Journal Entry 7: Informing Design in Social & Mobile Computing

When we talk about the way in which we construct and design requirements for social, mobile, and ubiquitous computing, we must also talk about design context – in other words, how do we want context to shape our design choices?

In class, the theoretical contextual components that we explored are:

  • the fact that social, mobile, and ubiquitous computing is more personal than previous computing paradigms,
  • the fact that the target user is not physically stationary, but is moving around the world,
  • the fact that the user of interest moves his or her focus, and whose interests may be distributed around a range of issues
  • the fact that the user must be able to use the applications in a way that blends in or enhances his or her everyday life

Given these, an mobile, social, and ubiquitous computing app called Zite seems relevant to discuss.

Zite is a mobile, personalized, intelligent magazine. You open it, you read some articles, and the program learns to recognize the kinds of topics, writers, and quality of writing that you enjoy… and based on the feedback from similar other users, serves up more of your favourite things to read.
Using several algorithms, the program learns your tastes and feeds them back to you.

Zite is a good example of informed design in social, mobile, and ubiquitous computing, because the experience has been built around the mobile user to create a personalized set of articles, but also does this through the help of thousands of other users at the same time. Zite would not work if only one single user used the system, for example.

Furthermore, the probing aspect of design testing and requirements elicitation is being undertaken at this very moment. Each use of the system is, in a way, a test of the system. Each kilobyte of feedback transmitted into the system better trains the algorithms, reducing error and increasing the probability that the user experience will be more to each user’s liking.


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