Situating Ubiquitous Computing in Everyday Life: Bridging the Social and Technical Divide

Workshop to be held at Ubicomp 2005, Tokyo, Japan, 11 September 2005


Workshop 7


Attendance, Submissions & Selection




Important Dates

Extended Submission Deadline: 18 July 2005
Acceptance Notification: 25 July  2005
Final Version: 8 August 2005

Workshop Date: 11 September 2005

Submission Guidelines

Submit PDF version of paper to

Format according to Springer-Verlag LNCS Authors' instructions page

Call for Position Papers

"The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it. (Mark Weiser, "The Computer for the Twenty First Century")

If we take Weiser's vision seriously, then it is clear that the ultimate challenge for ubiquitous computing is to weave or situate new technologies into the very fabric of everyday life. Despite a number of impressive efforts developing and evaluating prototype systems, many researchers will no doubt recognize that Ubicomp demonstrations are nevertheless very distinguishable. Such systems have yet to disappear or become an unremarkable feature of everyday life - this, we suggest, largely being a result of where emphasis is placed in the development of ubiquitous computing systems. Although attempts have been made to understand the fabric of everyday life of target users, emphasis to date has primarily been placed on demonstrating theoretical principles from computer science and the capabilities of new ubiquitous technologies. Given the nascent state of the field, this has been an understandable first phase of growth. Nonetheless, with the movement of computing research away from the workplace and its diversification into novel areas of everyday life, the time is ripe for serious reflection on the nature of everyday life and its importance to the ongoing development of ubiquitous computing systems.

What we are suggesting then is that there is a distinct and pressing need for Ubicomp to reconsider its priorities for the field to develop along the path envisioned by Weiser. This will involve rethinking current development strategies, which primarily focus on developing more novel, scalable and reliable solutions, to incorporate a complementary strand of research that is concerned to understand the social character of everyday life. The purpose of this complementary strand of work will be to inform the development of technologies that resonate with the ordinary activities that lend a setting its everyday nature.

Without exception new technologies are made at home or woven into everyday life by situating them into a world (or more prosaically a setting) that has whatever organization it already has. The technology purchase relies on its capacity to be situated in and amongst that organization. We are suggesting, then, that understanding the socially organized character of a setting and its activities is a matter of central importance to the development of ubiquitous computing for, as Weiser himself observed, the field should be concerned with making machines fit the human environment, instead of forcing humans to enter theirs.

Thus, we invite position papers from an interdisciplinary mix of participants who investigate and develop ubiquitous computing that bridges the social and technical divide. Contributions from those already using identified themes to inform their research, or who have an active interest in doing so, will be especially welcome.

Workshop Themes

As researchers and developers our sense is that what is needed are new frameworks, methodologies, and empirical studies to illustrate ways in which the social and the technical may be combined to enable ubiquitous computing to be made at home in everyday settings of use. This will require close and ongoing cooperation between social and cultural analysts, computer scientists, and engineers. To foster such collaboration we propose a workshop programme that brings participants together to consider themes of broad relevance:  

  • Interaction Design: What underpins or constitutes ordinary activity is human interaction with others, artefacts, and environments. The notion of interaction design has already been appropriated by the wider design community but we invoke it here not necessarily to import existing agendas but to raise the study of people interactions with one another, through artefacts that are situated in the environments they inhabit, as a central theme or topic for Ubicomp design

  • Accountability: A defining feature of human-human interaction is accountability or the telling of what is going on, what’s being done, how something happened, what will happen next, etc. Accountability is a fundamental barrier to human-computer interaction and as heterogeneous computing applications and devices proliferate, combine and become more complex, the problem of accountability becomes a core theme for Ubicomp to address

  • Awareness: Closely coupled to accountability, the theme of awareness draws our attention to the ways in which people keep track of ordinary activities and make situated judgments and decisions. Of particular and distinct note is the role of the physical environment or ecology in awareness and the ways in which people exploit the ecologies they inhabit to organize their interactions

  • Tangibility: Technical research in tangible computing is well established. However, Ubicomp currently offers little analysis of the everyday use and manipulation of artefacts. Existing studies draw attention to the close coupling of object manipulation with the ecology of space, opening up new avenues for interdisciplinary consideration of the interplay between social studies and the design of ubiquitous devices that are embedded in the physical environment

  • Coordination: Being dispersed across multiple environments in the office, the home, out on the streets, etc., and accessed by multiple users, family members, friends, relations, and so on raises new challenges for managing interactions with ubiquitous computing systems. Central to such challenges are concerns with control, privacy, and the coordination of interaction more generally. These issues require us to consider the development of a range of socio-technical protocols to support interaction

  • Context: The notion of context has been a defining Ubicomp concern. Yet context is of primary concern to the social sciences as well and social and technical understandings vary immensely. For social scientists, context extends beyond metrics to sense-making and provides for the meaningful character of interaction. The concept of context provides a fruitful vehicle for the social and technical to consider new avenues of collaboration.

Workshop Attendance, Submissions, & Participant Selection

Themes are offered as suggestions for researchers in the field to consider. Other themes will be considered upon submission. However, inclusion in the workshop must of necessity be governed by the potential for a paper to generate common debate. We envisage that the breadth of themes demands a relatively large workshop of the order of 15-20 participants. The aim is to foster and promote debate and dialogue among analytic, scientific, and engineering communities involved in ubiquitous computing. Attendance will be based on position papers that clearly explicate a particular perspective on a theme of general social and technical relevance and are founded upon experience of work in this field. Selection will be by the organizers in consultation with a series of invited experts who have been instrumental in the evolution of ubiquitous computing as a distinct field of research.

Papers will not exceed two sides of A4 paper and adhere to the guidelines for full papers for Ubicomp 2005. Papers should be formatted according to Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) format - templates can be found at Springer-Verlag LNCS Authors' instructions page. Papers should be submitted electronically in PDF format to no later than 18 July 2005.  Authors of accepted papers will be notified on 25 July 2005. Workshop participants will need to register for the Ubicomp 2005 conference. Further details can be found at

Workshop Structure

The workshop will be structured around a series of short presentations selected from accepted position papers. The intention is that presentations will represent contrasting social and technical views, allowing space for debate and discussion. The aim is to begin to formulate and document the different perspectives related to situating ubiquitous computing in everyday life and to begin to outline broad themes of common concern that might be explored in an interdisciplinary fashion to bridge the socio-technical divide. The broad structure of the full-day workshop will be as follows:

  1. Start and Introduction by organizers

  2. Session 1: Presentation of selected position paper.

  3. Coffee break

  4. Session 2: Presentation of selected position papers

  5. Lunch break

  6. Session 3: Presentation of selected position papers

  7. Coffee break

  8. Session 4: General discussion, future directions, and wrap-up

Optional gathering for evening meal with organizers and participants is suggested.

Organizers' Backgrounds

This workshop brings together organizers with considerable experience in exploring these issues in a multidisciplinary manner where the development of technologies is informed from understanding social practice through empirical studies.

Michael A. Evans, from the Pervasive Technology Labs at Indiana University and (starting August, 2005) the Instructional Technology Program at Virginia Tech, studies and designs ubiquitous computing artifacts and environments. Of particular interest is the refinement of frameworks and methodologies to analyze collaboration in distributed settings and to inform design. Projects include courseware for globally distributed teams of high school students, tangible interfaces for collaborative learning, and knowledge management systems for the US Navy.

Andy Crabtree, from the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Nottingham has worked in a number of projects where the design and development of ubiquitous computing arrangements have been informed from studies of use. This has included the use of these technologies to provide support for tourists in the street, to support on the street gaming, and for domestic environments.

Mike Fraser, from the Mobile and Wearable Computing Group at the University of Bristol, is interested in the social and collaborative aspects of mobile, distributed and ubiquitous systems. Projects include work on distributed multimodal interaction through video and haptic systems, distributed support for the social science research, and the design, construction and use of diverse mobile systems in everyday and urban settings.

Peter Tolmie, from the Work Practice Technology Group at Xerox Research Centre Europe in Grenoble, has worked on a range of design and development projects informed by work practice studies. These projects have centred upon support for collaborative activities across distributed organizations in relation to many concerns such as office work, adaptive work processes, and technical support.

Rick McMullen, from the Pervasive Technology Labs at Indiana University, is Director and Principal Scientist of the Knowledge Acquisition and Projection Lab. His research areas include human-machine solutions for knowledge management, organizational informatics and applications of sensor networks.

Workshop Programme


8:30 - 9:00a Introduction by Organizers

Peter Tolmie, Xerox Research Centre Europe (Grenoble)
Michael A. Evans, Virginia Tech (USA)  
Rick McMullen, Indiana University (USA)


9:00 - 10:00a Session 1 - Bridging the Divide

FollowMe: A pluggable infrastructure for context-aware computing (143 KB)
Li Jun, Bu Ying Yi, Chen Sha Xun, Tao Xian Ping, & Lu Jian
State Key Laboratory for Novel Software Technology, Nanjing University (China)

The Keep-in-Touch system (794 KB)
Mark Assad, Judy Kay, & Bob Kummerfeld
University of Sydney (Australia)

Reactive multimedia contents in smart home environments (199 KB)
Sejin Oh, Youngho Lee, & Woontack Woo
GIST U-VR Lab (South Korea)

Discussant: Rick


10:00 - 10:30 Coffee Break


10:30 - 11:30 Session 2 - Strategic Issues

Revealing daily practice through the study of micro-mobility (252 KB)
Ryan Aipperspach1, Ken Anderson2, & Allison Woodruff1
Intel Research Berkeley (USA)
2Intel Research, People and Practices Research Lab (USA)

Situating ubicomp amongst household flows (32 KB)
Jennifer A. Rode
University of California, Irvine (USA)

Situating ubiquitous computing in everyday life: Some useful strategies (24 KB)
Mark Stringer, John Halloran, Eva Hoenecker, & Geraldine Fitzpatrick
INTERACT Lab, University of Sussex (UK)

Discussant: Michael


11:30 - 12:00 Morning Review

Peter, Michael, & Rick


12:00 - 2:00 Lunch Break


2:00 - 3:00 Session 3 - What's Unremarkable?

A conceptual system to situate ubiquitous computing (56 KB)
Craig Chatfield & René Hexel
Griffith University, Brisbane (Australia)

Remote Furniture: Interactive art installation for public space as an example of ubiquitous computing for the future (127 KB)
Noriyuki Fujimura, Takuichi Nishimura, & Yoshiyuki Nakamura
Information Technology Research Institute, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (Japan)

What's invisible technology? No, really. (79 KB)
Mike Kuniavsky (USA)

Discussant: Peter


3:00 - 3:30 Coffee Break


3:30 - 4:30 Session 4 - Design & Development

Mapping a new way: Distributed design and the socio-technical interface (117 KB)
Raoul Rickenberg
Department of Design and Management, Parsons School of Design (USA)

Social and technical issues of setting and context in 'real life' ubicomp (338 KB)
Tom Hope, Takuichi Nishimura, & Yutaka Matsuo
Information Technology Research Institute, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (Japan)

Everyday practices in great rooms (109 KB)
Allison Woodruff1 & Scott Mainwaring2
Intel Research Berkeley (USA)
2 Intel Research, People and Practices Research Lab (USA)

Discussant: Michael


4:30 - 5:00 Wrap-up & proposal(s) for future work

All participants


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Last updated: Monday, 05 September 2005