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Where The Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction
Paul Dourish
MIT Press, 2001
ISBN 0-262-04196-0
256 pages

It is a revolutionary text, very clear and concisely written; not purely focussing on particular HCI related topics, nor on sociological background - but on the mental concepts and their development that created and create our digital world. IMO he turns with a simple mental excercise the concepts of "tangible computing" and "social computing" and semantic social networks around.

His reasoning is deeply rooted in phenomenology (which receives a very handy introduction until about p. 100) and everyone interested in p. & digital media should read it.

In this mental leap he describes how "tangible computing" and "social computing" should be considered as one discipline "embodied interaction". Tangible computing describes that we interact with objects in real space instead with virtual objects on a screen. Social computing implies all the properties that come from ubiquitous computing. For example as Bluetooth devices exchange info among each other. Well, Dourish concludes, actually just as people do. Which is IMO the revolutionary twisting, switching to a new paradigm.

He also compares different exemplary methodologies & methods with each other, and he has the ingenious talent to explain the similarities between these (seemingly) contradictory or incomparable propositions in clear & simple words. Enlightening.

From there he develops a phenomenological approach from Heidegger over Wittgenstein to how we actually view computer systems today - and that with a simple switch of mental models we can discover those features or properties which really are needed.

It might also be interesting for those that are doing research in tangibility and deftness, as far as i can see.

transparency: p. 83
space & place p. 89 !!!
locales framework p. 93
embodiement p. 100

coupling p. 147 - orientation in mediaspace!
How do "users" make us of an application? How do they discover which sign offers which affordance?
What principles lie behind social and tangible computing?
Tangible computing = the relationship between activities and the space:
a) configurability of space
b) relationship body to task
c) physical constraints p. 158

Practice not only details of what people do, action fits in a wider scheme of ongoing activities that makes it meaningful.

p. 161 core data!!

Evolution of practice: practice evolves AROUND technologies, OVER time, WITHIN a community.

Six principles of concern:
- computation, not computers (Papert, Kay) p. 164

The essence of a medium is that it can be modulated.
Media are transformed in some way to carry information.

TRANSFORMATION: e.g. games of webpages > links to social networks.

p. 165 visibility
1) visibility of activities of one person on to another across time and space
2) effect of the system
3) visibility of system response
"awareness interface"

feedback loops p. 166

Set of practices.
"Practice modulates systems as signals modulate media."
"In turns ...!"

Meaning arises on multiple levels.

Artefacts can be of two dimensions:
iconic / symbolic - object / action

(contrary to Norman's "emotion" p. 170 - 175)

COUPLING: "Intentional connection that arises in the course of interaction. Designers can only suggest coupling, yet intentionally make it." p. 172

(How about contiguity??)

"Meaning is an aspect of use, interaction and practice, it is something that resides primarily in the hands of the user, not of the designer."

The impact: The first concerns the designers stance, where as the second concerns activity. p. 173

Heidegger examples: (quote / web? p. 184

p. 185 "Meaning is not inherent to information; information is made meaningful! Intentionality is a matter of context, and of doing." (emph. by author)

More information on Pauls Website:

last update: 11/19/02012 1:02

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