for the purposes of this paper, the “social side of leisure” will be defined as social interaction involving communication between two or more people directly for or as a facilitator of leisure. A terrific example of a more directly leisure oriented use of mobile messaging is to share experiences with a person not physically present. Such sharing often goes beyond text to include photos, and camera phones are becoming respectable tools for just this type of experience sharing. Without a doubt, meaningful experience sharing between two people will always be a desirable interaction mode, but extending mobile photo sharing to group-based sharing with family or friends should provide an immediate expansion of the scope of this form of a directly social leisure activity. In fact, widespread group-based text and photo messaging on mobile devices may be a significant step toward “continuous presence”, frequently mentioned as the logical conclusion for social interactions on mobile devices (Vaananen 2002).
Whether through social communication as an end or as a means, leisure activities that are social in nature, ultimately and perhaps most importantly, are about establishing and maintaining the emotional connection between people. Thinking about the interplay between emotional connections and social groups, the social psychology literature shows that cohesive groups encourage cooperation (Turner, 1980), that in turn leads to positive feelings among group members (Sherif, 1966). In the context of computer mediated communication, desktop-based systems supporting passive social awareness among groups have been shown to support coordination among co-workers (e.g., Dourish and Bellotti, 1992). Systems that support group-wide communication and social awareness on mobile devices should provide similar benefits: by expanding the social reach of communication and awareness among group members, group-based messaging on mobile devices should increase group cohesion and subsequently better enable users to meet a fundamental social goal of enhanced emotional connection to their social network. Such systems should also be more heavily used and should be more fun. The primary goal of the research presented here is to systematically assess the degree to which group-based messaging on mobile devices facilitates social communication and the resulting impact on social relationships amongst group members using group-based messaging as a means of direct and indirect leisure.
To test for these effects, an experimental messaging system called Slam was developed for the Windows Smartphone. This system allowed users to create social groups with just a few clicks of the device’s thumb control for text and photo messaging. In addition to group-wide distribution of text and photo messages, the system provided a number of benefits beyond today’s commercially available offerings, including group membership control from the device, group persistence for reviewing content historically, group member profiles, viewable and editable from the device, and simple social event scheduling.