How will computation transform the new spaces that it comes to occupy

Williams, A., Kabisch, E., and Dourish, P. (2005.) From Interaction to Participation: Configuring Space through Embodied Interaction. Proc. Intl. Conf. Ubiquitous Computing Ubicomp 2005 (Tokyo, Japan). This paper addresses this very important question: how will ubiquitous computing transform the new spaces that it comes to occupy; or What sorts of impacts on space result when it is populated by ubicomp technologies? The paper starts by describing how space and social action are tightly entwined. Then they examine the development and evaluation of a collective dynamic audio installation called SignalPlay (a series of physical objects with embedded computational properties collectively control a dynamic “sound-scape” which responds to the orientation, configuration, and movement of the component objects).

Some excerpts of this insightful paper:

Our fundamental concern is with the ways in which we encounter space not simply as a container for our actions, but as a setting within which we act. The embodied nature of activity is an issue for a range of technologies. (...) This social character means that spaces are not “given”; they are the products of active processes of interpretation. The meaningfulness of space is a consequence of our encounters with it. For ubiquitous computing, this is an important consideration. (...) The research challenge, then, is to understand how it is that computationally augmented spaces will be legible; with how people will be able to understand them and act within them. (...) A number of broad observations are particularly notable. (...) First, it was notable that people sought to understand the system not as a whole but in terms of the individual actions of different components. (...) Objects take on meanings and interpretations in their own right rather than as elements of a “system.” This suggests, then, that user’s experiences and interpretations of ubiquitous computing systems will often be of a quite different sort than those of their designers, because of the radically different ways in which they encounter these systems. (...) Second, one particularly interesting area for further exploration is the temporal or- ganization of activity. (...) The temporality of interaction and encounters with technology is a neglected aspect of interaction design and an important part of our ongoing work. (...) Lastly, ubiquitous computing technologies are ones through which people encounter and come to understand infrastructures. (...) The presence or absence of infrastructure, or differences in its availability, becomes one of the ways in which spaces are understood and navigated. At conferences or in airports, the seats next to power outlets are in high demand, and in a wide range of settings, the strength of a cellular telephone signal becomes an important aspect of how space is assessed and used. As we develop new technologies that rely on physical but invisible infrastructures, we create new ways of understanding the structure of space. (...) Our design models must address space not as a passive container of objects and actions, but as something that is explicitly constructed, managed, and negotiated in the course of interaction

Why do I blog this? simply, a large part of my research is geared towards studying the relations between space/place and social/cognitive processes; this paper is very relevant for that matter since it offers some pertinent ideas about this would be applied in the field of ubiquitous computing. I also appreciated the idea of taking as the core of ubicomp the relationship between people, objects, and activities, cast in terms of the ways in which practice evolves. Each of their findings are important in the results I am currently analysing concerning the CatchBob! game usage:

  • As for the first point (people sought to understand the system not as a whole but in terms of the individual actions of different components), the features we provided in CatchBob have some individual consequence such as the location-awareness tool that in itself create a certain behavior consistency.
  • The temporal organization of activity is very important in the CatchBob! pervasive game: each different part of the activity is different can the interface features have a different impact on them.
  • The link with the infrastructure and the activity of using the ubicomp tech in Catchbob lays in the fact that sometime the network is available and sometimes not + the accuracy of the positioning/message exchange varies over time, well this will be fabien's phd work.