It is Sunday afternoon and the sun is shining. Eric thinks it is a great day for a ride together with some motorcycling friends. He picks up his Hocman-device and browses through the log of bikers he encountered yesterday, while spending a couple of hours on the curvy roads south of Stockholm. He decides to contact ‘Minipotatoe’ and ‘Madhonda’ who he has met a number of times before, that is, for a couple of seconds on the highway and a bit longer on the internet. They decide to meet at BulkyBurger on the main street for a ride. Motorcycling is a strikingly social activity. Bikers like to meet other bikers, and especially along the roads. Naturally, such meetings tend to be rather brief and geographically dispersed. Hocman is a prototype service designed to spark and further enhance social interaction building on these traffic encounters. It is based on handheld computers capable of short-range ad hoc wireless networking. When the bikers head out on the roads the software continuously senses similar devices nearby. If another Hocman is in the vicinity it makes a sound to alert the biker that a meeting is taking place, and there also is an automatic exchange of web pages between the devices. The sound alert has already proven to be highly appreciated by bikers. The personal web pages may contain contact information, for-sale ads, pictures, etc. When the biker gets off his bike he can examine the log and read the pages captured. The pages can be helpful when planning future encounters, or when referring to rides in discussions in other prevalent media such as the internet.


Bikers are a special form of road users whereas they often travel as a group of vehicles. They also journey to meet other bikers at specific meetings. Since, these activities comprise extensive collaborative work it would be of interest, from a CSCW perspective, to study ther interaction practices and what tools they use to order their use of the motorcycles. This would also add to the growing body of reserach in the area of mobile informatics where an important focus consider IT-support in mobile contexts. Further, we believe that this groups of users would benefit of new information technology to support the articulation of their practice. The project will start with a period of planning before launching a project based on ethnographic user studies and design sessions with industrial partners.

Bikers are selected because they are so explicit on their road use as a social activity. Much could be learned from their practices and use of information technology, which could illuminate road users future activities. The studies will be performed based on ethnographic fieldwork. Our main interest lies in the study of the biker’s co-ordination as an on-going activity. But it will also benefit from the use of life style and identity analysis. Up until know, we have a experience from the field by the means of everyday motorcycling, participation in Mälaren Runt (approximately 10.000 bikers participated during a single day). A group of bikers has been identified, which has an ongoing conversation on their website. Examples of this everyday experience are discussions with bikers at parking lots, the waving among the oncoming bikers on the roads and the nodding in mutual understanding next to the traffic lights but without possibility to have a conversation. During Mälaren Runt we were confronted with the problem of co-ordination in situations where the bikers had lost sight of each other. To support this co-ordination they used mobile phones and voice mail. The main problem still remained while they only had the opportunity to use this equipment during breaks. In this case the route was fixed, but the problem concerned how to find each other, to settle time and place where to meet. While one of the researchers (Mattias Esbjörnsson) is a biker he has some experience from the field during his own driving. In view of this, there is no problem to continuously take part in forthcoming events, for example Swedish Bike Meet, Wednesdays at Brostugan (a popular place where bikers in Stockholm meet every Wednesday during the season, approximately 400 bikers each time) and Mälaren Runt.


The ethnographic fieldwork was conducted by one of the researchers who owns a bike and use it every day during summer. Between July and September 2001, he has specifically attended to ten weekly biker meetings with approximately 200 to 400 participants. He has also participated during three organized one-day tours with at least 10 000 participants. During the same period, we also visited the message board practically on a daily basis. The findings from the fieldwork have later played a major role in the design process, where they have informed the development of a prototype. The analysis has been made as a collaborative achievement in our research group combining ethnographic competence with computer science. In the following sections we will present the ethnography as well as the prototype and discussion of how to evaluate the prototype.


Hocman (Figure 2) is implemented in C/C++ and is working on devices running the Pocket PC operating system. We have made it work on two sets of devices: Compaq Ipaqs 3660, equipped with a Lucent Orinoco WLAN card; and Symbol PPT 2700 with a built-in Spectrum24 WLAN card. The network cards are configured to communicate in IEEE 802.11 IBSS mode.

Hocman forms a simple yet effective peer-to-peer application platform by combining three parallel entities: a HTTP server, a HTTP client and a simple discovery protocol. The server implements limited HTTP 1.0 functionality and maps incoming GET commands to the local file structure. In order to support basic user driven surfing activities, such as following links, reloading and retrieving documents, the client renders HTML and issues HTTP commands. In order for the the devices to quickly discover each other we have invented the Rapid Mutual Peer Discovery Algorithm. It also dispatches automatic downloads in cruise mode.


Source code for Pocket PC 2002
Download code and MS EVC project (version 1.0) (5610 kB)

Installing instructions:

a) Download the hocman.exe to your PocketPC device. To make it accessible from the start menu, place it in the WindowsStart Menu folder.
b) Download the Server folder to root directory. Place your HTML files in the Serverroot directory. Rember to name your index-page “index.htm”.
c) Configure your WLAN adapter to run IBSS mode (commonly also referred to as peer-to-peer mode.)
d) Assign the network interface a static IP address.
e) Launch Hocman.


We have succesfully tested the Hocman prototype. Two test with three bikers was performed. All in all, six motorcyclist participated in the test. The test consisted of driving a route (Figure 3) while using the Hocman in cruise mode. After driving we monitored the users using the prototype. We also interviewed them to learn about their experience.


Juhlin, O. (2008). The Interactive Road – Mobile technology to increase social interaction in traffic. To appear in Innovation, National University of Singapore and World Scientific Publishing.

Östergren, M. (2006). Traffic encounters – Drivers meeting face-to-face and peer-to-peer. PhD thesis. Studies in Applied Information Technology. IT-University of Göteborg.
[PhD thesis site]

Esbjörnsson, M. (2005). Enhanced Social Interaction in Traffic. PhD thesis. Studies in Applied Information Technology. IT University of Göteborg.
[PhD thesis site]

Esbjörnsson, M., Juhlin, O. and Östergren, M. (2004). Traffic Encounters and Hocman – Associating Motorcycle Ethnography with Design. In Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, Springer Verlag, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 92-99.
[PDF] – Journal paper

Esbjörnsson, M., Juhlin, O. and Östergren, M. (2003). Motorcycling and social interaction – Design for the enjoyment of brief traffic encounters. In Proceedings of the 2003 International ACM SIGGROUP Conference on Supporting Group Work. ACM Press, pp 85-94.
[PDF] – Full paper
[PPT] – Presentation

Esbjörnsson, M., Juhlin, O. and Östergren, M. (2003). Adding Value to Traffic Encounters: A Design Rationale for Mobile Ad Hoc Computing Services. In Proceedings of IRIS26 – the 26th Information Systems Research Seminar in Scandinavia. CD-ROM.
[PDF] – Workshop paper

Esbjörnsson, M., Juhlin, O. and Östergren, M. (2003). Motorbikers using Hocman – Field Trials on Mobile Interaction. In Proceedings of Mobile HCI’2003 – the 5th International Symposium on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services. Springer Verlag, pp 32-44.
[PDF] – Full paper
[PPT] – Presentation

Esbjörnsson, M., Juhlin, O. and Östergren, M. (2002). The Hocman Prototype – Fast Motor Bikers and Ad Hoc Networking. In Proceedings of MUM’2002 – The 1st International Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia. Oulo, Finland, pp 91-98. Winner of the best paper award.
[PDF] – Full paper
[PPT] – Presentation

Esbjörnsson, M. and Östergren, M. (2002). Issues of Spontaneous Collaboration and Mobility. In Spontanetiy’02, workshop proceedings on Supporting Spontaneous Interaction in Ubiquitous Computing Settings, at UBICOMP’02.
[PDF] – Workshop paper
[PPT] – Presentation

Esbjörnsson, M. (2002). Application Oriented Research on Leisure- and Work-Activities in a Truly Mobile Setting. In Conference supplement of CSCW’02 – ACM 2002 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work. ACM Press, pp 29-30.
[PDF] – Short paper (doctoral colloquium)
[PPT] – Presentation

Esbjörnsson, M., Juhlin, O. and Östergren, M. (2002). Making Motorbikers Come Together – Fast Moving Users and Mobile Ad Hoc Networks. In Proceedings of IRIS25 – the 25th Information Systems Research Seminar in Scandinavia. CD-ROM.
[PDF] – Workshop paper

Esbjörnsson, M., Juhlin, O. and Östergren, M. (2002). How to Evaluate Prototypes Supporting Opportunistic Meetings. Presented at the workshop on mobile ad hoc collaboration, CHI’02.
[PDF] – Workshop paper
[PPT] -Presentation

Esbjörnsson, M. and Östergren, M. (2002). Hocman: Supporting Mobile Group Collaboration. In Extended Abstracts of CHI’02 – Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM Press, pp 838-839.
[PDF] – Student poster

Comments are closed.