Socio-technical Factors in the Deployment of Participatory Pervasive Systems in Non-Expert Communities

Socio-technical Factors in the Deployment of Participatory Pervasive Systems in Non-Expert Communities

Andreas Komninos (Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland), Brian MacDonald (Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland) and Peter Barrie (Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-611-4.ch014
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This chapter discusses the design and development of an interactive mobile tourist guide system according to the principles of Pervasive Computing laid out by Hansmann (2004) and presents solutions to the technical issues encountered in the development of a multi-tiered system that encompasses a wide ecology of devices. The chapter further presents the non-technical issues encountered during a live trial of the system and uses the experience gathered from this deployment to present evidence that Hansmann’s (2004) four principles require the addition of a fifth principle, which is defined and based on hedonic values. In this view, the latter are crucial to the successful adoption of mobile and pervasive systems.
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Rural communities face increasing pressure and difficulties that arise from an over-reliance on a declining agricultural sector, ageing populations and poor access to services. Many rural communities are finding that tourism is an increasingly lucrative business and have adapted to provide better accommodation and recreation facilities to attract tourists. Development incentives and funding packages have helped rural communities set up and improve the levels of tourism-related services. However, while Web and Mobile technologies for tourism have become a primary tool for planning and organising tourism in economically developed urban centres, a clear divide between the online presence of rural tourism businesses and service provision (information, booking, enquiries) exists.

In developed countries, the presence of IT equipment and Internet connectivity in rural tourism businesses is at high levels. Findings from previous research (Deakins et al., 2004; Pease et al., 2005; Huggins & Izushi, 2002; Buick, 2003; Duffy, 2006) suggest that while rural businesses understand the potential benefits of adopting ICT and innovation in their operations, particularly the “image” benefits that technology innovation offers to potential customers, there appear to be barriers preventing the integration of innovation. Literature identifies the main barriers to ICT used to be the lack of IT training, cost of relevant hardware and software, security concerns, and dependency on external experts. Major barriers highlighted are also the fear of technology itself and the fear of displaying ignorance of IT especially to peers.

With research in the provision of information on mobile devices (Cheverst et al., 2008; Parikh & Lazowska, 2006; Jones et al., 2005; Cheverst et al., 2000; Dearden & Lo, 2005; Dunlop et al., 2004; Kenteris et al., 2009; Vansteerwegen & Van Oudheusden. 2006) feeding increasingly in to mainstream tourism, the barriers of IT training and external expert dependency are increasingly important; at the moment, it is almost impossible for a rural business to integrate and market itself on mobile platforms. In this chapter, we present the design and development of a participatory pervasive computing system based on Bluetooth beacons that transmit up-to-date map-based tourist information to visitors’ mobiles. The information is maintained and updated by local businesses through a simple web interface, with each business responsible for their own content. The system is designed to remove the barrier of IT training by making use of existing skills (web browsing) and also to address the problem of reliance on external experts as the system automatically configures and compiles itself.

We name this system with the initials MiniGIST (Miniature Geographic Information System for Tourism) and introduce the system in a Scottish rural community. This chapter explains the multi-tiered architecture of the system that allows the integration of diverse device ecology and affords the participation of non-expert users into the process of ubiquitous creation and acquisition of information. The chapter discusses lessons learnt in the process of designing, developing and evaluating the MiniGIST system and examines these lessons under the principles of Pervasive Computing proposed by Hansmann (2004).

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