Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 19–30

What we talk about when we talk about context

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00779-003-0253-8

Cite this article as:
Dourish, P. Pers Ubiquit Comput (2004) 8: 19. doi:10.1007/s00779-003-0253-8


The emergence of ubiquitous computing as a new design paradigm poses significant challenges for human-computer interaction (HCI) and interaction design. Traditionally, HCI has taken place within a constrained and well-understood domain of experience—single users sitting at desks and interacting with conventionally-designed computers employing screens, keyboards and mice for interaction. New opportunities have engendered considerable interest in “context-aware computing”—computational systems that can sense and respond to aspects of the settings in which they are used. However, considerable confusion surrounds the notion of “context”—what it means, what it includes and what role it plays in interactive systems. This paper suggests that the representational stance implied by conventional interpretations of “context” misinterprets the role of context in everyday human activity, and proposes an alternative model that suggests different directions for design.


Context-aware computing Ethnomethodology 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Information and Computer ScienceUniversity of California IrvineIrvineUSA

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