One main research issue in ubiquitous computing in HCI is how computation can be made sensitive and responsive to the setting in which it is harnessed and used.
The concept of context plays a central role and its uses vary.
The main way in which context has entered the realm of
computational design has been largely in the form of a set pf design challenges,
sensors fusion, parameterizations and so on.
But social scientists argued that system should respond to special settings, in the style of Suchman and situated actions.
But the actual technical directions of dealing with context is not what social scientist mean.
The social and technical notions of context don't really match.
In the social sciences there are two main theories related to the issue we are discussing
Positivist theories derive from rational, empirical scientific traditions. Positivist theories seek to reduce social phenomena to essences or simplified models that capture underlying patterns. They are often quantitative in nature.
Phenomenological theories are subjective and qualitative in orientation. "Social facts do not have objective reality beyond the ability of individuals and groups to recognize them." The world, as we perceive it, is essentially a consensus of interpretation. Categories are imposed on the world rather than things that exist within it.
So, engineering approach to context inherit from Positivism, while the social approach inherit from Phenomenologist, therefore there is a basic incompatibility. Therefore the concepts of "context" put forward by the two traditions are incompatible.
Context: Positivist: representational problem
Embodied interaction, where context and activity are mutually constituent, is not about physical reality, but rather about availability for engagement. Therefore system don't need to be mobile devices
Context: Phenomenological: interactional problem
So the author wants to reconsider context as an interactional
problem instead of a representational one:
"how and why, in the course of their interactions, do people achieve and maintain a mutual understanding of the context for their actions?" Context isn't something that describe a setting, it's something people do.
Particular approach to the analysis of social conduct. The central problem of social science is the problem of social order. There are two approaches to the sources of this orderliness:
Ethnometodology supports the second approach, and its approach to examining how orderliness of action arises from within has been applied to a wide range of forms of social actions.
One subfield is "Conversational analysis": it analyses the naturally occurring conversation, it seeks to understand how the organization and meaningfulness of a spoken conduct is achieved, in real time, by the conversational partecipants.
What is the link between action and meaning of user's activity?
Practice in HCI and CSCW is "the detail of what people actually do".
Etienne Wenger, in "communities of Practice", gives a richer
description: "practice is what people experience in the doing. Practice is a
process by which we can experience the world and our engagement with it as
the world may be experienced differently according to our knowledge and what we can do with the world. Practice is about finding the world meaningful in term of the actions it affords.
so practice unites action and meaning. Practice is a dynamic process, so for technologist our concern should not to support practice, but to support the evolution of practice.
So how to support the evolving of practice?
How can ubiquitous computing support the process by which context is continually manifest, defined, negotiated, and shared?
Systems that display their status
User of computer systems need to form interpretation of the
state of the machine. They must display their own context.
ex a laptop connected in WI-FI should be notified of the different security level while traveling in different area.
Systems display aspects of their own contexts for interpretation by end-users.
Architecture for adaptation
Tailorability and Adaptation: systems are incorporated in different setting and acquire different meaning in the course of their use.
Structures in information Spaces
In information work, the meaningfulness of information for people's work is often encoded in the structures by which that information is organized.
Ex Spatial hypertext: the user interact with the info directly and the user incrementally builds information structures. The system is specifically designed to allow forms of practice to emerge and evolve.
What people are doing when they adopt and adapt technologies, incorporating them into their own work, is creating and communicating new meanings though those technologies as their working practices evolve.
Users, not designers, determine the meaning of the technologies they use. This should be the focus of design.