From spatial practices to a context-aware system

Augmenting the City: The Design of a Context-Aware Mobile Web Site by Jesper Kjeldskov, Jeni Paay in Gain: Journal of Business and Design. The authors present “Just-for-Us” - a context- aware web site for mobile devices augmenting the social experience of the city.

Informing design, field studies of social groups’ situated social interactions were carried out in a new civic space in Melbourne, Australia followed by paper prototyping and implementation of a functional mobile web site. The produced solution augments the city through web-based access to a digital layer of information about people, places and activities adapted to users’ physical and social context and their history of social interactions in the city. The system was evaluated in lab and field, validating the fundamental idea but also identifying a number of shortcomings.

Why do I blog this? I am less interested in the outcome (the website) than in the process that leads to the design of such system. The gathering of information about people and the way they think in terms of space and place is quite relevant here.

One of the key findings from the field studies was that the physical space of Federation Square is divided into four districts each with distinct features and landmarks. Like many other places, the space has significant focal structures but it is difficult to find out what is going on behind the facades. (...) Another central finding from the field studies was that people typically coordinate meeting up with their friends in a highly ad-hoc manner. Typically, this involves a lot of communication negotiating who, why, where and when to meet. (...) Another finding from the empirical studies, which had impact on the design of Just-for-Us, was that places and spaces are dynamic and that setting matters immensely for the quality of socializing – especially in relation to its physicality, the presence and activities of other people and convenience in terms of proximity. (...) A fourth finding from the field studies of socialising at Federation Square, which had impact on the design of Just-for-Us, was that people make sense of a place through the social affordances provided by other people; where they are and what they are doing there.