Group Members –
Greg Martin, Mairead Stewart and Simran Duggal
Project Description –
Book Hub is an Arduino-based system that enables people from around the world to stay connected by sending an alert when all participants are available to meet. In particular, Book Hub can help participants plan their next virtual book club meeting by allowing them to let the group know when they’ve finished that week’s reading. When a member of the book club has finished reading and would like to chat about the book, they can pick up their Book Hub box and turn it upside-down, initiating a change in the box’s LED display. Once all members have turned over their boxes and are ready to meet, an alert is triggered. In one household, the alert is sent in the form of a tea kettle turning on and beginning to boil water, in another, the alert is a pattern of blinking LEDs, and in the third household, the alert is a wall hook turning upside down to deposit a set of earbuds onto a chair. Once all the members have their books, tea, and earbuds, they’re ready to have a virtual book club.
In recent months, scientists have begun to study the effects of COVID-19 restrictions on mental health. A study by Lee et al. (2020), found increased levels of loneliness and depression in participants as compared to before the pandemic. By encouraging book club members to meet regularly, Book Hub can counter this trend in loneliness and hopefully improve the mental health of its users.
Experience Video –
How It Works –
Network Diagram –
Final Project Images –
Project Development Images –
Code link –
Greg’s code –
Mairead’s code –
Simran’s code –
Fritzing Diagram –
Project context –
The popularity of reliable remote working and teleconferencing software has far-reaching implications, both in work and in leisure. Further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the wide-spread adoption of video-calling platforms has made it easier than ever for coworkers, families and friends to meet virtually with one another. According to Peek (2020), this new way of communicating will shape the future of work as many companies are likely to embrace fully or partially online working environments even after the lockdown restrictions are lifted. Though this is a novel approach to the workplace, remote working technologies have many advantages. For example, studies show that remote workers are more productive and have a higher happiness index compared to their in-office counterparts (Bloom et al., 2013). Working from home can even reduce employee turnover and can be instrumental in reducing distractions and noise (Peek, 2020). The workplace is not the only space where video conferencing technology can be beneficial. Shah et al. discuss the ways in which communicating with friends and family via video call can reduce loneliness, especially during a pandemic (2020). The authors describe loneliness as a public health issue, arguing that reducing loneliness is a health concern as well as a social concern (Shah et al., 2020). Thus, technologies that are designed to remotely connect groups of people are essential in fighting the mental health effects of COVID-19.
Of course, computer-mediated communication (CMC) can have drawbacks as well. One significant factor to consider when turning to video calling for social connection is the phenomenon often called ‘Zoom Fatigue’. This is the feeling of tiredness and irritation when using video calling software for too long. According to Nadler (2020), one explanation for this phenomenon may be the way the human brain is processing the visuals we see on screen. Rather than seeing a three-dimensional face, we may be interpreting the video as one two-dimensional plane with the background and foreground fused together. Facial expressions and emotions – vital to any work or social related interaction – would understandably take more brain effort to interpret and may result in increased levels of irritation and fatigue (Nadler, 2020). To combat this fatigue, many groups are attempting to blend virtual interactions with offline activities such as reading. An example of this is Book Baristas (Book Baristas, 2020), a virtual book club that encourages its members to connect with one another but also take some time off screen to read. Endeavours like this can help participants feel socially connected while also avoiding the fatigue of having extended periods of time on a video call.
Bloom, N., Liang, J., Roberts, J., Zhichun, J. Y. (2013). Does Working From Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment. NBER Working Paper Series. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Book Baristas (2020). News. Book Baristas. http://www.bookbaristas.org/p/bookish-news.html
Lee, C. M., Cadigan, J. M., Rhew, I. C. (2020). Increases in Loneliness Among Young Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Association with Increases in Mental Health Problems. Adolescent Health Brief, 67(5), 714–717.
Nadler, R. (2020) Understanding “Zoom fatigue”: Theorizing spatial dynamics as third skins in computer-mediated communication. Computers and Composition, 58(1).
Peek, S. (2020). Communication Technology and Inclusion Will Shape the Future of Remote Work. Business News Daily. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8156-future-of-remote-work.html
Shah, S. G. S., Nogueras, D., Van Woerden, H. C., Kiparoglou, V. (2020). The COVID-19 Pandemic: A Pandemic of Lockdown Loneliness and the Role of Digital Technology. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 22(11).