Finding Individuality in the Technological Complexity: Why People do it themselves?

By Marianna Obrist.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Today, the technological complexity is often overloading and frustrating the individual user. At the same time, technology motivates users to explore new ways to handle this complexity. Users modify and customize the various attributes of a product (e.g. the user interface) within the limits foreseen by the manufacturers. But, in some cases, also unexpected modifications are made. People express their individuality in the technology they use in order to experience a more personal interaction with a product. The user’s role is no longer restricted to be a passive consumer, but they turn into active users and innovators by doing modifications of technology themselves.

In social science, different approaches already explored the role of the user in the process of adaptation and domestication of new technologies. The social construction of technology (SCOT) approach, for instance, conceives the users as social group playing an important part in the construction of technology. This paper extends the social science perspectives, focusing on design approaches (e.g. participatory design), which increasingly engage and actively involve people into the design process of new interactive systems.

The main purpose of this paper is to investigate user driven modifications emphasising why and how user modify interactive systems, especially in the home context. The theoretical framework reflects a broad interdisciplinary view on the ongoing “bottom up” movements in the new media landscape, where traditional barriers between mainstream and homemade media are dissolving. These movements are mainly favoured by the Internet as a main place for sharing and exchanging ideas and cooperatively innovate. Practical and empirical insights are gained through the analysis of two case examples for user driven modifications and the investigation of the user motivation and motives in the home context.

Keywords: New Media Landscape, Interactive Systems, User Driven Modifications, User Motivation, Home Context, Social Construction of Technology, Participatory Design

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.203-212. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 716.925KB).

Dr. Marianna Obrist

Research Fellow, Human-Computer Interaction and Usability Unit, ICT&S - Center for Advanced Studies and Research in Information and Communication Technologies & Society, University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria

Marianna Obrist is a researcher in the HCI & Usability Unit of the ICT&S Center at the University of Salzburg. She holds a master degree in Communication and Political Science from the University of Salzburg. The focal point of her research lies in human-computer interfaces, user-centered design of interactive services, and in particular the user involvement into the development of new products/systems. She is involved in several research projects concerned with the study of the home environment and the analysis of user requirements for interactive TV (i.e. iiTV@home, iTV 4 all). Since September 2006 she is working within the European research project CITIZEN MEDIA, focusing on co-creation and user experience evaluation in the new user driven media landscape. She was part of the organization team for the MobileHCI 2005 conference. In 2007 she finished her doctoral studies in communication science with focus on human-computer interaction (HCI). Her dissertation was about self-motivated adaptation and innovation of user interfaces in the context home.

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