An Ecological Approach to Designing Smart Tools and Usable Systems
Activity-Centered Design の基本に関する共創・創発の場
Acting with Technology
Bonnie Nardi, victor Kaptelinin, and Kirsten Foot, editors
1. Tracing Genres through Organizations: A Sociocultural Approach to Information Design
Clay Spinuzzi, 2003
2. Activity-Centered Design: An Ecological Approach to Designing Smart Tools and Usable Systems
Geri Gay and Helene Hembrooke, 2004
An Ecological Approach to Designing Smart Tools
and usable Systems
Geri Gay and Helene Hembrooke
The MIT Press
This book is dedicated to R. V. T., whose visionary thinking, generosity of support and encouragement, and youthful curiosity have enabled us to think big, take chances，and continue to do what we do best.
Preface: Mediating Interactions
Introduction: Making the Case for Context-Based Design
1. Activity Theory and Context-Based Design
2. Understanding Perspectives: Social Construction of Technology
3. Creating a Sense of Place: Designing for online Learning Conversations
4. Blurring Boundaries: A Study of Ubiquitous Computing
5. Designing for Context-Aware Computing
6. Configural Analysis of Spaces and Places
The MIT Press Acting with Technology series is concerned with the study of meaningful human activity as it is mediated by tools and technologies.
The goal of the series is to publish the best new books ― both research monographs and textbooks ― that contribute to an understanding of technology as a crucial facet of human activity enacted in rich social and Physical contexts.
The focus of the series is on too1-mediated processes of working, playing, and learning in and across a wide variety of social settings.
The series explores developments in postcognitivist theory and practice from the fields of sociology, communication, education, and organizational studies, as well as from science and technology studies, human-computer interaction and computer-supported collaborative work. It aims to encompass theoretical frameworks including cultura1-historical activity theory, actor network theory, distributed cognition, and those developed through ethnomethodological and grounded theory approaches.
This book makes the case for activity-centered design, employing activity theory as a base but also venturing into theoretical traditions such as configural analysis to localize the critique and design of particular technologies.
The analyses of technologies such as wireless devices and software
for museum and campus tours are rooted in activity theory, but each extends beyond the broad framework of activity theory to specialized theories dealing with, for example, educationa1 practice or the use of physical space ― exactly the way activity theory must be used in practice.
Activity-centered design is an exemplary application of activity theory, showing its use across a broad range of technologies the authors analyze and design.
The authors are specialists in computer-mediated communication, and they apply this lens expertly to their analyses. They provide a cogent critique of wireless technology in the classroom, based on detailed empirical findings.
Through careful analysis of logs and interviews, the authors
discovered serious problems of fragmented attention and the dissolution purposes of the technology. The authors draw together the threads of computer-mediated communication (CMC）analysis with activity theory in this analysis, observing that there is a “need for researchers to look at tools in relation to one another ― that is, to the relationship between face-to-face communication and mediated communication spaces and to the relationship among the different applications that are available through wireless communication tools.”
The authors expand notions of evaluation, observing that “evaluation activities are embedded in complex technosystems and cannot be isolated from the system under study.” They note that simple metrics, such as the number of hits on a Web site, may reveal little and that activity-centered analysis is necessary to achieve deeper understanding. The authors critique standard notions of user-centered design, urging us to adopt a framework
in which we consider the multiplicity of groups and individuals engaged in the use of technology. Most important, the authors provide candid critiques of their own technological designs, following their users in detail over time and getting to the bottom of their user experiences. This is something we can all learn from the HCI and CSCW communities.
This book returns many gifts to the reader. It shows how to apply activity theory fruitfully, offers new tools and perspectives for evaluation, and sets a standard for frank assessment of the tools that we design as they are used in everyday activity. The editors warmly recommend this book to you and welcome it to the Acting with Technology series.
Preface: Mediating Interactions
My first experience with using technology as a mediation tool occurred in l980. I was working on my master's degree at the time and had decided to use the new technology of portable video as an intervention tool to help resolve a community conflict in eastern Maine. I had grown up in this coastal region, so I knew it well.
Beginning in 1979, a number of Maine citizens had begun protesting the spraying of blueberry barrens by blueberry growers and the spraying of hardwood trees by pulp and paper companies. By the summer of 1980, the positions held by the protesters and the businesspeople (blueberry growers, processing factories，and pulp and paper industry) were polarized. The protesters felt that business interests controlled the major media outlets，which therefore did not publicize any positions that were against spraying，and also that state officials and regulatory agencies were not addressing their concerns about the dangers of pesticides. The long dispute had escalated to the point where the protesters were threatening to shoot down spray planes and helicopters and to use other means to stop chemicals from coming into the region. These threats led the two sides to a court battle in the summer of 1980.
Protesters were especially upset about a crop duster that had flown on a windy morning and sprayed 245T (a component of Agent Orange), which drifted onto gardens, onto trees, and into a river where 20 percent of Atlantic salmon spawned. In July, state officials flew to this community to reassure residents that the spray would not harm them, their food, or theirwater supply but these reassurances proved to be less than persuasive when an elderly woman offered the state officials a tomato from her garden、and no one would eat it.
As an earnest graduate student who was exploring the effects of using video as a mediation tool in this community conflict, I met separately with state officials, some of the leaders of the protest groups, and representatives of the businesses and explained the proposed plan. I would teach the protesters and businesspeople to videotape messages that I would then show to the other participants. I assured protesters, factory owners, and growers that they would control the messages and that nothing would be shown without their permission. Finally, I told them that I was attempting to remain neutral because I needed to gain the trust and participation of both sides to encourage communication and dialogue.
Looking back on this experience, I am amazed that two such polarized groups agreed to participate in the video mediation process. The portability of the video tool meant that I was able to talk with people in their own familiar environments, and the medium allowed them to control the messages. 0n some level, both parties felt that they had control of the process.
After the first few rounds of making and viewing tapes with these groups, I wondered whether the process was actually making the situation worse. Each side seemed to want only to express and reinforce its own point of view. The growers and owners did not want to change their practices, which continued to frustrate the protesters.
After six weeks, I realized that I was becoming an unofficial expert on the controversy. People on both sides starting asking me for information that I had gathered from the articles, papers, and other documents that I was collecting for my research. I was the only source for various government and unofficial publications about the relevant herbicides and pesticides and the standard regulations for their use. Although I struggled to remain neutral about the situation, my research indicated that some of the
practices that I observed were questionable. 0ne morning, for example, I saw a plane empty unused chemicals onto the edge of the airstrip that bordered a river, thus potentially polluting the river and the ecosystem that it supported.
A major turning point in the controversy occurred when after one court Session, the wife of a major blueberry grower asked whether the growers' wives could join their husbands at the next viewing of the protesters' tapes.
At that viewing session, the wives asked their husbands whether any of the protesters' concerns were valid: Did the husbands not care about the health of their children and grandchildren? Were any of the organic methods for controlling weeds and pests viable? Shouldn't they look into it? The permanency of the video recordings allowed new audiences to bring new or fresh perspectives to the same dialogue.
Through the easily used and accessible technology of the video mediation Process, each side on the pesticide controversy could present its position fully, develop multilevel understandings of the other side's concerns, and come up with constructive solutions. Eventually, representatives from both sides of this highly charged issue were able to meet face to face.
Using technology tools to enhance communication and to develop
shared understandings has been a sustained interest of mine for over twenty years. Even as media technologies have changed greatly, the underlying issues of access, participation, creativity, and control regarding communication technologies have remained remarkably the same. And as my colleagues, my graduate students, and I research the uses and designs of technologies, we continue to be intrigued by the fundamental challenges and possibilities of context-based design of mediated environments.
Ithaca, New York
This book represents the combined efforts of many researchers and designers who have worked in the Human-Computer Interaction Group at Cornell University from 1990 to the present. In addition, a number of agencies，foundations, and individuals funded the interdisciplinary research, evaluation，and design studies described in this volume, including IBM， IBM-Japan, Intel, the National Science Foundation, the AT＆T Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation. In particular, we would like to acknowledge the following individuals for their contributions: Tammy Bennington, Kirsten Boehner, Jenna Burrell, Hichang Cho, Nicholas Farina, Laura Granka, Michae1Grace-Martin,Julian Kilker, Kiyo Kubo, Jae-shin Lee, Tara Panella，Wendy Martin, Joan Mazur, Robert Rieger, Amanda Sturgill, David Sturgill,
Michael Stdanone, and Jeff Yuen.
We also thank Kirsten Boehner, Jeffrey Hancock, Deborah Trumbull, And Joseph Walther for reviewing the manuscript and making many helpful suggestions for its improvement. A special thank-you goes to Nathaniel Stem for creating the “wire guys” that appear on the cover.
Introduction: Making the Case for Context-Based Design
This book documents our efforts toward articulating what we consider to be a significant shift in human-computer interaction (HCI) design. We are convinced that the shift from user-centered design to context-based design corresponds with recent developments in Pervasive, ubiquitous computing networks and in the appliances that connect with them, which are radically
changing our relationships with personal computing devices. Additionally，this shift signals a “coming of age" of theoretical frameworks such as activity theory (Kapetelinin, 1996; Leont'ev, 1978; Nardi, 1996a, 1996b; Vygotsky, 1962; Wertsch, 1991) and social construction of technology theory(Pinch＆Bijker, 1987), which attend to the sociohistorical contexts of technology use and human activity
One shift that we have observed is from a focus on human-computer interaction to a focus on human interaction that is mediated by technology in context (Nardi, 1996a, 1996b). We use the concepts of activity theory and related theories and methods to help ground and illuminate ongoing interactions among the uses of computer systems, the practice of design, and the evaluation of designs. With this coming of age, we believe that it may be time to develop models that specifically support both research and development and to support empirical, contextual investigations of
human-computer interactions in the ubiquitous computing environments enabled by these networks.
In this volume, we report on the research that we have completed on the use of technologies in everyday contexts and over time. We implement new methods for understanding users' behaviors and motivations as they interact with technology in context, and we then apply these findings to the design of new technologies. We develop the following main points in this
・User centered to user involver Where once we focused on what
we thought users should do, we now begin the design process with
an understanding of what people already do. Users need to be involved at the grassroot level of the design process, and designers and researchers need to attend to the situations in which tools will be used.
・Laboratory to context Within this particular theoretical ecology, the emphasis on understanding specific needs and behaviors of individuals has evolved to an emphasis on understanding the activities and the meaning of those activities in social and networked contexts.
Technology that is introduced into an organization or environment
changes that situation. Likewise, technologies and organizations are in the process of ongoing change. Designers need to understand these dynamic processes within their particular environment or context.
・Rigid to emergent design practices Step-by-step design procedures usually do not work in complex, messy situations of use. To design robust, suitable, and workable systems, the design process needs to be flexible, adaptive, and rooted in real experience.
・Individual to groups Performing virtually any task in a work environment is fundamentally social and involves cooperation and
communication with others.
・Bounded activities to cross-boundary tasks Many tasks that use
computers cut across time and space dimensions. Students who use
computers in classrooms can also communicate with friends, trade
stocks, and shop online. More people are working at home and
managing personal affairs at work. The portability of wireless computers and other digital devices also allows for flexibility and accessibility across temporal and spatial boundaries.
As we articulate various aspects of context-based design, we discuss how various projects, research studies, and design challenges were parts of an evolving system of ideas about users, designers, design tasks, and user tools. Some of our discussion of context-based design is historical, but the key objective here is to provide contemporary insights into the vitality of our design approach and research studies. In essence, we have been socially
constructing, annotating, and reflecting on our own practice in an iterative, “technologically textured" (Ihde, 1991, p.1)way.
In chapter 1, Activity Theory and Context-Based Design, we examine specific ways that the activity-theory framework can inform the design and use of technology. The core ideas of activity theory have been described in many other places (Engestrom, Miettinen, ＆ Punamaki, 1999; Kuutti, 1996; Leont'ev, 1978; Nardi, 1996a, 1996b; Werstsch, 1991). In our work on human-computer interaction, we attempt to explicate the workings of
communicative tools, spaces, and practices and thereby raise numerous questions regarding the activity of design. How do tools mediate activities？
Do different kinds of tools mediate differently? How do we make visible and represent multiple, simultaneously occurring processes? As in any mediated sociocultural context, the relationship between the activity and the tool is a reciprocal one. In chapter 1, we begin to explore how activities shape the requirements of particular tools and how the application of the
tool begins to reshape dimensions of activity throughout an iterative design process.
In chapter 2, Understanding Perspectives: Social Construction of Technology, we investigate the conceptions, power relationships, motives, goals, and structures within the context of integrating wireless mobile devices into museums. Using a concept-mapping tool, we found few areas of agreement among various stakeholders regarding the functions that were needed to create, use, and maintain mobile computing technologies in museums. Museum staff, designers, and patrons constructed the idea of using mobile computers in partially overlapping and partially conflicting
ways that reflected their different backgrounds. Throughout the needs-assessment and pilot phases, roles were reassigned, rules were changed, and structures were reinterpreted. Finally, using the social construction of technology (SCOT) framework, we found that stakeholders held distinct needs and goals that needed to be acknowledged during the design process so that groups could reach closure or consensus.
Despite the many studies and technological innovations for supporting mediated conversations researchers have a very imperfect understanding of what works and what does not work in online environments. We do know that people have difficulty using virtual reality and other complex systems(Erickson, Halverson, Kellogg, Laff, ＆ Wolf,2002). The design of collaborative virtual environments (CVEs)is known to affect the ways that we communicate and employ social conventions. The Presence of others online, the way that objects are organized, and other design factors afford certain ways of responding to others in virtual spaces. In chapter 3, Creating a Sense of Place: Designing for Online Learning Conversations, we describe ways of incorporating social cues or structures that are useful in supporting learning conversations online.
The two-year study described in chapter 4, Blurring Boundaries: A Study of Ubiquitous Computing, was designed to elicit feedback regarding the usefulness, usability, and desirability of mobile computing devices for students' activities. Mobile computers can potentially transform the activities of learning, researching, and communicating. Understanding computer-mediated activities via an activity-theory approach further requires an understanding
of a socia1-historical context ― that is， how activities and
mediating devices emerge from particular cultures and practices, from particularities of the situated actions, including peoples' needs and goals, and from the activity itself (Lave＆Wenger, 1991; Nardi, 1996a, 1996b; Nardi & O'Day, 1999).
In chapter 5, Designing for Context-Aware Computing, we describe the
iterative design of wireless communication networks and context-aware
computing systems. Context-aware computing is a field of study that researchers
have just begun to explore. 0nly a few concrete applications have
been built and tested. The idea behind context-aware computing is that the
users' environment ― including where they are， who they are with， and
what they are doing ― can inform the computing device. This added
knowledge changes the interactions between user and device. Because individuals
associate places with events and activities, the information and
tasks presented to the user can be filtered for their location. Wireless devices
help mediate activities and create a system of distributed cognition.
Where user-centered design and analysis seem inadequate to understanding
the complexities of system use in such new social networked environments，
activity theory begins to shed some light.
In the final chapter, Configural Analysis of Spaces and Places, we present
our ideas on how computer spaces, real and virtual, might be analyzed
to gain fresh new insights into ubiquitous computing behavior. In earlier
chapters, we focus on the tools, the activities they invoke, and the context
in which these activities take place. In this chapter, the focus instead is on
what the actual spatial map or layout of the computing space might look
like and how the layout might be analyzed to predict movement, function，
and social interactions within that space. We borrow heavily from architecture's
configuration theory and its techniques for extracting and visualizing
these recurrent patterns based on the relation of spaces within larger
spaces. We outline the theory identify the indices that quantify space, and
explore how some of our own datasets might be analyzed using what Bill
Hillier(1996)and others refer to as nondiscursive analysis.
1. Activity Theory and Context-Based Design
A significant evolutionary shift has occurred in human-computer interaction(HCI)
design. Prior to this shift, computer software designers tended
toward a computer-centered design approach that at best assumed and at
worst ignored the needs and preferences of end users. This approach prioritized
the attributes of the technology itself and often resulted in design
solutions that were in search of problems. Its limitations gave rise to a
human-centered design in which users articulated their needs and developers
observed or listened to users and then addressed various needs in
their designs. Unlike the technology push of computer-centered design，
human-centered design emphasizes human needs and objectives and the
technology that serves these purposes.
Another shift has begun now ― to a context-based design where the use，
design，and evaluation of technology are socially co-constructed and mediated
by human communication and interaction. Context-based design
builds on human-centered design by positioning the interactions between
users and mediating tools within the motives, community, rules, history,
and culture of those users. In addition, context-based design calls for designers
and evaluators to reflect on the elements of their own context and
on the way that this space interacts with the space of technology use.
This book uses activity theory as an orienting framework for context-
based design. In our work on human-computer interaction, we attempt to
explicate the workings of communicative tools, spaces, and practices and
thereby raise numerous questions regarding the activity of design. How do
tools mediate activities? Do different kinds of tools mediate differently?
How do we make visible and represent multiple, simultaneously occurring
processes? As in any mediated sociocultural context, the relationship between
the activity and the tool is a reciprocal one. Activities shape the requirements
of particular tools, and the application of the tool begins to
reshape dimensions of activity. We use the concepts of activity theory and
related theories to help ground and illuminate this ongoing interaction between
the uses of computer systems, the practice of design, and the evaluation
of designs produced.
1.2 Activity Theory: An Overview
Activity theory draws inspiration from the work of the Russian semiotician
and psychologist Lev Semenovich vygotsky (1962), who argued
against artificial separations between mind and behavior and between
mind and society. Contrary to the dominant mentalist tradition of his time，
vygotsky posited the unity of perception, speech, and action. In addition，
he emphasized the centrality of mediating devices, such as language and
other symbols or tools, in the development of mind and thought. The emphasis
on meaning through action, the connection between the individual
and the social, and the role of mediating tools provide the kernel around
which activity theory has developed.
Building on these principles, Alexei N. Leont'ev (1981) created a formal
structure for operationalizing the activity system as a complex, multilayered
unit of analysis (figure l.1).His model is less a representation of
reality than a heuristic aid for identifying and exploring the multiple
contextual factors that shape or mediate any goal-directed, tool-mediated
Figure 1.1 Engestrom’s analysis of activity and mediating relationships
(Subject, Object, Community, Instruments, Rules, Division of labor)
As indicated by Engestrom's (1999a) mode1, an activity system consists
of people, artifacts, an object or motive, sociocultural rules, and roles
(Kaptelinin, Nardi, ＆ Macaulav, 1999). Kari Kuutti (1996，P.27) has
characterized activity as “a form of doing directed to an object.” For these
authors an activity is the highest-level objective where the motivations behind
the activity and the ultimate objectives or desired outcomes are the
same. Within this activity system, multiple actions are performed to reach
the overall objective. Each action is driven by a conscious intentional goa1.
Finally, operations represent unconscious, often routine actions carried
out automatically in the service of other goa1-oriented actions. Therefore，
the composition of an activity system consists of the activity (the system
itself), actions, and operations. Breaking down the system of activity into
component parts is useful for identification purposes; however, the system
is not reducible to isolated actions or isolated relationships between subjects and tools.
A simple example of the hierarchical structure of activity systems is the
activity of “Mark is driving to Aunt Sally's house.” The motivation and
outcome are for Mark to end up at Aunt Sally's. To realize this outcome， a
number of actions might take place: calling Aunt Sally to see when she's
available for a visit, checking the weather, printing out driving directions，
filling up the car with gas, and so on. 0n the drive itself, a number of unconscious
operations are performed, such as applying the brakes at red
lights and using directional signals before changing lanes or making turns.
Collectively the motives and actions add up to the final destination. The hierarchy
of actions and the identification of the different components of an
activity system provide helpful guideposts for articulating and examining
the complexity of context. The multilayered nature of activity theory identifies
the actions involved in an activity and assesses how these actions re1ate to each other.
1.3 Activity Theory and HCI
The explanatory potential of activity theory lies in the attention that it
gives to multiple dimensions of human engagement with the world and in
the framework that it provides for configuring those dimensions and processes
into a coherent “activity.” Critical to understanding these processes
of engagement for use in the field of HCI is the mediating role that is played
by cultural artifacts or tools and their transformative power. The researchers
working at the Human-Computer Interaction Group at Cornell
University have focused primarily on mediating devices for communication
And learning (figure 1.2). 0ur research questions have explored how
these devices affect outcomes (such as what kind, if any, of communication
or learning occurs), process(how does communication or learning occur?
what facilitates or inhibits the engagement? who is involved and not involved?),
and motivation (how do our notions of communication or learning
change? what are our expectations of communication or learning?).
Fundamental to the activity theory approach is that humans develop and
learn when, in collaboration with others, people act on their immediate
Figure 1.2 Application of Engestrom's activity analysis to communication and learning
(Subject, Object, Community, Communication/learning tool, Rules, Division of labor)
Activity theory shares much in common with anthropological, ethnomethodological,
and other sociocultural approaches, such as Trevor
Pinch and Wiebe Bijker's “The Socia1 Construction of Facts and Artifacts:
Or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might
Benefit Each other” (1987) and Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger's “Legitimate
Peripheral Participation in Communities of Practice” (1991). In our
work at the HCI Group, we have been drawn to these theories for their
common focus on dynamic change, tool mediation, and social construction
of meaning. For a more thorough treatment of activity theory history,
its recent developments, and its relationship to other sociocultural theories，
we refer the reader to a number of excellent sources (e.g., Engestrom,
1999a, 1999b, 1999c; Kaptelinin, 1996; Kuutti, 1996; Nardi, 1996a,
1996b). Here we elaborate only on the principles of activity theory that are
recurring themes in later chapters ― namely, the concepts of mediation, object
orientedness, and disturbance.
An individual’s relationship with and orientation toward an objective is
mediated by the tools that are used to attain the objective, the community
that participates in the activity, and the division of labor that exists in that
community(Engestrom, 1999a). In the models of an activity system described
above (see figuresl.1 and l.2), bidirectional arrows indicate multiple
mediating relationships within a complex integrated system. Victor
Kaptelinin (1996) specificly addresses the mediating effects of computer
activity on consciousness, learning, and development. For him, computer
technologies have the power to enable and transform activities through the
actions, goals, and social relations of individual agents. 0ur own evaluations
of computer mediation confirm these effects, as we describe in later
chapters. We emphasize two main insights regarding mediation ― the
bidirectionality of effects (of the perceptions, motivations, culture, and
actions that shape the tool and that are shaped by the tool)and the need
for sustained longitudinal studies to reveal how these mediating relationships
develop and change over time.
1.3.2 Object Orientedness
In the activity theory model, object orientedness (Kaptelinin, 1996,
P. 107) refers to humans' engagement with objects (and objectives). Activity
theorists ascribe object status to physical, social, and cultural
phenomena including nonmaterial phenomena such as expectations and
affinities. The purpose, intent, or motivation of acting on an object or
working toward an objective is the foundation of the activity system, and
acting on an object is the orienting space of the action.
The HCI Group has identified two important subcategories within the
concept of object orientedness: (1) psychological and social objects can be
ranked at the same level of importance as physical objects, and (2) artifacts
can be transposed into object status and vice versa. An artifact or tool in
the primary activity system framework (see figure 1.1), for example，may
simultaneously be an object in another system. As a subject interacts with
a word-processing program to write a paper, the object is the completed
paper, and the artifact or tool is the software program. However, if the program
breaks down， the software becomes the object in a new activity of
troubleshooting. Likewise, the word-processing program is both a tool for
the human subject who uses it and the object of usability research for the
The relationships among the various elements in the activity-theory model
are flexible and ever-shifting. In a general account of how activities develop，
Yrjo Engestrom (1999b) makes the point that activity systems support
development and goal attainment but also produce disturbances. In
the example of the word-processing program that shifts from being a tool
to being an object, this transformation occurs at a breakdown or disturbance.
Frank Blacker, Norman Crump, and Seonaidh McDonald (2000)
identify other disturbances, such as incoherencies, tensions，and inconsistencies
among various components in the system, Engestrom (1999b) argues
that relationships within activity systems are made orderly only by the
determination that people show as they engage with the objects of their activity.
As disturbances become evident within and between activity systems,
participants may begin to address the underlying issues and change
their situations, their activities, or themselves. We have found that disturbances
can be informative in the design process as signposts for uncovering
why the disturbance materialized, why it did not exist until a given
point in time, what the effects of the disturbance might be, and how the
disturbance is resolved.
1.4 Adding to Activity Theory: An Ecological perspective
The model of activity theory that is referred to throughout this chapter
(that is, the subject, object, and tool relationship) has traditionally been
understood as a synchronic, point-in-time depiction of an activity. It does
not depict the transformational and developmental processes that provide
the focus of much recent activity theory research. In this section, we link
activity theory to an ecological perspective to examine another viewpoint
and conceptualization of the interplay between systems and the adaptive
transformation of systems across time. We are not the first to draw on ecological
perspectives for HCI work. Probably the best-known application
of this approach is Donald Norman's appropriation of James J. Gibson's
(1977，1979) ecological theory of perception. We turn to ecological theories
for two reasons. First, the focus on adaptive systems works well with
activity theory and with examining human-computer interaction in context.
Second, the ecological metaphor guides our reflection on the evolution
and adaptation of our theories and practice of design. Like their
biological counterparts, ecologies of ideas (such as activity theory and
our application of this theory and related ideas) evolve within complex
systems that are novel, are interrelated, and seek to sustain the delicate
and necessary balance between the need for stability and the need for
In Urie Bronfenbrenner's formulation (1979) of an ecological systems
theory of human development, development is a joint function of person
and environment. By carefully examining the person within various processes
and contexts and asking challenging questions about the nature
of the interaction, researchers can increase the explanatory power of their
results. Bronfenbrenner's theory posits an ecology of nested environments
or systems ― micro， meso，exo，and macro(figure l.3).
Figure 1.3 Urie Bronfenbrenner’s model of an ecological systems theory of human development
Microsystems，according to Brofenbrenner, consist of a “pattern of activity，
roles，and interpersonal relations experienced by the person in a
given setting with particular physical and material features and containing
other persons with distinctive characteristics of personality and systems of
belief” (Bronfenbrenner, 1989, p.226). Mesosystems “comprise the linkages
and process taking place between two or more settings containing the
person” (for example, relations between home and school and between
school and work)(Bronfenbrenner, 1989, P.227). Exosystems “encompass
the linkage and processes taking place between two or more settings,
at least one of which does not ordinarily contain the person, but in which
events occur that influence processes within the immediate setting that
does not contain the developing person” (for example, for the child, the relation
between home and the parent's workplace)(Bronfenbrenner, 1989,
P.227). Macrosystems “consist of the overarching pattern of micro-,
meso-, and exosystems characteristic of a given culture, subculture, or
other broader social context with particular reference to the developmentally
instigative belief systems, resources, life styles, and opportunity structures
and patterns of social interchange that are embedded in each of these
systems” (Bronfenbrenner, 1989, P.228). In other words, the macrosystem
is the social blueprint for particular cultures, subcultures, or other
broader social contexts.
In sum, the micro level of function refers to the individual (plant，animal，
and so on) environment and its functions, the meso level refers to
interactions of micro environments, the exo levels an outer level that
operates indirectly on the environment, and the macro level is the outermost
level that defines the global contexts and functions of the system (Engestrom,
1999c). Within this ecological mode1, the issues most relevant for
HCI revolve around looking for interaction and interdependence among
the levels and the primacy of time and space.
1.4.1 Interaction and Interdependence
Systems do not exist in a vacuum but rather are situated in a broader context
of networks of interacting systems. Design questions and practices
revolve around the interactions and interdependence of these nested environments.
These interactions and their interrelatedness constitute the
complexities of design.
Component systems within ecological systems are characterized by progressive，
mutual accommodation and extinction throughout the life of the
system; these interactions are dynamic processes in and of themselves. As
is also true with the principle of disturbance in activity systems， ecological
systems are not always harmonious and functioning but have constant tensions，
discontinuities, and breakdowns that are necessary for survival and
adaptability. The tensions and breakdowns can be used as points of reference
for understanding and describing design activity, for example.
Mutual accommodations among system elements shape the relationship
among these components, which is interdependent. Changes in any part of
a system or among contextual levels have the potential to affect any or a11
of the other related systems. The developments, tensions, and interrelationships
in these systems should be studied in the context of these accommodation
processes. As the ecological approach and the process,
person, and context model are explored, we describe and account for the
transformative power of seemingly ubiquitous artifacts such as language
and pervasive computing devices. When an activity system is analyzed at
one particular level or context, its relations with activities at other contextual
levels (educational systems government, state and local processes)
should also be taken into account. This approach reflects what Andrew
Pettigrew(1990, p.269) calls the “importance of embeddedness or studying
change in the context of interconnected levels of analysis.”
1.4.2 Primacy of Time and Space
In addition to the physical network of activity systems, their temporal interconnectedness
needs to be examined (Pettigrew, 1990). Activities develop through time，
stimulated by the tensions that develop within and
between them at various levels (Leont'ev, 1978). “Processes observed at
different contextual levels of analysis are often observed to have their own
pace and rate” (Boer, van Ballen, ＆ Kumar, 2002, p. 92). Activities from
the past are alive in the present and also help shape the future. An activity
system is not static, and the developments and changes within the system
need to be described and analyzed by locating changes in the past, present，
and future (Boer et al., 2002). The dynamic nature of ecological systems
hinges on their situatedness in time and space (figure 1.4). Thus, parameters
of time and space are the initial critical contexts to which designers
need to attend.
Figure l.4 Temporal interconnections and “situatedness” of an activity （adapted from Boer，van Baalen，＆ Kumer, 2002）
(Macro level Large social contexts, Meso level Collective activities, Micro level Independent activities)
1.5 Integration of Activity Theory and Ecological Principles
Integrating activity theory with ecologica1 principles involves understanding
an outcome (such as a specific technology or user need) at a particular
point in time in the context of interacting systems (micro, meso，exo，and
macro). The primacy of time and space is particularly crucial because all
systems evolve over time and understanding occurs in both historical and
contemporary contexts. Activities are “multilevel, multidimensional, dynamic,
collective, context-sensitive, and mediated by cultural artifacts"
(Boer et a1, 2002, p.8).
The interaction between actors in an activity system is mediated by the
object of activity, by language and tools, by a division of labor, by conventions,
and by social rules. Participants are involved in a social process as
they attempt to accomplish some goal or objective and as they use diverse
combinations of signs and tools to create meaning. An activity system can
be decomposed into a network of several detailed activity systems ― the
original setting and increasingly broader contexts (Boer et al., 2002). For
example, when analyzing how distributed work teams collaborate on a
design project, researchers would look at the history of the work teams
and also zoom out to the organizational settings, social settings, and larger
social contexts and levels in which these distributed teams operate. The
activity system is not only “affected by activity systems at other contextual
levels but also exerts influence on them itself. In fact, an activity system can
be conceived as a system of distributed cognition” (Boer et al., 2002, p.6).
The iterative design cycle that is shown in figure 1.5 illustrates the cyclic
process of change that is anticipated by activity theory. First, researchers
and designers must examine current practices and activities. Needs are
identified through scenario-based design techniques, interviews, and observations.
Next, tensions, controversies, and conflicts within and between
activity systems are identified. Then a period of search and questioning begins
as new models and metaphors are considered and new solutions and
designs are developed. After the initial series of trials and testing of designs
in actual settings, new priorities and approaches emerge, followed by periods
of reconceptualization, revision, and redesign. Ultimately, the entire
cycle is repeated until some resolution, new stability, or closure is achieved.
Increasing agreement among the groups is indicated by a narrowing of disagreements
during each iteration, with the resulting central point representing
a shared conceptualization or closure (Pinch ＆ Bijker, 1987).
Figure 1.5 An iterative design cycle
(Requirements, Design, Implementation, Evaluation)
As people begin to address the tensions, conflicts, and breakdowns that
are features of their activity systems, they begin to create a collective force
for change and innovation (Blacker, Crump, ＆ McDonald, 1999). These
breakdowns as well as points of change and development can be used to
study activity. The activity-theory approach emphasizes the incoherencies,
tensions, controversies, and conflicts that exist among components in the
system (Blacker et al., 1999).
Activities such as technology construction should not be perceived as
statically structured entities but rather as dynamic processes that are characterized
by ambiguity and change. Construction and renegotiation reoccur
constantly within the system. The entire iterative design process
rests on dynamic interactions between order and chaos, steady states and
breakdowns, harmony and controversy. The activity system is constantly
working through tensions within and between its components (Blacker
et al., 1999). The tensions and breakdowns that occur within activity systems
can be used as points of reference for studying the social construction
and design process (Boer et al., 2002).
Within these nested environments are systems that function dynamically
And thus enable us to examine how they change over time. Within any design
ecology, some systems are perceived as stable and thus require less attention
from the designer, while others are perceived as being in flux and
become the focus of design research or development. When a new tool is
introduced, for example, designers usually focus on user requirements for
design(at the micro level), establish these requirements, and then move on
to understand the interactions between the new tool and practices in a
larger context (meso level).
1.6 Toward Reflection in Action
Activity theory cautions us that any tool has the potential to transform the
activity in which it is used and, reciprocally, that tools have the potential
to be transformed as they are used. Responsible evaluation professionals
need to reflect on those potentials and on the ethical considerations that
are involved in assessing tool designs, user programs, and evaluation instruments
(figure 1.6). Evaluators and designers need to document and analyze
uses of technology in program settings and in evaluation activities to
understand the mediating functions of different technologies and tools ―
or, to paraphrase Bonnie Nardi and Vicki O'Day (1999), to engage
thoughtfully with technologies as they are used in various contexts.
Figure 1.6 The mediating role of evaluation in technology design
(User and stakeholders, Object, Community of practice, Tools (such as computer technology), Rules and norms, Division of labor)
(Designers and evaluators, Users’ activity system as object, Community of practice, Research and evaluation tools (such as activity theory and other evaluation tools), Rules and norms, Division of labor)
Evaluation activities are embedded in complex technosystems and cannot
be isolated from the system under study. Looking at evaluation as part
of the technology design system has transformed how evaluations themselves
are designed and conducted (see figure l.6). In the next few chapters,
we describe how we use computer technologies and their multimedia
functionalities to collect (multimedia)data, to organize and analyze that
data, and to present research findings. These tools can disclose behaviors
and social phenomena that have remained hidden and unexamined, even
unimagined, because no technologies existed to reveal them. Because new
technologies enable new ways of knowing, new ways of evaluating, and
new ways of representing and reporting knowledge, they pose methodological,
social, and ethical challenges that evaluators need to reflect on
and address. Various applications, such as Lotus Notes or concept mapping,
can facilitate collaboration among evaluators and stakeholders and
offer new ways of conducting evaluations and reflecting on the design process
through evaluation activities.
In conclusion, the main contention of this volume is that computer-
mediated activity and design need to be understood within their relevant
contexts. Activity theory is a holistic approach that can accommodate
complexity and diversity by integrating multiple levels of analysis, diverse
and multidimensional activities, and various contextual features of computer-mediated
communicative practice into a coherent model of human-
computer interaction (Nardi, 1996a, 1996b; Engestrom, Miettinen, ＆
2. Understanding Perspectives: Social Construction of Technology
Social interactions play a large role in the development of technology, and
they contribute to the inherent ambiguities of technology design (Abowd
＆ Mynatt, 2000; Bodker, 1997; Bodker ＆ Petersen, 2000; Engestrom,
1999a; Hasan, Gould, ＆ Hyland, 1998; Nardi, 1996a, 1996b). The social
construction of technology (SCOT) framework considers the multiple
social perspectives that surround the development of new technologies
(Pinch & Bijker, 1987). SCOT, which evolved out of studies of the sociology
of scientific knowledge and the history of technology, examines the
multiple “branches” of a technology that coexist to meet the needs of multiple
social groups (Edwards, 1995). It explores the ways that individuals,
due to their various histories and positions, construct the components and
objects of an activity system in different ways.
SCOT theorists describe the social processes that impact technological
development and identify the social groups that are responsible
for shaping technological artifacts (Bijker & Law, 1992). Fundamentally,
as Edwards (1995, p.212) notes, “technological change is a social
process: Technologies can and do have ‘social impacts,’ but they
are simultaneously social products that embody power relationships and
social goals and structures.” Like activity theory, SCOT emphasizes multiple
social perspectives, social construction, and the use of tools in specified contexts.
A social constructivist approach is ideal for examining the design and development
of a technical system (Pinch & Bijker, 1987). Using this approach,
the researcher or designer examines the conceptions that are held by the
various social groups that are involved in a technology's development and
then follows the social construction of each group's technology to examine
how the group reaches closure ― that is, how that social construction
is conceptually frozen in the view of the group and across multiple groups
(Pinch ＆ Bijker, 1987). Rather than trying to determine whether the respective
conceptions from multiple parties are inherently true or false, the
social constructivists situate these conceptions within the context of each
group and observe how group members negotiate these conceptions.
The SCOT model encourages designers to consider the interactions,
ambiguities, and complexities of the various groups that are defining and
developing digital environments and to consider the multiple social
perspectives that surround the development of new technologies. This
holistic approach contrasts sharply with standard practices in technology
development. For example, many designers of computer hardware and
software systems tend to isolate the design process from the social and
political structure in which they are planned (Kilker & Gay, 1998).Simple
measurements of technological performance (such as number of hits on a
particular page) are inadequate when isolated from data about the social
structure within which the systems are designed or for which they are
planned. 0ne of the complex interrelationships among system elements
that designers must consider is the impact of various perspectives (Pinch
& Bijker, 1987).
A primary assumption of the SCOT approach is that activities are socially
co-constructed and mediated by human communication and interaction.
Communication and collaboration between subjects are processes
that are critical for coordinating different versions of the design and other
components of the system. In the early days of networked information,
“build it and they will come” may have been a sufficient model of user interest
and behavior. Increasingly, however, designers are proactively addressing
the particular needs and challenges of their intended users.
Ultimately, different versions of a design and various perspectives must be
resolved, resulting in consensus or conflict. Through an iterative design
process, various stakeholders will reach closure or some agreement (Pinch
＆ Ｂijker, 1987).
2.2 SCOT Concepts
The social construction of technology framework of interpretative flexibility
addresses the various notions that are held by each relevant social
group. The three main SCOT concepts are relevant social groups, interpretative
flexibility and closure. These concepts ― as well as an evaluation
of them ― are discussed below and further explored in the case study presented
later in this chapter.
2.2.1 Relevant Social Groups
Trevor Pinch and Wiebe E. Bijker (1987, p.30) define relevant social group
as a group whose members “share a set of meanings attached to a speccific
artifact.” Various relevant social groups can derive very different meanings
from a single technology. For example, some of the first SCOT searchers
examined the design of early broadcast media and found that relevant
social groups' concepts of early radio included radio telegraphy, radio telephony,
and broadcasting (Douglas, 1987). Those meanings or interpretations
of use create expectations that can lead to alterations in the design of
the artifact and to the acceptance of one version of a technology over
another. As the radio studies showed, interpretations of the meaning of the
proposed technology are shaped by the different disciplinary and organizational
cultures to which the project participants belonged.
The multiple actors in a technical development project go through a process
of enrolling each other in the enterprise and tailoring the project to
meet the different goals of the various actors (Latour, 1987). Relevant social
groups differ not only in terms of experience, technical expertise, and
goals but also in their ability to influence the final project. The goal and
challenge for SCOT theorists is to define the boundaries and relevancy of
these social groups.
2.2.2 Interpretive Flexibility
When a technology is first created, it goes through a state that SCOT theorists
call interpretive flexibility, in which the technological artifact is
“culturally constructed and interpreted” as it is being developed and even
as it is being used (Pinch ＆ Bijker, 1987, P.40). Interpretive flexibility
describes how different groups perceive a technology and also how these
variable perspectives can affect the design and modify the technological artifact.
The end Product may be very different from the original design or
functionality. For example, one of the early conceptions of the use of the
telephone was as a radio broadcast medium.
Because design is an ongoing process of interpretation and reshaping,
developers benefit from working in tandem with end users and other
groups during the planning and production stages. This is especially true
when the product or system is without clear or defining boundaries. Pelle
Ehn (1988) and others have demonstrated that when developers and users
discuss and manipulate a prototype, each group comes to understand multiple
perceptions of an emergent technology. These scenarios or prototypes
facilitate communication and collaboration processes between groups and
help bridge the gap between user needs assessment and the actual design.
The challenge is to make these proxies or mockups easily understood by a
wide variety of stakeholders.
User-centered methods often adopt a circular, iterative process in which
evaluation is a critical component of a design, build, evaluate, analyze,
and redesign spiral (Butler, 1996). After several design iterations ― that is,
opportunities for developers, evaluators, and users to interact with the
technology ― the expectation is that the technology will incorporate perspectives
of each group (Gay ＆ Bennington, 1999). Gathering information
about group expectations and needs can range from qualitative, ethnographic
efforts to quantitative methods such as surveys, interviews, and
logs. After several iterations, groups eventually share an acceptance or a
conceptualization of the technology. The technology is conceptually “frozen”
in the view of the groups or stakeholders.
user-centered design techniques emphasize users（Norman, 1998）but, at
least in theory, can neglect the many groups and individuals that are involved
in the design process. Although user-centered design overturns the
old model of “developer knows best” in favor of a new model of “user
knows best,” in fact, the most productive design exchanges take place
when users, developers, and other groups interact, develop, and maintain
a technological innovation.
User-centered methods also fail to identify future uses, needs, and problems
that users and developers might not independently envision. This is
especially important for nascent technologies, which people will inevitably
view in the relatively constrictive terms of old technologies (such
as using a digital hand-held machine to replace the old portable audiotape
guide system in a museum). Examining the gaps among the views of relevant
social groups can identify such issues and ultimately lead to more useful designs.
0ur framework for guiding the needs assessment and design of hand-
held technologies for museums (see the discussion of Handscape in the
case study below) was interpretivism. Consistent with the social construction
framework, the philosophical tenets of interpretism focus on deriving
meaning and understanding from the varied perspectives of all project participants
and relevant social groups. We identified relevant social groups
(or stakeholders) and had them state their needs, prioritize them, and critique
prototype scenarios. To illustrate this process, we describe a design
project called Handscape in the following sections.
2.3 The Handscape Study: Using Mobile Technologies to Enhance the Museum Experience
Handscape is an ongoing research project (2001－2004) that has been
funded by Inte1 Corporation and managed by the Human-Computer Interaction
Group at Cornell University and by CIMI, an international
consortium of museums, application developers, and national standards
organizations. To incorporate the perspectives of stakeholder groups into
the design of hand-held technologies for museums, we have used the social
construction of technology framework to support the needs assessment
and design process. The objective of Handscape is to investigate how technology
can affect the visitor experience before, during, and after the museum
visit. The project evaluators from the HCI Group have examined
potential scenarios for mobile computing in museums and tested and evaluated
mobile technologies in various museum environments.
2.3.1 Diverse Goals and Concepts
The SCOT approach to design requires stakeholders to be involved early
in the process. In the Handscape project, these groups have included the
project's funders, museum staff, and administrators, designers, and patrons.
Within each group are various subgroups; for example, museum
Staff includes curators, administrators, and museum educators, and design
staff includes programmers, vendors, and interface specialists. Each group
has special concerns, goals, and issues.
In our initial needs assessments, we used concept maps to help patrons,
Designers, and museum professionals understand various perspectives or
views of what should be included in a wireless mobile application. Essentially
concept mapping is a process that enables the members of a group or
organization to visually depict their ideas on some topic or area of interest.
Concept maps have been used to design and develop survey instruments,
to construct databases, to begin organizational or project planning,
and to analyze research results (Kilker & Gay, 1998; Mead & Gay, 1995).
Concept mapping is a “structured process, focused on a topic or construct
of interest, involving input from one or more participants，that produces
an interpretable pictorial view (concept map) of their ideas and concepts
and how these are interrelated” (Trochim, 1985, P.577). For example,
stakeholders can communicate their system preferences electronically via
a Web site. Users then can work in the same environment to organize their
statements in order of importance. Concept maps are generated using a
cluster-analysis technique. All participants can view the statements, list of
priorities, and visual maps and gain an understanding of various points of
view as well as stated priorities.
2.4 Web-Based Concept Mapping
In the initia1 phase of the Handscape project, approximately 115 people
participated in the statement-generation stage, and responses were collected
from thirty-five museum professionals, eighteen system designers
and vendors, and sixty-two museum patrons. Museum professionals included
science writers, directors of education and digital media, chief curators,
vice presidents, and information officers.
Because the initial stage of the process was Internet-based, participants
could complete this task from remote locations. Participants were directed
to a Web page that presented several possible scenarios involving wireless,
mobile computing applications in museums. At the Web page, they read
the examples, viewed scenario-based images as a stimulus, and then were
automatically directed to a statement-generation Web page that consisted
of a focus prompt (a statement used to guide the statement-generation process)
followed by a list of previously submitted statements. The goal was
to generate an exhaustive list of ideas about the integration of mobile technologies
Participants in the statement-generation stage were given the opportunity
to add to the statement list freely. Statements were subsequently used
in the next two phases of the project. An important benefit of using participants'
actual statements is that the emergent conceptual framework is
entirely in the language of the participants, which is consistent with the
objectives of SCOT. In all, 110 unique statements were generated.
The next phase of the project required participants from the three stakeholder
Groups ― museum professionals, designers and vendors, and patrons ―
to complete a sorting task in which they grouped all generated
statements into conceptually similar groups and labelled each group. In
summary, participants from each group brainstormed a list of 110 statements
relating to wireless computing applications in museums and then
sorted and rated the statements. The resulting semantic similarities in
statements and their priority rankings allowed us to compare characteristics
of expectations among stakeholder groups. Together, these analyses
produced the cluster diagram presented in figure 2.1.
Figure 2.1 The first stage of the Handscape project: Statement generation (a cluster map)
The bottom and the lower left of the cluster map (see figure 2.1) contains
two related concepts ― location and administration. The location category
involves providing users with directions to a help desk, emergency exits,
and specific exhibits. It also includes the idea of museum floor plans that
show users their location and the location of the exhibits they have previously
visited. The location cluster statements focus on user end functionality
as it relates to way-finding applications. Since enough statements
relating to way finding were generated, participants grouped these ideas
together often enough to warrant a distinct group. The administration
category addresses the business end of museum operations, such as promoting
gift shop sales, monitoring the popularity of exhibits, and tracking
users’ behavior during their visits.
The content-related clusters are artist information and museum information.
Artist information encompasses historical, cultural, and chronological
information, including statements about an artist’s other works and
exhibits, the creation process of the pieces, and any restoration work completed.
Museum information includes the displays, statistics about the museum,
and an electronic exhibition catalog.
In figure 2.1, the artist information and museum information categories
are located directly across from the messaging cluster, which contains
statements focusing on the social and interactional potential of wireless
technology. People envisioned mobile devices as pushing information to
users but did not see the potential for using the devices for two-way communication
Finally in the crossing-boundaries duster, patrons express their desire
to extend their visitor learning experiences beyond the walls of the museum.
These statements highlight the potential for patrons to download
and bring information home with them ― through the development of automated,
seamless systems that electronically send relevant information to
visitors on completion of their visit to a museum, for example.
Figure 2.2 Stakeholder rankings of eight objectives for enhancing the museum experience with technology
(Museum Professionals, System Designers, Museum Patrons)
Figure 2.2 shows how the three stakeholders ― museum professionals,
system designers, and museum patrons ― ranked eight objectives for enhancing
the museum experience with mobile technologies. Clearly, these
groups had different priorities. A high correlation was found between the
rankings done by the designers and patrons (γ＝.99), and a much lower
correlation was found between the rankings done by these groups and by
museum professionals (γ＝.29). Designers and patrons were concerned
with basic features of the hand-held technologies, such as visual, auditory,
downloading, and visit-planning capabilities. These groups were also concerned
about screen size, flexibility, and usability both the patrons and
system designers felt that location- and way-finding features should be
included in a wireless application. 0n the other hand, museum staff and
administrators were most concerned with pushing the content, such as information
about artists, paintings, and the physical museum
For all stakeholders, messaging ― which would allow users to view and
provide feedback on art, make recommendations about particular exhibits,
annotate pieces, and interact with museum curators and staff ― was
consistently rated as less important than the other categories in this initial
needs assessment. Despite the view of many people that a visit to the museum
is a social experience, messaging and opportunities to interact with
the exhibits were ranked low (Gay ＆ Stefanone, 2002).
In summary, these ranking results inform several dimensions of integrating
wireless mobile computing applications in museum contexts across
three relevant social groups. The responses of the stakeholders reveal insights
into some pressing questions concerning the ways that museum visitors
might utilize mobile computing applications. Aside from offering
museum patrons access to content that relates to museum exhibits, the
proposed technology would also offer them messaging capabilities and
way-finding applications that cross the traditional physical boundaries of
Nevertheless, in this initial needs assessment, stakeholders ranked the
messaging or social aspect of wireless technology lower in importance
than the content traditionally developed by museums, such as information
about artists, artworks, and the museum itself. Many of the museum professionals
and patrons saw mobile technologies as simply upgraded digital
audio guides and electronic information cards.
2.4.1 Perceptions after Testing Prototypes
In the second phase of the needs assessment, we asked museum professionals
who had tested mobile computing prototypes to sort the statements
generated by the three stakeholder groups in the first phase. Museum professionals
from the Field Museum in Chicago, the American Museum of
the Moving Image (AMMI) in New York, and Kew Gardens, London,
participated in the second mapping exercise (figure 2.3). Comparing this
figure with figure 2.2 reveals some interesting findings. Whereas the museum
professionals in figure 2.2 consistently rated administration (including
using hand-helds to organize and maintain collections) as their most
important objective for the technology, museum professionals who had
experience with implementing hand-held devices rated administration as
or near least important. Messaging, on the other hand, moved from the
lowest ranking to a significantly higher rating of importance after museum
professionals tested the devices with actual visitors (Gay ＆ Stefanone, 2002).
Given the different contexts of the three museums involved in the rankings
shown in figure 2.3, a high level of variability was expected among ratings,
but many rankings are consistent across all three museums. Issues
relating to the interface of hand-held systems (including usability, flexibility,
and un cluttered screen design) ranked highest in perceived importance
among the three institutions.
Figure 2.3 Museum professional rankings of the initial stakeholders' rankings of eight
objectives for enhancing the museum experience with technology
(Field Museum (Chicago), American Museum of the Moving Image (New York), Kew Gardens (London))
Finally, at follow-up interviews with participants at the three museums,
users in these settings reported that they were interested in devices that
could promote social interactions with museum visitors and staff. For example,
several people mentioned that museums should try to include
recommender systems (organized recommendation-sharing programs),
annotation features, and ways to communicate with others. Young users
mentioned a feature that would allow visitors to meet one another and possibly
tour the museum together.
Many of the museum professionals expressed concerns that mobile technologies
that incorporate video and audio would interfere with the museum
experience ― that people would attend to their computing devices
rather than to the objects in the museum. Museum professionals also worried
about access, control, and cost issues.
2.4.2 Setting Priorities
The statement-generating concept map (see figure 2.1), the stakeholders'
rankings of objectives for the hand-held technologies (see figure 2.2), and
the museum professionals' assessments posttesting (see figure 2.3) helped
stakeholders to understand their own goals and objectives and their priorities
compared to other groups' concerns. Museum personnel and designers
realized that they needed to address some of the concerns of patrons
sooner rather than later in the project.
Several groups had markedly different concerns about hand-held technology
design and use, ranging from using hand-held technologies for
managing collections and audiences to attracting young people to museums.
One benefit of interpretive flexibility is that designers examine
stakeholders' concerns, consider the preferences of users with different
perspectives, and evaluate the extent that various stakeholders' preferences
should be incorporated into the new system. The comments made on surveys
and in concept-mapping sessions served as a catalyst for renegotiating
the museum’s goals, specifications, and solutions. Participants in this
study, for example, are beginning to focus on designing technologies for
young people and audiences who do not traditionally visit museums. Museums
are also beginning to examine the issue of integrating communication
and messaging tools into the prototypes ― something that they did not
originally cite as a priority.
our original evaluation goal for this study was to understand the features
that should be included in a single mobile computing application to
satisfy a broad range of museum interests. We have found it difficult to find
closure for any particular idea or set of ideas for museum applications.
Wireless technology standards are constantly changing, and people are becoming
accustomed to using mobile devices for a number of activities, including
phoning friends, accessing and managing schedules, accessing the
Web, and mapping geographical routes.
Because of the ubiquitous and flexible nature of these small mobile appliances,
the need to create specific museum applications suited for one or
two audiences may no longer be necessary. Designers can incorporate several
customizable designs based on the preferences expressed in the evaluation
results of relevant social groups (see chapter 5).
Finally, evaluators need to use various methods to discover discrepancies
early in the design process and communicate these discrepancies to relevant
groups. If discrepancies are not uncovered, development could continue
based on incorrect or incomplete visions of the needs of end-users
and other stakeholders (Kilker ＆ Gay, 1998).
2.5 A Social Constructivist Approach to Design and Evaluation
As with any useful analytical approach SCOT's ultimate benefit lies in its
ability to help researchers reframe the problem under study and to help designers
understand the goals of important stakeholders (Kilker ＆ Gsay, 1998).
This approach emphasizes the importance of social interactions in
the design of technology, uses an interpretive framework to understand inconsistent
results, resists premature closure of the design process, considers
the ways that relevant social groups are mediated and their differing
levels of influence on technology, and approaches iterative design and evaluation
as a socially constructed and negotiable process.
We found that our primary function as evaluators was to promote communication
among the relevant social groups participating in the design
process and to help those groups understand the differing needs of all the
stakeholders in the process. Evaluators can serve as closure mechanisms by
acting as intermediaries between the users and other relevant groups involved
in design. As demonstrated by the Handscape needs analysis, the
shortcomings of traditional evaluation models can be overcome by adopting
a group-centered design for collecting, analyzing, and reporting evaluation data.
The relevancy of a social group to a technology is not static but can
change over the course of a project. For example, the influence of museum
patrons on hand-held technology design can increase as systems are installed
and tested, as evidenced in the museum case study presented in this
chapter. Groups can also render themselves more (or less) relevant by participating
in (or opting out of) the design process. Stakeholders' beliefs
about design, interactivity, and the museum experience itself have shaped
both the design process and final product.
The technology reflects what the relevant stakeholders (museum professionals,
system designers, and museum patrons) believe is useful, appropriate,
and, in fact, possible, and the design process is one of constant
negotiation among group members with different backgrounds, strengths,
and goals. While museum patrons might prefer to see more user participation
in the design of software for mobile technology devices, museum
professionals might be reluctant to involve others in decisions about how
the museum presents itself. Programmers and designers might see technical
challenges and opportunities but neglect to take into account complex
political and economic issues.
A challenge with implementing a framework that employs a social construction
of technology framework is to define the boundaries and roles
of different social groups. To be relevant, a SCOT framework must balance
the needs of the various groups that are involved in design and evaluation
and their various notions of the actual and desirable levels of
influence that each group holds. During any evaluation process, evaluators
should examine why certain groups are more or less influential and what
consequences these influences have over the course of a project. Evaluators
can help interpret the demands of different groups, help each group understand
the perspective of other groups, depoliticize technology development,
and help groups reach consensus or closure(Kilker ＆ Gay, 1998).
An interpretivist approach, such as the SCOT framework that is advanced
in this chapter, takes a contextually based perspective that values the
multiple understandings, intentions, involvement, and perspectives of all
project participants. This approach orients interpretivist inquiry within a
meaningful framework that facilitates the evaluation processes, illuminates
tacit assumptions and contextual issues, and enhances the trustworthiness
and credibility of the findings by grounding them in users’ understandings.
Design is situated in a network of influencing social systems, and building
any technological system is a socially constructed and negotiable
process. By using an interpretive flexibility framework, developers
can understand stakeholders’ various goals and apparent inconsistencies.
When using the SCOT model, researchers are required to highlight differing
perceptions of a technology, gather differing assessments of the technology's
performance, determine the features that should be incorporated,
and decide the way that the features should operate in any given context.
The goals of the various groups involved in the production of a technology
can be very different, and therefore their interpretations of the project tend
to differ as well.
In conclusion, the design of any technical system requires careful consideration
of the interactions among the various groups that are working
to define and develop the system. To design an effective system that meets
the needs of various users, consistent and simultaneous attention must be
paid to a variety of social, organizational, administrative, and technical
concerns (Kilker & Gay, 1998; Levy & Marshall, 1995). The SCOT framework
offers an important approach to this potentially daunting challenge.
edited by ©M-SAKU Networks 2008