In 2002 we received a fairly large grant for a project named Mobile Life. In that project, we have worked together with Lars Erik Holmquist and his group and Oskar Juhlin and his group. Many different mobile services have been built. After a while, a number of re-curring themes started to emerge. One of them was the idea of seamfulness.

We found that the prevailing idea that users' should not be told about the positioning system or network coverage in all its gory details - the so-called seamlessness ideal - perhaps was not such a good idea after all. People seems to be intriguied and amused by the possibility to exploit and appropriate the seams that shine through here and there in technology. We therefore work on ways of creating more seamful designs. When studying literature, we saw that this was envisioned already by Marc Weiser in 1994 when he says that we need to face up to the challenge of creating "seamful systems, with beautiful seams".

In our view, seams within the new wireless medium are not necessarily a technical glitch but might be a resource to users. The fundamental infrastructures and services that make up ubiquitous and pervasive technology exhibit a great deal of spatial, temporal, economic and organisational variation. Picking up cues from the social context is key to a person's process of understanding and appropriating new technologies. This process involves not just the new media, but also demands consideration of the whole set of media that people use in the course of their activity. We suggest, therefore, that a more general lesson should be learnt from our experience with ubiquitous computing: system design should be more pragmatic, holistic and social than it usually is now.

Åsa Rudström wrote a lot about these ideas in her PhD-thesis. This work we did together with Matthew Chalmers in Glasgow, Andreas Dieberger at IBM and others.


Åsa Rudström, Kristina Höök, and Martin Svensson (2005). Social positioning: Designing the Seams between Social, Physical and Digital Space. In 1st International Conference on Online Communities and Social Computing, at HCII 2005, 24-27 July 2005, Las Vegas, USA., Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (CD-ROM). PDF.

Matthew Chalmers, Andreas Dieberger, Kristina Höök, and Åsa Rudström (2004). Social Navigation and Seamful Design. Journal of the Japanese Cognitive Science Society, September 2004. PDF.

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