Random acts of kindness: the intelligent and context-aware future of reciprocal altruism and community collaboration

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Victoria Bellotti
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Random acts of kindness: the intelligent and context-aware future of reciprocal altruism and community collaboration

In todays world of increasing scarcity of resources and economic stagnation, we still see rapid developments in computer science and user experience towards increasingly mobile, intelligent and context-aware computing systems. These innovations represent a new frontier for transformative innovation on a societal level. They hold the promise of breakthroughs in how people can collaborate through dynamically coordinated, efficient and reciprocal service transactions to improve the quality of life for all. I fix your car, you do a neighbors taxes, she designs my new kitchen, and so on. Existing organizations, which are already pursuing the goal of leveraging untapped community potential, do exist. These are known as as timebanks and community exchanges and have been around and increasing in number for quite some time, but they have grown only slowly in relation to the need for their services. This is partly due to a lack of adequate resources devoted towards setting up and running them and also to constraints in the design of the systems that they rely on to coordinate the transactions between community participants. This paper highlights the possibilities for todays researchers and innovators to turbocharge community collaboration by developing the required technologies. It is based on past research and our own ongoing research conducted towards building a mobile app for timebanking. The guiding vision is to develop more intelligent and context-aware systems to support on-the-fly service brokering that will greatly increase the scope and efficiency of acts of reciprocal altruism.

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