What's this "user" term anyway?

Yesterday I had a meeting with Dominique Foray, a professor at EPFL who will participate in one of the LIFT07 panel about the "user-centered economy". His perspective is about innovation management and the economics of creation. At a certain point, I realized that the term "user" he was employing was slightly different than its usage in my research field (HCI/CSCW/cognitive sciences with a strong spin on user studies of technology). Then today I ran across this research project by Alex Wilkia about this very issue:

My research project is an ethnography of interaction designers and related innovation actors embedded in a multinational microprocessor manufacturer who models users, assembles interactivity and thereby guides product design and development processes as well as informing the long-term strategic thinking of the organisation. The aim is to examine in detail the discourse and practices in which multiple user representations facilitate user-centred design (UCD) and innovation practices in relation to technological development. (...) To map empirically the diverse uses of the ‘user’ within a research environment and development programmes that employ or are engaged with UCD practices and outcomes.

Why do I blog this? boundary objects like the term "user" are very important, especially when dealing with innovation and design, which encompasses a very large area of fields and interests.