Future Living in a Participatory Way

Future Living in a Participatory Way

Laurence Claeys (Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, Belgium) and Johan Criel (Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, Belgium)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-264-0.ch051
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This chapter introduces the concept of critical user participation as a means to see the socio-technical gap in context aware applications as an opportunity rather then a problem space. It argues that for context aware applications to get integrated in everyday life, the principles of critical user participation as defined in this chapter must be fulfilled. In the first part of the chapter the authors scrutinize the concepts of “context” and “participation” and argue why critical user participation principles should be fulfilled when developing and interacting with context aware applications. The second part consists of an empirical study on the existing vision and context aware applications of the “homes of the future” in Belgium and the Netherlands. In the conclusions a reflection is made upon the opportunities of the socio-technical gap to empower the users of context aware applications.
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We are responsible for the world in which we live not because it is an arbitrary construction of our choosing, but because it is sedimented out of particular practices that we have a role in shaping.

—Karen Barad (1998 p. 102)



Imagine you live in a context aware house that reacts on you and the environment you live in. When you wake up lights automatically switch on and curtains open. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror when brushing your teeth in the morning, a shopping list of things you need to buy today is displayed based on what is in your fridge. When entering the kitchen you smell the coffee that is ready. The door locks automatically when you leave the house and when coming home in the evening the song that corresponds with your current mood and day activities is playing and your house is warm because the central heating was switched on one hour before you entered the house so that it had your preferred temperature.

The ideal situation: an invisible, personalized, adaptive and anticipatory house that mediates social interaction between you and your environment. It seems perfect to let boring routines be carried out by a system. But how will the context aware house act when you are sick and want to stay in bed? And will you be able to get coffee even if you don’t have brushed your teeth, or get coffee for two when somebody stayed overnight?

Different authors (e.g. Weiser, 1991) already predicted these moral questions long time ago. Technically a lot can nowadays be realized that works very well in a lab environment. The behavior of context aware houses can be defined as a set of rules, each formulated as actions that are executed when certain conditions are met. Rules in computer programs, however, become more on more complex and are most often hidden to the users. Although technologically context aware houses can be realized, why aren’t they used frequently in everyday life? Is it because they are too expensive to install? Is it because it’s all about rather useless luxury applications? Maybe, but the embedded vision on ‘context’ within the application and the vision on ‘participation’ when developing applications seem also to be part of the problem.

From above examples we can distillate two important observations, typical for context aware applications. First, the issue that the vision on context awareness is very much technological driven and often do not take into account the meaning of context for the person that acts in his or her own environment. But context isn’t something that describes a setting; it’s something that people do, the horizon within which the user makes sense of the world (Heidegger, 1927). Therefore context cannot be defined as a fixed set of characteristics. Second, context awareness seems to imply loose of control for the person concerned. In contradiction to almost all other applications, typically for context awareness is that there is no need ‘to give authorization to do this or that’. Issues as privacy, autonomy and control frequently don’t seem to be implicated. Users often don’t have impact on the feedback loop (Crutzen, 2005a).

We believe that these issues are an important part of the explanation for the only very slowly integration of context aware applications in everyday life. The explanation for this could lie in the difference between what society wants and what technology does, or between social requirements and technical feasibility (e.g. Ackerman, 2000). We try to define the problem in another way because we believe that technology and society could never be ‘matched totally’ before the adoption process starts. We consider the socio-technical gap not as a problem but as a reality. The gap implies opportunities for co-construction and diversification for the development of context aware applications.

We propose to take the ‘best’ out of both worlds by introducing the concept of ‘critical user participation’ going back to the original meaning of user participation the Participatory Design movement attached to it, namely the issue of power and its distribution (Beck, 2001).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Participation: A process in which two or more parties influence each other in the making of decisions. In the decision-making each individual member has equal power to determine the outcome of decisions.

Ambient Intelligence: A vision on the future that assumes that technology will be an integral part of interactions, but that the technology behind will ‘disappear’ and invisibly be integrated in everyday life world. Other metaphors that assume this disappearing interface and invisibility of technology are: ubiquitous computing, ubicomp, pervasive computing, everywhere or calm computing.

Empowerment: The process of strengthening of among others individuals where they get grip on their own situation and their surroundings, and this by means of acquiring control, tightening up critical conscience and stimulating participation.

Context Gap: The gap between what technologies can measure and calculate from sensor data or other types of electronic information and the complex, individually perceived context in a user’s environment.

Future Living: The vision on the way citizens will live in the future, mostly represented in lab context with focus on innovative technologies.

Science and Technology Studies (STS): An interdisciplinary human science discipline that focuses on society and technology. It is developed as reaction on the lack of interest within human and social sciences to study technology as materiality. Characterizing for STS is the social constructivist emphasis that it lays on the vision on technology and society. Science & Technology Studies has his roots within the so-called Strong Programme within science & knowledge sociology known by the work of David Bloor and Barry Barnes.

Context: From a positivistic worldview context are the who’s, where’s, when’s and what’s of entities. From a social constructivist worldview context is about meanings that are constructed in interaction with persons, places or objects and not about entities as persons, places or objects as such. Context then defines interaction, but interaction is also changing under influence of context.

Critical User Participation: A form of user participation that refers to the issue of power and its distribution regarding technology. Empowerment of the user is put forward. It is a reaction on the approach of seeing the user as in need of ‘simple and easy’ technology.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Ben Shneiderman
Brian Whitworth, Aldo de Moor
Brian Whitworth, Aldo de Moor
List of Reviewers
Prologue: General Socio-Technical Theory
Chapter 1
Brian Whitworth
A socio-technical system (STS) is a social system built upon a technical base. An STS adds social requirements to human-computer interaction (HCI)... Sample PDF
The Social Requirements of Technical Systems
Chapter 2
Matti Tedre
This chapter introduces the reader to some social research characteristics that are central to the social study of computer science. It introduces... Sample PDF
The Social Study of Computer Science
Chapter 3
Ann Borda, Jonathan P. Bowen
This chapter introduces the concept of a Virtual Organization (VO), using the Internet to link geographically separated participants in an efficient... Sample PDF
Virtual Collaboration and Community
Chapter 4
David Davenport
This chapter analyses the effect that social values have on the design of technical systems. Beginning with an examination of the role technology... Sample PDF
The Social Derivation of Technical Systems
Chapter 5
Ken Eason, José Abdelnour-Nocera
This chapter sets the traditional focus of socio-technical systems theory on primary work systems in a modern context where information and... Sample PDF
Socio-Technical Theory and Work Systems in the Information Age
Chapter 6
Peter Day
This chapter introduces the community engagement strategy of the Community Network Analysis (CNA) project and considers its significance to research... Sample PDF
An Engagement Strategy for Community Network Research and Design
Chapter 7
Cleidson R.B. de Souza, David F. Redmiles
This chapter reviews the socio-technical relationship between organizational and software structure. It describes the early theoretical work about... Sample PDF
On the Alignment of Organizational and Software Structure
Ronald K. Stamper
Prologue: Socio-Technical Perspectives
Chapter 8
Catherine Heeney
The chapter discusses the traditional expectations about privacy protection and argues that current models for the governance of data do not... Sample PDF
Privacy and the Identity Gap in Socio-Technical Systems
Chapter 9
Ronald Leenes
Second Life can be seen as a social microcosmos in which fairly normal people lead a social life and where social needs develop. Privacy is one of... Sample PDF
Privacy Regulation in the Metaverse
Chapter 10
David Tuffley
This chapter introduces a process reference model of leadership for integrated teams operating in virtual environments. Geographically dispersed... Sample PDF
Leadership of Integrated Teams in Virtual Environments
Chapter 11
Monique Janneck
For a technology use to be successful, the circumstance of its introduction into a use context—or recontextualization— is crucial. The users of a... Sample PDF
Recontextualising Technology in Appropriation Processes
Chapter 12
Petter Bae Brandtzæg, Jan Heim
The last few years have seen a substantial growth in online communities such as MySpace and Facebook. In order to survive and increase in size... Sample PDF
Explaining Participation in Online Communities
Chapter 13
Malcolm Shore
This chapter is about the way in which computer hackers invoke social networking paradigms to support and encourage their activities. It reviews the... Sample PDF
Cyber Security and Anti-Social Networking
Chapter 14
Wilson Huang, Shun-Yung Kevin Wang
This chapter examines the gaps that arise between reactive social control systems and proactive technology systems. The authors further link these... Sample PDF
Emerging Cybercrime Variants in the Socio-Technical Space
Chapter 15
Elayne W. Coakes, Peter Smith, Dee Alwis
This chapter presents the argument that service innovation is promoted by supporting divergent interpretations, enlarging the scope of employee and... Sample PDF
Developing Innovative Practice in Service Industries
Mark Aakhus
Prologue: Socio-Technical Analysis
Chapter 16
Hans Weigand
Often socio-technical systems are designed simply on the basis of what the user asks, and without considering explicitly whether the required... Sample PDF
Using Communication Norms in Socio-Technical Systems
Chapter 17
Jonas Sjöström, Göran Goldkuhl
This chapter introduces the theoretical framework of Socio-Instrumental Pragmatism (SIP) and illustrates how it has been used as an analytic... Sample PDF
Socio-Instrumental Pragmatism in Action
Chapter 18
Paul J. Bracewell
Analytics provides evidence for objective corporate decision-making. Lack of understanding of analytical techniques can create confusion amongst... Sample PDF
A Framework for Using Analytics to Make Decisions
Chapter 19
Mikael Lind, Peter Rittgen
Setting up co-design processes involving several stakeholders is a complex task. In this chapter the authors have looked upon experiences from... Sample PDF
The Challenges of Co-Design and the Case of e-Me
Chapter 20
Harry S. Delugach
Automated tools are often used to support software development workflows. Many of these tools are aimed toward a development workflow that relies... Sample PDF
Formal Analysis of Workflows in Software Development
Chapter 21
Dorit Nevo, Brent Furneaux
This chapter reviews the significance of expectations to information systems development with particular emphasis on the process of requirements... Sample PDF
The Role of Expectations in Information Systems Development
Chapter 22
Jeff Axup
With mobile technologies increasingly weaving themselves into the fabric of our communities, it would be beneficial to increase our understanding of... Sample PDF
Building a Path for Future Communities
Thomas Erickson
Prologue: Socio-Technical Design
Chapter 23
Thomas Herrmann
Socio-technical systems integrate technical and organizational structures and are related to various stakeholders and their perspectives. The design... Sample PDF
Systems Design with the Socio-Technical Walkthrough
Chapter 24
Anders I. Mørch
This chapter presents a translational approach to socio-technical design, as a new approach to the theorybased design of user interfaces, supported... Sample PDF
Applied Pragmatism and Interaction Design
Chapter 25
Manuel Kolp, Yves Wautelet
Information systems are deeply linked to human activities. Unfortunately, development methodologies have been traditionally inspired by programming... Sample PDF
A Social Framework for Software Architectural Design
Chapter 26
Designing for Trust  (pages 388-401)
Piotr Cofta
Designing for trust is a methodology that attempts to design our perception of trust in information systems, in the long-term expectation that such... Sample PDF
Designing for Trust
Chapter 27
Dan Dixon
Three decades ago the concept of pattern languages were introduced in the field of architecture and they have since become widely used in... Sample PDF
Pattern Languages for CMC Design
Chapter 28
Anton Nijholt, Dirk Heylen, Rutger Rienks
In this chapter the authors discuss a particular approach to the creation of socio-technical systems for the meeting domain. Besides presenting a... Sample PDF
Creating Social Technologies to Assist and Understand Social Interactions
Chapter 29
Jos Benders, Ronald Batenburg, Paul Hoeken, Roel Schouteten
This chapter sketches an Organization Design perspective called “Modern Socio-technical Design”, and subsequently discusses the implementation of... Sample PDF
A Modern Socio-Technical View on ERP-Systems
Chapter 30
Mary Allan, David Thorns
The chapter introduces the Bourdieuean habitus and field theory as a framework for an alternative way of investigating how perceptions of Media Rich... Sample PDF
Being Face to Face: A State of Mind or Technological Design?
Chapter 31
Rebecca M. Ellis
This chapter introduces the work of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and his concepts of “the field” and “capital” in relation to eBay. In any given... Sample PDF
Applying Bourdieu to eBay's Success and Socio-Technical Design
Chapter 32
Christopher A. Miller
This chapter focuses not on technology mediation of human relationships, but rather on human-like relationships with technology itself. The author... Sample PDF
Relationships and Etiquette with Technical Systems
Anton Nijholt
Prologue: Socio-Technical Implementation
Chapter 33
Laura Anna Ripamonti, Ines Di Loreto, Dario Maggiorini
The necessity of supporting more and more social interaction (and not only mere information sharing) in online environments is the disruptive force... Sample PDF
Augmenting Actual Life Through MUVEs
Chapter 34
Mohamed Ben Ammar, Mahmoud Neji, Adel M. Alimi
Affective computing is a new artificial intelligence area that deals with the possibility of making computers able to recognize human emotions in... Sample PDF
The Role of Affect in an Agent-Based Collaborative E-Learning System Used for Engineering Education
Chapter 35
Pernilla Qvarfordt, Shumin Zhai
Eye-gaze plays an important role in face-to-face communication. This chapter presents research on exploiting the rich information contained in human... Sample PDF
Gaze-Aided Human-Computer and Human-Human Dialogue
Chapter 36
Licia Calvi
The chapter presents and combines the results of two case studies dealing with online communities1 in order to understand under which conditions... Sample PDF
How to Engage Users in Online Sociability
Chapter 37
Ivan Launders
The UK National Health Service (NHS) provides the opportunity to undertake local socio-technical system design to help staff maximize the... Sample PDF
Socio-Technical Systems and Knowledge Representation
Chapter 38
Claire de la Varre, Julie Keane, Matthew J. Irvin, Wallace Hannum
This chapter describes the design of a sociotechnical system to support rural high school students in an online distance education (ODE) course. The... Sample PDF
Social Support for Online Learning
Chapter 39
Jeremy Birnholtz, Emilee J. Rader, Daniel B. Horn, Thomas Finholt
This chapter uses the theoretical notion of common ground to explore remote participation in experimental research. On one hand, there is a desire... Sample PDF
Enabling Remote Participation in Research
Starr Roxanne Hiltz
Prologue: Socio-Technical Evaluation
Chapter 40
John M. Carroll, Mary Beth Rosson, Umer Farooq, Jamika D. Burge
Socio-technical systems are social systems that incorporate technological infrastructures. At the group level of analysis, the most important... Sample PDF
Community Collective Efficacy
Chapter 41
Tanguy Coenen, Wouter Van den Bosch, Veerle Van der Sluys
This chapter views social networking sites as supporting social capital and the advantages which derive from it, namely emotional support... Sample PDF
An Analysis of the Socio-Technical Gap in Social Networking Sites
Chapter 42
Olga Kulyk, Betsy van Dijk, Paul van der Vet, Anton Nijholt, Gerrit van der Veer
This chapter addresses awareness support to enhance teamwork in co-located collaborative environments. In particular, the authors focus on the... Sample PDF
Situational Awareness In Collaborative Work Environments
Chapter 43
Janet L. Holland
This chapter deals with research on the development and use of an assessment instrument for measuring affective satisfaction in online learning. The... Sample PDF
A Scale of Affective Satisfaction in Online Learning Communities
Chapter 44
David Hinds, Ronald M. Lee
In this chapter, the authors suggest how measures of “social network health” can be used to evaluate the status and progress of a virtual community.... Sample PDF
Assessing the Social Network Health of Virtual Communities
Chapter 45
Bertram C. Bruce, Andee Rubin, Junghyun An
This chapter introduces situated evaluation as an approach for evaluating socio-technical innovation and change. Many current evaluations simply... Sample PDF
Situated Evaluation of Socio-Technical Systems
Chapter 46
Heike Winschiers-Theophilus
Communities all over the world have established their own value systems which do not necessarily correlate with the intrinsic values of technology.... Sample PDF
Cultural Appropriation of Software Design and Evaluation
Charles Steinfield
Prologue: The Future of Socio-Technical Systems
Chapter 47
Peter J. Denning
Wicked problems (messes) are tangled social situations that are too costly to stay in and too intransigent to get out of. Collaboration is essential... Sample PDF
Resolving Wicked Problems through Collaboration
Chapter 48
Rachel McLean
As a social activity, the shopping experience can not be recreated or improved through technical design alone. This chapter proposes that there is... Sample PDF
The Myth of the e-Commerce Serf to Sovereign Powershift
Chapter 49
Theresa Dirndorfer Anderson
This chapter explores the challenges associated with teaching the principles of socio-technical systems in the dynamic climate that characterizes... Sample PDF
Teaching the Socio-Technical Practices of Tomorrow Today
Chapter 50
Isa Jahnke
The chapter describes an empirical study of a socio-technical community—as an extended part of an institution— with the aim of revealing its... Sample PDF
Socio-Technical Communities: From Informal to Formal?
Chapter 51
Laurence Claeys, Johan Criel
This chapter introduces the concept of critical user participation as a means to see the socio-technical gap in context aware applications as an... Sample PDF
Future Living in a Participatory Way
Chapter 52
Paul Hodgson
This chapter analyses the formation and generation of social trust through communications technology in postmodern society, and presents some... Sample PDF
The Impact of Communications Technology on Trust
Chapter 53
Kenneth E. Kendall, Julie E. Kendall
This chapter explores the social, organizational, and individual impacts of emerging information technologies using the advent of recent... Sample PDF
Good and Evil in the Garden of Emerging Information Technologies
About the Contributors