Thursday, May 11, 2006

Li and Landay: activity theory meets ubiquitous computing

Here is a thoughtful, interesting paper by Yang Li and James Landay that applies activity theory to problems in ubiquitous computing.

It is called Exploring Activity-Based Ubiquitous Computing: Interaction Styles, Models and Tool Support.

The authors want to move beyond the task/action level to longer trajectories of activity at the object/activity level. They are implementing an "ActivityStudio" to help designers and analysts model long-term activities such as keeping fit or providing elder care.

Their insight is that these activities are not just a linear series of tasks, but a set of actions, driven by goals, that unfold in the larger framing of motivated human activity. We may begin a fitness program but have to tailor it to injury, travel, aging, and other events. The object itself subtly changes as we respond to change and hence goals and actions change.

The paper is a short, sweet piece and highly recommended. The authors show how activity theory can be used in a practical way to model activity in an ambitious project of ubiquitous computing.

I got to meet Yang Li at the Conference in Montreal which was a treat.

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