Saul Greenberg

Readings in Ubiquitous Computing

These readings were used during a version of the course , and as a general resource.


Most of the course is based on a selection of readings from the list below. We read them ahead of a class, added a discussion point or two on the blog, then discussed them in class (sometimes with a student presentation that summarized the main points). We did not get through all of the case studies. Indeed, most of the course was spent on the foundational material. Still the case studies are good resources for students who wish to choose and perhaps present a topic within Ubicomp.

On a more general level, many of the readings on this list - particular the parts before the case studies - could also double as a foundational PhD reading list to Ubicomp.

The Ubicomp vision

Mark Weiser is considered the 'father' of ubiquitous computing. These and the other papers by him represents his vision and early thinking. Unfortunately, an early death curtailed him from seeing the massive influence he had on the CS world.

  1. Weiser, M.
    The computer for the 21st Century. Scientific American. 94-110, September. (1991)
  2. Weiser, M.
    Some computer science issues in Ubiquitous Computing. Communications of the ACM 36(7) July. (1993)
  3. Weiser, M. and Brown, J.
    Designing calm technology, Powergrid Journal, v1.01, July, 1996.
  4. Rogers, Y.
    Moving on from Weiser's vision of of calm computing: engaging UbiComp experiences.] In: P. Dourish and A. Friday (Eds.) Ubicomp 2006 Proceedings, LNCS 4206, pp. 404-421, Springer-Verlag. (2006)

Case Studies: the Digital Desk, The Reactive Environment, Ubiquitous Media

These early systems illustrated some of the potential directions of Ubicomp. The are important not only for the systems they demonstrate, but for the philosophy behind them.

  1. Wellner, P. 1993.
    Interacting with paper on the DigitalDesk. Commun. ACM 36, 7 (Jul. 1993), 87-96.
  2. Wellner, P.
    DigitalDesk (Video) CHI '92 Special Video Program, ACM SIGGRAPH Video Review 79. [-also available online.
  3. Cooperstock, J., Fels, S., Buxton, W. & Smith, K.C. (1997 )
    Reactive environments: Throwing away your keyboard and mouse, Communications of the Association of Computing Machinery (CACM), 40(9), 65-73.
  4. Buxton, W. (1997).
    Living in Augmented Reality: Ubiquitous Media and Reactive Environments. In K. Finn, A. Sellen & S. Wilber (Eds.). Video Mediated Communication. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 363-384. An earlier version of this chapter also appears in Proceedings of Imagina '95, 215-229.

Thinking about a Ubicomp Society

  1. Harper, R., Rodden, T. Rogers, Y. and Sellen, A.
    Being Human. Microsoft Research Ltd. The A4 edition is better for on-line reading.
    • What will Human-Computer Interaction be like in the year 2020, when computers will become so pervasive that it will be a crucial issue for society? This report reflects on societal changes now appearing today and forecasts our future.
  2. Howard, S., Kjeldskov, J., Skov, M.
    Pervasive Computing in the domestic space. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 11: 329-333. DOI 10.1007/s00779-006-0081-8 (2007)
    • [-Introduces four dimensions of how pervasive computing needs to consider the domestic realm. It is also an introduction to a special issue of the same title - look at those articles as additional resources.

Tangible Computing, by Hiroshi Ishii

While there are point examples of tangible computing before Ishii, Ishii articulated some of its key properties, developed (with his students) many wonderful (and beautiful) examples, and inspired a generation of researchers to work in this area. His tangible media group web site is worth an extensive visit, if only to see the many videos on it.

  1. Ishii, H. and Ullmer, B. (1997).
    Tangible bits: towards seamless interfaces between people, bits and atoms. In Proceedings of the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI '97). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 234-241.ACM Link
  2. Brave, S., Ishii, H. and Dahley, A.
    Tangible interfaces for remote collaboration and communication. Proc. ACM CSCW’98 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, p169-178. (1998)
  3. Ullmer, B., Ishii, H. and Glas, D.(1999)
    mediaBlocks: Physical Containers, Transports, and Controls for Online Media. Proceedings of the 25th Annual Conference on Computer Graphics.

Embodied Interaction by Paul Dourish

Dourish's book lays the philosphical foundation to embodied interaction, which in turns explains the relevance Tangible Computing, CSCW and Ubicomp to everyday social practices.

  1. Dourish, P. (2001)
    Where the Action Is. The Foundations of Embodied Interaction. MIT Press, Cambridge MA.

Culture, by du Gay et. al.

Until recently, most HCI development was around task-oriented products. Yet task-centricity does not suffice for domestic, tangible and ubiquitous computing. Instead, one has to consider the broad meanings products have within culture. These readings introduce the notion of culture, and how cultural artifacts are developed.

  1. du Gay, P., Hall, S., Janes, L., Mackay, H. and Negus, K. (1997)
    Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman. Sage Publications (in association with the Open University).

Emotional Design, by Don Norman

Norman considers aesthetics in design and how they invoke emotion. While he is not the first to do this (indeed, Industrial Design does this as a matter of practice), he imports emotional design into the HCI field. This is especially important in ubicomp / tangible objects created for a home setting. Norman introduces three important levels of design: visceral, behavioural, and reflective, and so far HCI has attended to only the behavioural area. You should buy this book - its an essential part of any HCI library.

  1. Norman, D. A. Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things, Basic Books. 2005

Basics of Domestic Culture

These papers frame how we think about domestic routines and the design of technologies to support them.

  1. Crabtree, A., Rodden, T., Hemmings, T., and Benford, S.,
    Finding a Place for UbiComp in the Home. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp 2003), Springer-Verlag, pp. 208-226. (2003)
    • Presents results from an ethnographic study and describes appropriate places for ubiquitous computing in the home: ecological habitats, activity centres, and coordinate displays.
  2. Edwards, W.K., Grinter, R.,
    At Home with Ubiquitous Computing: Seven Challenges, In Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp 2001), Springer-Verlag, pp. 256-272. (2001)
    • Presents seven general challenges to having ubiquitous technology accepted and used in the home.
  3. Elliot, K., Neustaedter, C., and Greenberg, S., (2005), Time, Ownership and Awareness: The Value of Contextual Locations in the Home, Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp 2005).
    • Describes how people use locations in their home to provide information with valuable meta-data about time, ownership, and awareness.
  4. Neustaedter, C., Elliot, K., and Greenberg, S., (2006) Interpersonal Awareness in the Domestic Realm. Proc. OZCHI, (Sydney, Australia, Nov 20-24), 2006
    • People have different awareness needs of family and friends that depends on their relationships. Also argues that a one-design-fits-all is not the way to go due to these diverse needs.
  5. Taylor, A., and Swan, L., (2005)
    Artful Systems in the Home, Proceedings of the Conference on Computer-Human Interaction (CHI 2005), ACM Press, pp. 641-650.
    • Describes how organizing systems for the home should be designed to allow people to create meaning and use.

Probing Ubicomp Situations

One of the main challenges for developing ubicomp technologies for domestic settings is how to go about understanding the design context. Probes have evolved as a design-led approach to inspiring (cf. informing) design in domestic settings in particular.

  1. Axup, J., Viller, S., MacColl, I. and Cooper, R.
    Lo-Fi Matchmaking: A Study of Social Pairing for Backpackers. Proc. Ubicomp'06, LNCS 4206, 2006. Springer-Verlag.
  2. Gaver, W., Dunne, T., & Pacenti, E. (1999).
    Cultural probes. interactions, 6(1), 21-29.
  3. Gaver, W., Boucher, A., Pennington, S., & Walker, B. (2004).
    Cultural probes and the value of uncertainty. interactions, 11(5), 53-56.
  4. Hutchinson, H., Mackay, W., Westerlund, B., Bederson, B. B., Druin, A., Plaisant, C., Beaudouin-Lafon, M., Conversy, S., Evans, H., Hansen, H., Roussel, N., Eiderbäck, B., Lindquist, S., & Sundblad, Y. (2003).
    Technology probes: Inspiring design for and with families. In Proceedings of CHI'03 (pp. 17 - 24). Ft. Lauderdale, FL: ACM Press.
  5. Shmidt, A. and Terrenghi, L.
    Methods and Guidelines for the Design and Development of Domestic Ubiquitous Computing Applications. Proc 5th IEEE Conf. Pervasive Computing, 2007.
    • describes how methods of user centered design and participatory design can be appropriated to find users’ requirements and design ideas for ubiquitous computing applications for the home

Other resources concerning probes

  1. The Interliving project is where Technology Probes originated. Further detail on this work is available in the project deliverables on the publications page.
  2. The Theory and Practice of Fieldwork for Systems Development Tutorial given at numerous CSCW and CHI conferences since 1992. An excellent resource on ethnographic fieldwork.

Case Study: Home Calendars

The Home Calendar is a prevalent scheduling and coordination artifact in the home. These papers articulate the role and subtleties of the home calendar, and suggest how technology can create a more powerful home calendar.

  1. Neustaedter, C., Brush, A.J. and Greenberg, S. (2006)
    The Calendar is Crucial: Coordination and Awareness through the Family Calendar. ACM Transactions on Computer Human Interactions - ACM TOCHI, 6(1):6:1 - 6:48, April.
  2. Neustaedter, C., and Brush, A.J., (2006)
    LINC-ing the Family: The Participatory Design of an Inkable Family Calendar, In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer-Human Interaction (CHI 2006), April 24-27, Montreal, Quebec.
    • Discusses the design of a digital family calendar for the home.
  3. Crabtree, A. and Hemmings, T.
    Informing the Development of Calendar Systems for Domestic Use. Proc. ECSCW '03, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 119-138,(2003),
    • Optional reading: discusses the use of calendaring systems in the home based on the results of ethnographic studies.
  4. Plaisant, C., Bederson, B., Clamage, A., Hutchinson, H., and Druin, A., (2003)
    Shared Family Calendars: Promoting Symmetry and Accessibility. Report HCIL-2003-38 , CS-TR-4680, Department of Computer Science, University of Maryland.
    • Optional reading: describes the background, design, and deployment of a shared inter-family calendar (grandparents to children/grandchildren).

Case Study of Home Messenging

  1. Hindus, D, Mainwaring, S.D., Leduc, N., Hagström, A.E., and Bayley, O.,
    Casablanca: Designing Social Communication Devices for the Home. Proceedings of the Conference on Computer-Human Interaction (CHI 2001), ACM Press, pp. 325-332. (2001)
    • Describes several applications based on home studies: RoomLink (an audio media space), MessageBoard, Intentional Presence Lamp, and ScanBoard.
  2. Kim, S., Kim, M., Park, S., Jin, Y. and Choi, W.,
    Gate Reminder: A Design Case of a Smart Reminder. Proceedings of Designing Interactive Systems (DIS 2004), ACM Press, pp. 81-90 (2004)
    • Describes a system for providing reminders at the entrance way of the home as people enter and exit.
  3. O'Hara, K., Harper, R., Unger, A., Wilkes, J., Sharpe, B., and Jansen, M. 2005.
    TxtBoard: from text-to-person to text-to-home. In CHI '05 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Portland, OR, USA, April 02 - 07, 2005). CHI '05. ACM Press, New York, NY, 1705-1708.
    • Presents a way to send messages form mobile phones to the home. This system is a forerunner to HomeNote (to appear in CSCW 2006)
  4. Elliot, K., Neustaedter, C., and Greenberg, S. (2007)
    StickySpots: Using Location to Embed Technology in the Social Practices of the Home. In Proceedings of the 1st Int'l Conference on Tangible and Embedded Interaction - TEI'07. ACM Press, pages 79-86, Feb 15-17.
    • Shows how to create location-based designs for the home through two case studies.

Case Study: Home Lists

People constantly make lists, and/or clutter things together into piles as reminders of what they have to do. These papers look at these artifacts and the role they play in home life.

  1. Taylor, A., and Swan, L., (2004)
    List Making in the Home, Proceedings of the Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2004), ACM Press, pp. 542-545.
    • Shows how lists are used in the home and the role paper serves.
  2. Swan, L., Taylor, A. S., and Harper, R. 2008.
    Making place for clutter and other ideas of home. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 15, 2 (Jul. 2008), 1-24. DOI.
    • Examines the containment of clutter in family homes and, from this, outlines considerations for design.

Case Study: Home Email

  1. Harper, R., Evergeti, V., Hamill, L. and Strain, J., (2001),
    Paper-mail in the Home of the 21st Century: An Analysis of the future of paper-mail and implications for the design of electronic alternatives, In the Proceedings of the Okios Conference on Digital Technology in Home Environments.
    • Describes how paper-mail is used in the home and why email cannot yet fully replace it.

Case Study of Extended Families

Extended families are those whose members do not live together. These papers identify attributes of the extended family, and how technology can bring its members closer together

  1. Mynatt, E., Rowan, J., Jacobs, A., Craighill, S., (2001)
    Digital Family Portraits: Supporting Peace of Mind for Extended Family Members. Proceedings of the Conference on Computer-Human Interaction (CHI 2001), CHI Letters 3(1), ACM Press, pp. 333-340.
    • Presents a digital portrait system to help extended family members stay connected over time.
  2. Evjemo, B., Svendsen, G. B., Rinde, E., & Johnsen, J. K. (2004).
    Supporting the distributed family: The need for a conversational context. NordCHI 2004
    • The authors held focus groups - sharing the day’s events with grandma, and having weather, traffic, etc. being displayed in the kitchen - except they talk about displaying the stuff at grandma’s house in their home for awareness of grandma’s environment.

Case Study: Digital Photos in the Home

Photographs play a huge role in many homes, and many technologies are now produced to support this. These papers articulate the role of photographs in the home, and examine different technologies to support it.

  1. Nunes, M., Greenberg, S. and Neustaedter, C. (2008)
    Sharing Digital Photographs in the Home through Physical Mementos, Souvenirs, and Keepsakes. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems - ACM DIS'08. (Cape Town, South Africa), ACM Press, pages 250-260, February 25-27.
  2. van den Hoven, E. and Eggen, B.
    The Design of a Recollection Supporting Device: A Study into Triggering Personal Recollections HCI International, June, part II, 1034-1038, 2003
    • Study of how objects work as memory triggers..
  3. Rodden, K. and Wood, K. R. 2003.
    How do people manage their digital photographs? In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA, April 05 - 10, 2003). CHI '03. ACM Press, New York, NY, 409-416
    • Studies user experience with Shoebox, a system for managing digital photographs.
  4. Kim, J. and Zimmerman, J.
    Cherish: Smart Digital Photo Frames for Sharing Social Narratives at Home. Adjunct Proceedings ACM CHI . Work In Progress. 2006 DOI
    • They have a nice diagram of analog vs. digital photos / distance vs. collocated photo sharing and they talk about interviews they did looking at how families interacted with and shared photos inside the home. They also mention things like it would be nice to automatically recognize people in photos and how those people are related to each other, and based on that have the frame decide which photo to display.
  5. Frohlich, D., Kuchinsky, A., Pering, C., Don, A., and Ariss, S. 2002.
    Requirements for photoware. CSCW '02. ACM Press, New York, NY, 166-175.
    • Studies how several families use conventional and digital photos and illustrates several areas and design suggestions for photoware..
  6. Battarbee, K. 2003.
    Defining co-experience. In Proceedings of the 2003 international Conference on Designing Pleasurable Products and interfaces (Pittsburgh, PA, USA, June 23 - 26, 2003). DPPI '03. ACM Press, New York, NY, 109-113.
    • May not fit in this secton. Verify....
  7. Crabtree, A., Rodden, T., and Mariani, J.
    Collaborating around Collections: Informing the Continued Development of Photoware, Proceedings of the Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2004), ACM Press. 2004.

Case Study: Examples of Tangible User Interfaces

Ambient Displays

  1. Dahley, A., Wisneski, C. and Ishii, H.
    Water Lamp and Pinwheels: Ambient Projection of Digital Information into Architectural Space. Summary of CHI '98, 269-270.(1998)
  2. Ishii, H. Wisneski, C., Brave, S., Dahley, A., Gorbet, M., Ullmer, B. and Yarin, P.
    ambientRoom: Integerating Ambient Media with Architectural Space (video). ACM Conference Summary of Chi'98 (1998)
  3. Ullmer, B., Ishii, H. and Glas, D.(1999)
    mediaBlocks: Physical Containers, Transports, and Controls for Online Media. Proceedings of the 25th Annual Conference on Computer Graphics.