25 August 2008

The song of context

Be the first to share

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
10 April 2015
We are citizens, not mere physical masses of data for harvesting
The deal we have struck with the information society over the extent to which our lives are shaped and our privacy invaded requires urgent renegotiation, argues law professor Julie E Cohen at the annual Law …
7 April 2015
[Book] Practical Empathy
Practical Empathy: For Collaboration and Creativity in Your Work by Indi Young Rosenfeld Media, 2015 Synopsis Conventional product development focuses on the solution. Empathy is a mindset that focuses on people, helping you to understand their thinking patterns and …
7 April 2015
Bosch uses UX approach to spark enthusiasm for electric driving
Bosch, the German multinational engineering and electronics company, is applying a UX approach to help spark enthusiasm for electric driving, and to develop a "fascinating" user interface for electric vehicles. The project website consists of three …
3 April 2015
Design prototypes for Nairobi, Kenya
In 2014, Ericsson and UN-Habitat (United Nations Human Settlements Programme) entered a three-year partnership with the intention to collaborate around Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and sustainable urbanization. One of the first explorations was driven by …
3 April 2015
Opportunities for UX innovation in wearables
Until developers of wearable devices get the user experience down pat, the technology will struggle to gain adoption, writes Steve McPhilliamy on Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry (MDDI). "Understanding user behaviors, attitudes, and lifestyles is the …
3 April 2015
Automotive sales could grow 24% if retail experience improved
New ethnographic and quantitative research from DrivingSales identifies how the growing gap between consumer expectations and the current automotive buying process is suppressing car sales volume. Automotive sales could grow up to 24% if the retail …
30 March 2015
MIT Technology Review special report on persuasive technology
The MIT Technology Review has just published a special business report on persuasive technology, i.e. how technologies from smartphones to social media are used to influence our tastes, behavior, and even habits. Free registration is …
26 March 2015
Gov.uk’s open policy making toolkit – practical guidance on ethnography and more
The Gov.uk open policy making toolkit is a practical guide to techniques that can help you make better policy. The toolkit, which brings together the latest techniques to improve making and delivering policy, is based on …

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.

16 March 2015
Better Health and Wellbeing: Giving the elderly in Singapore sparkling golden years

Invitation: sharing session, Singapore, 30 March 2015   What are the hopes and fears of the elderly in Singapore? How can designers offer solutions that support the elderly in managing their health and wellness? What can healthcare professionals do to help them keep active? What role can technology play in the elderly’s daily lives? Design consultants […]

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 […]

See all articles