9 May 2009

Design and ethnography at a ubiquitous computing conference

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UbiComp 2008
One of the sessions at UbiComp 2008, the Tenth International Conference on Ubiquitous computing (Seoul, Korea), was devoted to design and ethnography.

The four papers are all in the proceedings, but (except for the first one) you will need an ACM membership to download them.

The Heterogenous Home
* Ryan Aipperspach, University of California, Berkeley
* Ben Hooker, Intel Research Berkley
* Allison Woodruff, Intel Research Berkeley
Due to several recent trends, the domestic environment has become more homogeneous and undifferentiated. Drawing on concepts from environmental psychology, we critique these trends. We propose heterogeneity as a new framework for domestic design, and we present design sketches that illustrate how ubiquitous computing technologies can interact with the domestic environment to create a more varied and restorative environment. This work speaks to a number of core issues in ubiquitous computing, such as how the increased presence of devices impacts quality of life, the desirability or undesirability of ubiquitous temporal and spatial availability of devices, and the advantages and disadvantages of device convergence (“”all-in-one”” devices) versus device proliferation (single application devices).

Plastic: A Metaphor for Integrated Technologies
* Tye Rattenbury, People and Practices Research Group
* Dawn Nafus, People and Practices Research Group
* Ken Anderson, People and Practices Research Group
Ubiquitous computing research has recently focused on ‘busyness’ in American households. While these projects have generated important insights into coordination and communication, we think they overlook the more spontaneous and opportunistic activities that surround and support the scheduled ones. Using data from our mixed-methods study of notebook and ultra-mobile PC use, we argue for a different perspective based on a metaphor of ‘plastic’. ‘Plastic’ captures the way technologies, specifically computers, have integrated into the heterogeneous rhythms of daily life. Plastic technologies harmonize with and support daily life by filling opportunistic gaps, shrinking and expanding until interrupted, not demanding conscious coordination, supporting multitasking, and by deferring to external contingencies.

Getting to Green: Understanding Resource Consumption in the Home
* Marshini Chetty, Georgia Institute of Technology
* David Tran, Georgia Institute of Technology
* Rebecca E. Grinter, Georgia Institute of Technology
Rising global energy demands, increasing costs and limited natural resources mean that householders are more conscious about managing their domestic resource consumption. Yet, the question of what tools Ubicomp researchers can create for residential resource management remains open. To begin to address this omission, we present a qualitative study of 15 households and their current management practices around the water, electricity and natural gas systems in the home. We find that in-the-moment resource consumption is mostly invisible to householders and that they desire more real-time information to help them save money, keep their homes comfortable and be environmentally friendly. Designing for domestic sustainability therefore turns on improving the visibility of resource production and consumption costs as well as supporting both individuals and collectives in behavior change. Domestic sustainability also highlights the caveat of potentially creating a green divide by making resource management available only to those who can afford the technologies to support being green. Finally, we suggest that the Ubicomp community can contribute to the domestic and broader sustainability agenda by incorporating green values in designs and highlight the challenge of collecting data on being green.

Designing Sociable IT for Public Use
* Steinar Kristoffersen, Østfold University College
* Ingunn Bratteberg, Mamut ASA
Service providers increasingly use self-service systems, such as kiosk and automata that offer faster and more flexible service. Most of us are familiar with appliances for buying and validating tickets, purchasing soft drinks or getting the newspaper. We book tables in restaurants and hire cars using hotel lobby kiosks. Unfortunately, many such systems confuse and annoy their users. Thus, information technology design for the public space poses distinct challenges. Yet, it is relatively unmapped within our field. Based on an ethnographic study of the purchase and validation of ticketless travel for an airport train, this paper shows how such systems need an extended framework of usability principles, which goes beyond well-known interaction design guidelines.

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