25 August 2008

The song of context

Be the first to share
putting people first
by experientia

Speedbird
Adam Greenfield has written a truly excellent post — in fact more like a short essay — on the difference between location and context, calling the first one positivist and the second one phenomenological.

“But it [the positivist tradition] stands in stark contrast to the phenomenological take on things, which is premised on the instability and subjectivity of the things we perceive, and on the irreducible importance of these perceptions as they register on the lived body, i.e. you, now, here, in your own skin, heir to your own history of experience. On the phenomenological side of the house, all of the grandeur resides in the act of interpretation – which is always somebody’s interpretation, crucially inflected by their situation. […]

The phenomenological approach – and this is the worldview that stands, either explicitly or otherwise, behind the entire field subsuming design and user research and ethnography, at least as those things are practiced by the people I know – insists that the world in its richness cannot be reduced to datasets. Or not, anyway, without doing fatal damage to everything that truly matters.

But Dourish [“What We Talk About When We Talk About Context?“, Paul Dourish, 2004] argues (persuasively, I think) that this is the wrong question. For him, this mysterious thing context is something that only be arrived at through interaction – “an achievement, rather than an observation; an outcome, rather than a premise.” It’s relational in the deepest sense of the word, a state of being that arises out of the shared performance and understanding of two or more parties (actors, agents, what have you).

And why do we want to characterize this state of being in the first place? “[T]o be able to use the context in order to discriminate or elaborate the meaning of the user’s activity.” That’s it.”

This is highly recommended reading. Thank you, Adam.

Read full story

Be the first to share
Related Article
2 March 2015
Human-centered design should be a CMO’s best friend
The average tenure of a CMO is just 45 months, according to a recent study released by executive recruiting firm Spencer Stuart. Fortunately, for CMOs in need of help, there's an elegant and simplistic process called …
Related Article
1 March 2015
Italian bank offers user-friendly home security kit
The Smart Care unit of the insurance arm of the Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo has just launched an innovative home security offering. Branded "ACasaConMe" [AtHomeWithMe], the service combines a personalized insurance package and a security kit …
Related Article
28 February 2015
Open Policy Making: A people-centred approach to transform UK local services
Open Policy Making is about recognising that top down thinking and decision making no longer can deliver the range of services that people and communities have come to expect in a connected society, writes William …
Related Article
24 February 2015
5 imperatives of user experience design in mobile health technology
David Lee Scher, MD - Owner & Director, DLS Healthcare Consulting discusses what he thinks are five important issues in achieving the ideal mobile technology user experience, specifically for those technologies hoping to enter the …
Related Article
24 February 2015
“I’m divorcing my Nest thermostat”
Kara Pernice, the Managing Director at the Nielsen Norman Group, was a proud early adopter of the unique, cool, and pretty Nest device: "It helped me save energy, and communicated to me. But things went …
Related Article
20 February 2015
[White paper] Digital assurance: Reaching a seamless customer experience
Digital Assurance: Reaching a Seamless Customer Experience by Shawndra Hill (Wharton professor of operations and information management) and Kumudha Sridharan (vice president and global head of testing services at Wipro Technologies) White paper produced by Knowledge@Wharton and …
Related Article
13 February 2015
Will the internet of things finally kill privacy?
The journalist Hamza Shaban is concerned by the contents of a new US Federal Communications Commission report that probes the privacy implications of connected devices: "That the pervasive collection of information from within our homes might …
Related Article
31 January 2015
Internet psychologists study how the Web affects us
​In a pretty short period of time, the internet has changed how we take care of our basic needs, stand up for ourselves, and talk to each other. But psychologists are still debating how much …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

1 January 2015
Happy Playful New Year
21 December 2014
Experientia’s Twitter feed live

Experientia has now its own Twitter feed. Four months of Putting People First posts and other links have already been uploaded. If you followed Experientia on Twitter through the feed of its CEO, Mark Vanderbeeken, make sure to now also follow the company (but don’t unfollow Mark, who will keep on tweeting away). And while […]

19 December 2014
Putting People First blog redesigned

Experientia’s Putting People First blog has been redesigned. It is now entirely responsive, allows for easier browsing, searching, and filtering, and features larger images on the posts. The entire history of posts remains accessible as before. We are still tweaking things and welcome any feedback.

27 November 2014
Why the world needs anthropologists – an update

Why the world needs anthropologists – Coming out of the ivory tower Location: Padua, Italy, Centro Culturale Altinate/San Gaetano Date and time: Friday, 5 December 2014, 13:00 – 18:00 Padua, Italy, 5 December 2014 – The second edition of the international symposium of applied anthropologists attempts to erase the boundary between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ anthropology, […]

30 October 2014
The BancoSmart ATM by Experientia for UniCredit selected for ADI Design Index

Last year Experientia designed the interface of an ATM of UniCredit, a major Italian bank. The interface is now rolled out across the bank’s ATMs in Italy, to great satisfaction of the bank and the customers alike, since interaction speed is much faster and error rates went down dramatically. Last year UniCredit and Experientia also […]

29 October 2014
Experientia at EPIC: UX transforming a financial institution

In September 2014 Experientia gave a presentation on working as UX professionals with financial institutions at the EPIC conference in New York. The paper is now available on the EPIC site in HTML and PDF versions (free registration req’d). Abstract Application of a user-centered approach rooted in ethnographic methodologies facilitates a major European bank’s transition […]

See all articles