Random Acts of Kindness: The Future of Digital Altruism, Community Collaboration, and Timebanks


Date Thursday July 11th 2013
Time 5:00-6:30pm (5:00-6:00 presentation and Q&A, followed by networking until 6:30)
Venue George E. Pake Auditorium, PARC

PARC Forum

In today’s 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 neighbor’s taxes, she designs my new kitchen, and so on.

Organizations, which are already pursuing the goal of leveraging untapped community potential, do exist. These are known as timebanks and community exchanges, which have been around and increasing in number for quite some time. However, 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, as well as constraints in the design of the systems that they rely on to coordinate the transactions between community participants.

To keep up with developments in enabling technologies and even push innovation further in directions that will benefit timebanking, more intelligent and context-aware systems should be developed. These could support on-the-fly service brokering that will greatly increase the scope and efficiency of acts of reciprocal altruism. Dr. Victoria Bellotti of PARC will highlight the possibilities for today’s researchers and innovators to turbocharge community collaboration by developing the required technologies. Her presentation is based upon a current research initiative, funded by the NSF, in collaboration with Professor John M. Carroll of Penn State University.


Victoria Bellotti is a Principal Scientist and the developer of PARC's Opportunity Discovery research and strategic investment targeting program, which assists clients in identifying the best direction to move with new technology-centered business ventures. Victoria also studies people to understand their practices, problems, and requirements for future technology, and designs and analyzes human-centered systems, focusing on user experience.

Best known for her research on personal information management and task management, Victoria has more recently been focusing on user-centered design of context- and activity-aware computing systems. Her previous work at London University UK, The British Government's Department of Trade and Industry, EuroPARC, and Apple encompasses domains such as transportation, process control, computer-mediated communication, collaboration, and ubiquitous computing.

Victoria received her Ph.D. in Human Computer Interaction from Queen Mary and Westfield College, an M.S. in Ergonomics and a B.S. in Psychology from University College, all within London University in the UK. She is a co-inventor on 13 patents and 9 patent applications and an author or co-author on over 50 papers and book chapters. Victoria also serves as an Adjunct Professor in the Jack Baskin School of Computer Engineering at UC Santa Cruz and in 2013 she was awarded membership of the ACM SIGCHI Academy for her contributions to the field and professional community of HCI.

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