Designing a virtual fridge
vfridge limited and Lancaster University
Is your fridge a pristine expanse of white enamel, or is it covered in multi-
coloured magnets, photographs, postcards and notes? As Norman discovered
several years ago, the fridge phenomenon is global and anecdotal evidence
suggests it is common across cultural and social groups.
Appliance manufacturers are aware of the power of the fridge, incorporating
wireless networking and splash proof LCD screens into fridge doors. Soon it will
be possible to email, surf the net and control the microwave from the fridge – yes
you won't have to walk across the kitchen!
last 18 months there has been an explosion of web-based
communication services aimed at families and informal groups (e.g. Yahoo clubs,
Adobe eCircles). However, the majority of these simply take 1960's bulletin board
technology (originally designed by technologists for technologists), add a few
graphics and label themselves a family area.
Virtual Fridge (vfridge) is a commercial web service designed for informal
communication and sharing amongst families, school children, and groups of
friends. In contrast to the externally structured, text-oriented, hierarchical
bulletin-board, vfridge instead takes the metaphor of the fridge giving users a
shared 2D surface on the Internet where they can stick notes, photos etc. with
'magnets'. This builds on experience over many years (e.g. Xerox Whiteboards,
York Conferencer), that given 2D shared surfaces, users create their own
structures using the intrinsic affordances of space (overlapping, grouping,
Of course the crucial thing about vfridge is that
it is fun. Little Tommy in Taunton can
decorate his vfridge, fuzzy-felt style, and then
Granny in Glasgow can see what he's done.
And not just little Tommy, grown computer
scientists given a palette of Christmas magnets
have been known to densely decorate a fridge
The fridge metaphor sets high standards: how
do you achieve the fluidi