Category Archives: cscw


I just thought of a model for looking at sources of meta-data. Thought I would share it with people who want to employ meta-data from systems like Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, etc… to the design of intelligent and aware information systems. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Filed under cscw, Design, Facebook, Mobile, Social Software, ubicomp

Gender and Home-Computing

Seiter, Ellen. 1999. Television and the Internet. In Seiter, E. 1999. Television and New Media Audiences. Oxford University Press.

(Reprint found in Turow, J. and Kavanaugh, A. 2003. The Wired Homestead: An MIT Sourcebook on the Internet and Family. MIT Press.)

Using a lens of critical sociology, Seiter compares TV to the Internet. She does this in the home to examine how the Internet may be continuing to marginalize women.

The original book was published in 1999. The chapter appears to have been written just before then (the latest citation is in 1997). I raise this point first because I think that Seiter’s characterization of “the Internet” exists now as a snapshot in history. For example, Seiter argues that people are first introduced to computers from their exposure to them at the workplace. Therefore, any aversion to technology that is patterned by workplace discrimination will carry over to the home. I do not question the presence of this discrimination. Instead, I think that individuals are no longer introduced to computing at the workplace. One case: children now encounter computing at school — and no longer simply in a hobbyist context; mobile phones, Myspace, and instant messaging are now the social norm for flirting, socializing, and networking. There are other changes in the social-technical landscape (the rise of blogs, end-user generated content, wikipedia, casual gaming, adoption of online shopping and the media center).

These differences require me to make some choices about what I draw from Seiter’s article. Here is what I would like to mull over:

  1. There are “gains and losses at stake in promoting different representations of the audiences and computer users”. Agreed. A misunderstanding of how women see computing technology will affect the design of computing-technology in the home.
  2. “Women are less like than men to spend time doing ‘fun computing'” Is this still true? It may be, I would be curious about the recent research. Seiter’s argument hinges on framing computing as a hobbyist activity, but I think that computing today has expanded to include other kinds of activity (e.g. socialization, casual gaming, youtubing, news junkies, hardcore gaming, etc…).
  3. Television has an advantage over computers: “accessibility by more than one person at a time”. Still the case today? I guess…

Ok that’s all I got for now.

Leave a comment

Filed under cscw, Digital Divide, Home

Mobile phones facilitate romance in modern India

Modern India:

“The mobile phone makes it a little easier to facilitate an arranged marriage at a distance,” Wei said. She discovered instances where people used mobile phones to get to know partners vetted and approved by their parents. Mobile phones could influence the trend toward relaxing traditions on the amount of contact permitted before marriage, Wei said.

The research found several instances where mobile phones played a role in romance:

  • In arranged marriages: A young man was given some time alone with a prospective bride-to-be and he had one question for her: “What is your mobile number?”
  • Between working couples: One research participant often called or sent text messages to his wife, also living in Bangalore. If he lost his mobile phone he would be scared, he said, not because he had lost a phone but because he had lost this connection with his wife.
  • Traditional etiquette: Indian mobile phone companies typically bill the person making the call. Men will occasionally ignore or hang up on a girlfriend and then call her right back, a modern instance of picking up the tab.
  • Domestic spats: One partner might deliberately ignore calls to punish the other, or one might become angry when the other wasn’t answering. In one instance a participant threatened his partner that he would not answer her calls for a month.

Leave a comment

Filed under cscw, Mobile

Family Technology: Rebuilding a Plane in Mid-flight and Why Fix What Ain’t (Too) Broke?

Venkatesh, A. 1985. A Conceptualization of the Household/Technology Interaction. In: Elizabeth C. Hirschman & Morris B. Holbrook (eds.), Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. XII, 1985, pp.189-194.

I found this paper to be valuable in how it acknowledges the fit of technology into a home and examines different dimensions of family technology. Venkatesh introduces a number of different lenses for looking at a household. One can see the household as a social space, an activity space, or a technology space. Household technology space is a process and a set of dimensions: A device can be expressive or instrumental. Task-orient or pleasure-oriented. Etc…

W.r.t. process, I find it interesting how Venkatesh characterizes the family as, using my own words, being in an established pattern of technology use. Or, “most household technologies are geared towards the production process rather than the consumption process”. That is, a family, likely, has found some way to use technology in everyday life. Why add anything new? Venkatesh (1996) states that

Computers can enter the technological space in two ways:

  • By competing with the entrenched technologies,
    performing the existing tasks better or more efficiently)
    and at less cost
  • By permitting activities not possible through
    these entrenched technologies, creating new realities
    and possibilities only computers are capable
    of creating

Agreed. It’s hard to develop computing-technologies for homes because homes are always “working”.

  • 1. It’s hard to find the right time to introduce new technology for a family

Imagine developing an email client for a company. The ideal point to introduce your new email client is at the beginning of a project. Families do not work that way. They grow in a continous, organic mess. Depending on the functional goal of your design, it can be almost impossible to find the equivalent of a “new project cycle” to introduce new computing-technology. Exceptions exist: if you develop education software for grade 5, you can adopt the software when your child enters the fifth grade.

  • 2. If you’re trying to develop computing-technology to enhance everyday life, most families already “got it together”.

Venkatesh describes a family as an organization that is focused on production, not consumption. I speculate that families are this way because they don’t have time to reflect and choose among solutions or products. Life advances tirelessly and families simply have to operate: bills, members, school, work, chores, etc… Adding new technology to the mix (no matter how helpful), is not necessarily the obvious choice. Sometimes, it is risky to do. Why fix something that’s not (all that) broken?

… hmmm, I thought I was going to post about something else. (The characterization of technology as a consumer item). Oh well, maybe next time.


Venkatesh, A. 1996. Computers and other interactive technologies for the home. Commun. ACM 39, 12 (Dec. 1996), 47-54.

Leave a comment

Filed under CHI, cscw, Home, Rhythms

The social implications of emerging technologies

Kostakos, V., O’Neill, E., Little, L. and Sillence, E. 2005. The Social Implications of Emerging Technologies. <i>Interacting with Computers</i> 17:5, September 2005, pp. 475-483.

From this editorial and in response to my post below, I would say that “technology” is a too broad a label and that “computing” is, for now, narrow enough to make arguments about it. W.r.t. “technology”, consider this: Kostakos et al. (2005) are willing to include the discovery of fire under their definition of technology. This make sense to me. This is not useful to me because I, personally, am not interested in understanding how to design “fire-based” technologies to encourage closeness in a family. (Who is to say? Perhaps we should have a field of Human-Fire Interaction :p) However, Kostakos et al. are very comfortable discussing the design of “computing” in the home. The term they use is: “mobile and pervasive computing”. My sense is that the umbrella term, “ubiquitous computing”, sits at a level that is broad enough to encompass a class of objects and narrow enough to include (pretty much) all that I am interested in studying.

Side Note: I wonder if this term “computing” is more useful because the definition of computing is more concrete than that of technology. Additionally, is it more concrete because we can envision a class of objects that are “computers” and aren’t? This goes back to my prior post. My opinion is that “computing” is recognizable now, so, “computing” in the home is a useful term — now. If computing seeps into every aspect of society, in an unrecognizable way, then maybe “computing” will become as vague as “technology”. I believe that I am speculating about the future. Meanwhile, I will continue to use “computing” as a focusing term for my research. </end speculation>

I would also say that even so, the statement that “computing in the home isolates its members” is not clear cut.

This is important to me because I am trying to frame my research. So far, I can say I am interested in the home and that I am interested in designing (computing-based) technology for it. I cannot say that I am motivated to do this because “computing” isolates family-members. More to come later.

Leave a comment

Filed under CHI, cscw, ubicomp

Computing in the Home


This is a good read. Some notes:

(a) TVs, radios, and telephones are all subsets of “technology”. These labels make it possible to ask questions like: “Does television bring a family together or push it apart?”

The same can be said about the “PC”. But, once you break computing out into little pieces: web-refridgerator, toaster-alarm, bed-network, media center, game console, IM teddybear… Are you allowed to still ask if “Computing brings families together or push them apart?”

Leave a comment

Filed under CHI, cscw, HCI, Home

HCI Remixed

This is cool: HCI Remixed

Leave a comment

Filed under cscw