Using Infrastructure Awareness to Support the Recruitment of Volunteer Computing Participants

Juan David Hincapie Ramos

    Research output: Book / Anthology / Report / Ph.D. thesisPh.D. thesis


    The Mini-Grid is a volunteer computing infrastructure that gathers computational power from multiple participants and uses it to execute bio-informatics algorithms. The Mini-Grid is an instance of a larger set of systems that I call participative computational infrastructures (PCI). PCIs depend on their participants to provide a service, with every instance of the system executing similar tasks and collaborating with others. Participants to these infrastruc- tures come together to contribute resources like computational power, storage capacity, network connectivity and human reasoning skills.

    While plenty of research has focused on the technical aspect of these infrastructures (task parallelization, distribution, robustness, and security), the participative aspect, which deals with how to recruit and maintain participants, has been largely overlooked. Despite the multiple experiences with volunteer computing projects, only a few researchers have looked into the motivational factors affecting the enrolment and permanence of participants. This dissertation studies participation from the broader context of the relationship between users and infrastructures in the field of Human- Computer Interaction (HCI), and argues that participative computational infrastructures face a fundamental recruitment challenge derived from their being “invisible” computational systems.

    To counter this challenge this dissertation proposes the notion of Infrastructure Awareness: a feedback mechanism on the state of, and changes in, the properties of computational infrastructures provided in the periphery of the user’s attention, and supporting gradual disclosure of detailed information on user’s request. Working with users of the Mini-Grid, this thesis shows the design process of two infrastructure awareness systems aimed at supporting the recruitment of participants, the implementation of one possible technical strategy, and an in-the-wild evaluation. The thesis finalizes with a discussion of the results and implications of infrastructure awareness for participative and other computational infrastructures.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherIT-Universitetet i København
    Number of pages175
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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