Deferring context-awareness elements to users?

Intelligibility and Accountability: Human Considerations in Context-Aware Systems , Victoria Bellotti and Keith Edwards, Human-Computer Interaction, 16(2-4), 2001, 193-212. The paper is a very high-level computer science article about context-awareness and its corollary social issues. It is focused on the problem of defining which context-aware elements might be automatically extracted and shown to the users of interactive systems.

In particular, we argue that there are human aspects of context that cannot be sensed or even inferred by technological means, so context-aware systems cannot be designed simply to act on our behalf. Rather, they will have to be able to defer to users in an efficient and nonobtrusive fashion.

Why do I blog this? This is really one of the conclusion of my phd research: certain processes (like location awareness) should not always be automated, sometimes deferring it to users can be more important as we saw in Catchbob!.


Further, experience has shown that people are very poor at remembering to update system representations of their own state; even if it is something as static as whether they will allow attempts at connection in general from some person (Bellotti, 1997;Bellotti & Sellen,1993) or, more dynamically, current availability levels (Wax,1996). So we cannot rely on users to continually provide this information explicitly.

This might depend on the ACTIVITY, in catchbob people kept updating their positions on the map so that others could be aware of what they were doing because it was relevant for the time being and the cost of doing it was low.

Not directly related to my work, the paper also describes two principles for ubiquitouis computing:

Intelligibility: Context-aware systems that seek to act upon what they infer about the context must be able to represent to their users what they know, how they know it, and what they are doing about it.

Accountability: Context-aware systems must enforce user accountability when, based on their inferences about the social context, they seek to mediate user actions that impact others.