A new paper by Tom Erickson, et. al, introduces several examples of a “social proxy,” a user interface element that helps people to visualize collective interactions.

“…many of the things our users report “seeing” are inferences. For example, the social proxy does not show that people are “paying attention,” only that someone has clicked or typed. Someone might be paying attention, or they might be pretending to pay attention; we believe that it is crucial to maintain such socially useful ambiguities, and it is one of the reasons we emphasize social translucence.”

Social Translucence: Designing Social Infrastructures that Make Collective Activity Visible