About this Research Topic
Commensality is "the practice of sharing food and eating together in a social group''. A commensal setting is a highly complex social setting in which food consumption activities (e.g., taking a sip of wine) interact with social activities (e.g., talking, toasting). This interaction is itself subject to relational (who is sharing the food?), contextual (in what location is the food shared?), and cultural (what cultural etiquettes are observed?) factors. Commensality has been found to influence food choices, time spent eating, amount consumed, and enjoyment of food, as well as triggering positive emotions. At the same time eating activities influence interactions, for example reciprocal impressions, turn taking, interpersonal synchronization.
Current social trends may result in a lack of commensality: some individuals are forced to eat alone, for example the elderly, while others suffer from physical and social barriers preventing them from experiencing commensality (distance, work commitments, etc.); not to mention the consequences of the recent coronavirus pandemic that forced (and is still forcing) some people to eat alone over a long period of time. It is currently unknown how this change in commensality impacts individuals' health and well-being.
At the same time, the recent technological developments also impact commensality, in both negative - e.g., using smartphones during meals may distract from contacting other partners at the table and inhibit the positive effects on health of "mindful eating" - and positive ways: technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, or social robotics can create new possibilities to enable or improve the commensality experience. The development of low-invasive motion capture techniques, wearable devices, smart home systems and Internet of Things allow for the collection of high quality data about user behavior and user experience during food consumption. This could provide new insights into the complexities of commensality. From the facts described above, it clearly emerges the need for new areas of research, at the intersection of social psychology, food sciences and HCI, studying how typically social eating-related activities, i.e., commensality, could be computationally improved.
The goal of the Research Topic is to gather recent achievements in commensality-related research with the special focus on the newly rising field of computational commensality, in order to trigger new and interdisciplinary research directions in the field. It also aims to foster novel computational approaches to different aspects of commensality analysis and synthesis that are emerging in the area of Human-Computer Interaction.
On one hand, the psychological and sociological studies on “traditional” commensality may become inspiration for HCI researchers to create the systems to facilitate the sharing of meal time, or to transfer the commensality benefits to human-machine interaction scenarios.
On the other hand, technology can help to address research questions of traditional commensality, e.g., by providing the precise instruments for objective quantification of the human experience and behaviors, or to perform experiments in highly controlled conditions. Last but not least, technology offers the possibility to create new forms of commensal experience e.g., though tele-dining, the use of social networks, or sensorial augmentation of the food.
Research including (but not limited to) the following topics is called for:
• socio-psychological theories, models, studies of commensality
• multi-cultural aspects of commensality
• VR/AR/MR for immersive commensality experiences
• tele-dining technologies
• commensality and social networks
• artificial/virtual commensality companions and social robots
• interactive technologies during mealtime
• interfaces for mindful eating
• automatic movement/behavior/group dynamics analysis in commensality settings
• technology for joint food preparation
• well-being and positive outcomes for health due to commensality
• food as a social signal
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Keywords: commensality, tele-dining, food, social robots, interactive technologies
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