Discussion about location awareness\' definition

Mauro posted a definition of 'location awareness' on his blog last week. He defines it as "A continuous availability of the spatial positions of the agents involved in the interaction for the agents themselves.". Since I am dealing a lot with this fuzzy notion on awareness, I would like to comment a bit on that. Technically speaking, theories about 'awareness' are not so cognitive psychology oriented, it's more related to HCI or CSCW concerns (even though some cognitive sciences researchers now work on that notion). Dourish and Belloti (1992) have given one of the best-known definitions for awareness: “awareness is an understanding of the activities of others, which provides a context for your own activity”. Drawing on this, location awareness would be "the understanding of the others' position" which of course as Giles supposed (in a comment of Mauro's post) imply some cognitive processes to be activated.

Moreover, Gutwin and Greenberg (1999a) state that awareness:

  • Is knowledge about a state of the work environment in a limited portion of time and space.
  • Provides knowledge about changes in that environment.
  • Is maintained by all the interactions between the team-mates and the environment.
  • Is a part of an activity (completing a task, working on something…). Maintaining awareness is not the purpose of an activity. Awareness is used to complete a task.

The definition goes further here since they state that awareness is about having a constant flow of information (perceived and updated). Another interesting point is that awareness of others is not maintained for the sake of it but is a part of an activity (at least it's a presence indicator).

I would say that awareness it just limited to the perception plus the updated of information; about others' position if we talk about location awareness. Then other cognitive processes are implied like inferences ("A is here then I infer that..."), communication... Of course, location-positioning being technologies allow people to improve their location awareness. The problem is that we don't know yet how it impacts the way they collaborate, which is ultimately the topic of my phd thesis...

I tried to elaborate more on the location awareness dimensions in a previous post. Here is a figure about this (I know it's ugly):