The Cobi project (Community Behavioural Models in User-Content Interaction) is a research cooperation project that started in April 2007. Cobi is one of the cooperation projects between TUT/IHTE and NRC. Until ending the project in October 2007, an extensive field study process and designing new UI concepts will have been conducted.


So far, the research in the field of personal content experience has been limited to mainly studying single usersí behaviour, and moreover, mostly to deal with user-generated content. In Cobi, with content is meant the mostly digital files that are regarded important for the users. For example, there can be self-created content (photos, videos, blogs, annotations, biometric data etc.), commercial content (music, ring tones, videos, maps etc.) and links to others' content (e.g. in IRC, YouTube and other WWW-services). Moreover, the content is examined from the communities' point of view, rather than single users.

Figure 1. The various types of content in personal content experience.

The research project is based on earlier research conducted by TUT/IHTE and NRC (
SharMe-project). Thus, this project aims at finding both confirmative results and define certain results, for example, from various communities' point of view.


The main objective of the IHTE/TUT project is to bring the communitiesí perspective in designing new products in the field of personal content management. As there seems to be an inherent need for sharing content, the motivations for sharing and behaviour patterns in small and close communities need to be studied. The project will combine knowledge from the fields of usability, personal content management and social sciences to develop novel UI design ideas for personal content management systems. The user study results will be used for composing new UI design guidelines and mini UI concepts. With these, the aim is to provide tools for designing content management systems that are easy to use, offer real value for the users and lower users' threshold in introduction of these systems that deal with users' precious memories.

Following research questions will be addressed:

  1. What are the main usage patterns with personal and collective content?
  2. What kind of life cycle patterns there are with various kinds of content objects?
  3. How do the usage patterns evolve over time (in this case: 3 months)?
  4. How do the existing applications serve the communitiesí needs

Of course, interesting tentative findings will steer the research and new questions will emerge during the field studies and the user data analysis phase.


To understand the value and importance of the role and impact of communities, the research focuses on studying real-life and semi-virtual communities and their behaviour around content. Four different groups and their behaviour and activity around content will be studied each as separate cases, but with similar methods. The approach in Cobi is multidisciplinary. We supplement interviewing and contextual inquiries with diary studies and content analysis, and with methods from other science branches (such as sosiogram). With proper methodological and researcher triangulation in-depth and reliable results are assumed to be found.

Short descriptions of the studied groups:

  1. Athletics: a close group of middle-aged IT-oriented sport fanatics
  2. IRC-chatters: a heterogenous IRC group with a long history and a common interest in role playing
  3. Scouts: a student association of former or present scouts
  4. Fishers: a student association of active fishers and other wilderness-minded people

Figure 2. The groups placed on a fourfold with axis of emotional closeness and type of interaction (virtual/real-life).


If you have any questions about the Cobi project, please email to

thomas.olsson (at) OR
hannu.toivola (at) OR
minna.waljas (at)