Place, Media and Activity

Chalmers, M. (2001) Place, Media and Activity. European Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work 2001, Bonn, Germany, 16-20 September 2001.

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The workshop's call for participation points out the changes in work and society related to the development of new technologies, forms of work and patterns of activity. The traditional notion of workplace is challenged by the convergence and intercommunication of technological devices, as are our approaches to design and theory. I'd like to argue that this is only problematic because the traditional view is rather reductionist and simplistic. I'd like to explore a different notion of what place is, and hence workplace. This builds on and extends the discussion of space and place in CSCW by Harrison and Dourish, taking an approach based on post-structuralist semiology that takes fuller account of the interdependence of media in human activity than older HCI and CSCW. People's activity continually combines and cuts across different media, interweaving those media and building up the patterns of association and use that make meaning. How people act and work is determined by the full combination of media that they can use, and hence a narrow focus on space as the paramount determinant of activity underrates the influence of other media. 'Place' is not solely determined by the physical medium of space. A person's work or activity may be influenced by the configuration of space around them and the interactions that space affords, but also by books, telephones, hypermedia, 3D computer graphics and so forth. Recent technological developments heighten or highlight a phenomenon already familiar through analysis of the effect of older media such as written text, maps and cinema. This stance is now being explored in the City project, which focuses on a treatment of the city that deliberately blurs the boundaries between physical and digital spaces. By combining mobile computers, hypermedia and virtual environments in one system, and allowing each person using each medium or combination of media to interact with people using every other medium, our system is both driven by our theoretical approach and driving the development.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Chalmers, Professor Matthew
Authors: Chalmers, M.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science

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