Bank of America and Intuit. His research evolved from computer networking to mobile HCI, wireless networks and ad-hoc social networks and most recently into intersection of these disciplines. He is currently working on his dissertation on just-in-time social networks and their impacts on people's choices.

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