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«PhD Dissertation Department of Computer Science Aarhus University Denmark On Human-Computer Interaction in Complex Artefact Ecologies A Dissertation ...»

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On Human-Computer Interaction

in Complex Artefact Ecologies

Clemens Nylandsted Klokmose

PhD Dissertation

Department of Computer Science

Aarhus University


On Human-Computer Interaction in

Complex Artefact Ecologies

A Dissertation

Presented to the Faculty of Science

of Aarhus University

in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the

PhD Degree


Clemens Nylandsted Klokmose

August, 2009


The personal computer has lost its monopoly as our sole access-point to the dig- ital world. Today we surround ourselves with a myriad of different interactive artefacts with vast computational capabilities. Modern music players, gam- ing consoles, entertainment systems, smart phones, netbooks, and e-readers offer internet access and functionality that a few years ago only were accessi- ble on chunky beige desktop computers. Seen through the optics of an HCI researcher, this development is magnificent – but it also challenges the foun- dation of our field.

Our analytical vocabulary for describing human-computer interaction and the frameworks and tools we use to build interactive software rest on a concep- tual foundation that takes personal computing for granted, and are therefore challenged by the plurality of heterogeneous interactive artefacts that are used interchangeably or in conjunction. In this PhD dissertation I present a theoretical and technological perspective of the challenges of human-computer interaction in these new landscapes of multiple, heterogeneous interactive artefacts, what I refer to as Human-Computer Interaction in Complex Artefact Ecologies.

I propose The Human-Artefact Model, which is an activity theoretical model for structuring design oriented analysis of interactive artefacts that are, or are to be, part of complex artefact ecologies. By reinterpretation of the activity the- oretical foundation, I present a framework that helps better address mediators in plural. I show how the human-artefact model helps structure the under- standing of the action possibilities of an in relation to the artefact ecology which surrounds it. Essential to the model is that it provides four interconnected lev- els of analysis and addresses the possibilities and problems at these four levels of activity.

From the technological perspective I propose an alternative interaction pa- radigm inspired by activity theory and based on Beaudouin-Lafon’s work on Instrumental Interaction and I propose an architectural model for realising the paradigm. The interaction paradigm Ubiquitous Instrumental Interaction pushes forth an idea of interaction as being mediated by dynamic configurations of in- struments applicable across different domain objects and interactive artefacts, hence creating an interaction environment that transcends the isolated interactive artefact. I present VIGO (Views, Instruments, Governors, and Objects), which is an architectural model embodying the principles of the new paradigm. I show that it offers new technical and interactional potential to HCI.

v Acknowledgements

First of all I thank my supervisor Susanne Bødker for her guidance and support, and for creating and being the anchor point in our a great research community. I thank Michel Beaudouin-Lafon and Wendy Mackay for an inspiring 5 months in Paris. Furthermore I thank all the people in the lab in Paris for creating a both great personal and professional experience.

I thank Pär-Ola Zander and Olav Bertelsen for always being up of for a theoretical discussion. I thank Kasper Langer for encouraging me, being the realist critic of my ideas, and teaching me all sorts of programming tricks. I also thank Rasmus Berlin for programming on the initial prototypes.

I owe a great thank the co-authors of the included papers. And when I refer to what “I” have done in this dissertation, I of course also refer to my co-authors.

I would like to credit those who have given comments on earlier drafts on this dissertation. In alphabetic order: Susanne Bødker, Brian Bunch Christensen, Peter Dalsgaard, Tony Gjerlufsen, and Niels Mathiasen. Jonathan Bunde-Pedersen is thanked for tips on writing a dissertation, and for help with L TEX.

A Hanne Kjærgaard Larsen is thanked for improving the English of the dissertation.

Finally thanks to Maria and my parents Kirsten and Arne for their endless love and support.

This PhD have been funded by The Danish Technical Research Council (Danish: Statens Teknisk-Videnskabelige Forskningsråd) under the project Ubiquitous User Interface Design – a theory drive approach to ubiquitous user interfaces and their design (26-04-0137).

–  –  –

This dissertation is divided into two parts: The first part provides a coherent overview of the work of this PhD project. The second part is a collection of five published papers and one submitted journal paper.

The overview part is divided into five chapters. Chapter 1 is an introductory chapter that motivates the research, presents research objectives, provides an overview of the central contributions, and discusses research approach and methodology. Chapter 2 presents the conceptual and theoretical foundation of my work and discusses the role of theory in HCI. Chapter 3 and 4 covers the work presented in the appended papers and discuss related work. The presentation of the work is broken up in two themes: Complex artefact ecologies from without (Chapter 3) covers work on analysis and conceptualisation of the type of HCI addressed in the dissertation. Complex artefact ecologies from within (Chapter 4) presents work on rethinking the way we build interactive systems to accommodate the new challenges facing HCI. Chapter 4 is slightly more content heavy than chapter 3 since it is based on a space-limited conference paper (Paper V) while the work of chapter 3 has been discussed in detail in the journal paper I. Chapter 5 concludes the overview part and discusses future work.

–  –  –

[1] Susanne Bødker and Clemens Nylandsted Klokmose. The human-artifact model – an activity theoretical approach to artifact ecologies. Submitted to Human-Computer Interaction.

[2] Niels Olof Bouvin, Christina Brodersen, Susanne Bødker, Allan Hansen, and Clemens Nylandsted Klokmose. A comparative study of map use. In CHI ’06: CHI ’06 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems, pages 592–597, New York, NY, USA, 2006. ACM.

[3] Christina Brodersen, Susanne Bødker, and Clemens Nylandsted Klokmose.

Ubiquitous Substitution. In Proceedings of INTERACT 2007, pages 179–192.

Springer, 2007.

[4] Christina Brodersen, Susanne Bødker, and Clemens Nylandsted Klokmose.

Quality of learning in ubiquitous interaction. In ECCE 2007: Proceedings of the European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics, pages 121–128. ACM New York, NY, USA, 2007.

[5] Clemens Nylandsted Klokmose and Michel Beaudouin-Lafon. Vigo: instrumental interaction in multi-surface environments. In CHI ’09: Proceedings of the 27th international conference on Human factors in computing systems, pages 869–878, New York, NY, USA, 2009. ACM.

[6] Clemens Nylandsted Klokmose and Par-Ola Zander. Rethinking laboratory notebooks with ubiquitous instrumental interaction. In IRIS32: Proceedings of the 32nd Information Systems Research Seminar in Scandinavia, August 2009.


–  –  –

This dissertation concerns human-computer interaction that spans multiple and heterogeneous interactive artefacts and is not directed towards a personal computer alone. I refer to this phenomenon as human-computer interaction in complex artefact ecologies. I approach this phenomenon from two perspectives;

a theoretical and a technological. The theoretical perspective is represented by the chapter Complex artefact ecologies from without, where the central contributions are The Human-Artefact Model and a revisiting of activity theory given the challenges of complex artefact ecologies. The central contributions from the technological perspective represented by the chapter Complex artefact ecologies from within, are the proposal of a new interaction paradigm, Ubiquitous Instrumental Interaction, and the architectural model VIGO (Views, Instruments, Governors, and Objects) for realising it.

The human-artefact model is an activity theoretically informed model for framing design oriented analysis of artefacts in complex artefact ecologies. The human-artefact model acknowledges that humans are embodied in ecologies of artefacts and encourages the user of the model to consider the dialectical relationship between humans and artefacts. VIGO is an architectural model based on instrumental interaction [18] for developing user interfaces spanning multiple interactive artefacts. VIGO is a reflection on the software architectural requirements for realising the ubiquitous instrumental interaction paradigm. Ubiquitous instrumental interaction is an interaction paradigm that embraces the activity theoretical emphasis on mediation and development and breaks with, what is today, the all pervasive and completely taken-for-granted application concept.

1.1 Motivation The desktop computer has lost its monopoly as our only means of access to the digital world. Today we surround ourselves with a myriad of different

–  –  –

interactive artefacts with vast computational capabilities. Modern music players, gaming consoles, entertainment systems, smart phones, netbooks, and ereaders offer internet access and functionality that a few years ago only were accessible on chunky beige desktop computers. Seen through the optics of an HCI researcher, this development is magnificent – but it also challenges the foundation of our field.

Our analytical vocabulary for describing human-computer interaction and the frameworks and tools we use to build interactive software rest on a conceptual foundation that assumes personal computing in the form of one artefact – one application – one user. The move from the first to the second wave of HCI was based on an insistence on the human actor as a centre of attention [12]. Second wave theories (surveyed e.g. in [56]) provided a rich array of concepts and methods for designing and analysing interaction from the outset of the use situation. Bødker [37] argues that the third wave of HCI has brought forth a much welcomed focus on the cultural, aesthetic, and emotional aspects of interactive artefacts, however, hereby also drifting away from a commitment to users towards a more exploratory take-it-or-leave-it or lets-see-whathappens approach (e.g. through cultural probes [77]). We still need means for systematically structuring design and analysis of individual artefacts – while acknowledging that the artefacts are not alone. The aim of this dissertation is to contribute to a conceptual foundation for HCI that embraces the diversity and heterogeneity of our new artefact landscape. This conceptual framework must embrace that users navigate complex ecologies of artefacts, where the use of one artefact cannot be fully understood in isolation.

From the perspective of technology we now have have almost all of the interactive artefacts proposed by Mark Weiser in his famous ubiquitous, or third wave, computing vision [170]. But we are still far from a situation where we can easily move our work between our interactive artefacts or exploit co-location of artefacts to distribute a user interface without significant overhead. Accessing documents and files created on a desktop computer on a smart-phone in a meaningful manner is not trivial. Nor is it possible to easily exploit co-location of artefacts for instance to use your laptop keyboard to write an SMS on your smart-phone [135] without having tailor-made software on both artefacts. This problem might stem from the fact that even though we have all these new artefacts, we still architect the interactive software running on them as were they personal computers – each a small isolated and self-contained entity. This leads to a situation where the handling and operation can differ radically between artefacts, creating the basis for potential breakdowns in use when artefacts are substituted for each other.

The motivation for this dissertation is twofold: Firstly to contribute to our analytical understanding of human-computer interaction in complex artefact ecologies. Secondly to question the way we architect interactive software today and propose an alternative approach that acknowledges that we have moved beyond the desktop computer, where interactive artefacts should not be understood as isolated and self-contained entities.


1.2 A word on complex artefact ecologies

1.2 A word on complex artefact ecologies

–  –  –

The word ecology is borrowed from Gibson’s book The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception [79]. Gibson is famous for rejecting the mind-matter dualism and arguing that humans (or animals) should be understood in system with the environment. Mace [113] eloquently captures Gibson’s approach to psychology in the above quote. In the Gibsonean sense, our (visual) perception is shaped by our physical ecology and cannot be understood in isolation. The ecology of a subject is the part of the physical world that it interacts with to realise its life. Following Gibson’s definition of ecologies, Jung et al. [94] defines a person’s ecology of artefacts as the artefacts applied to realise her activities. Jung et al. show in their study of people’s ecologies of interactive artefacts that their use influence each other. A desktop computer is used differently if a user also has a laptop. Hence this provides fuel to the argument that artefacts cannot be understood in isolation.

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