Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 533–544 | Cite as

Rethinking technology on the boundaries of life and work

  • Susanne Bødker
Original Article


Technology is often seen as seamless, or making (life/work) boundaries go away. Ubicomp designs for that and for seamlessness in general. However, there may be better ways of understanding boundaries, as to design technologies in the space of changing work/life boundaries, which is the topic of this special issue. This paper makes a theoretical argument to insist that boundaries are not fixed, neither can or should they be made away with technologically, through seamless technologies. Based on this argument, it discusses various presumed technology-mediated boundaries of work and home, life, etc., as they can be found in the Ubicomp, CSCW and HCI literature: The ways in which work and work technologies are stereotypically connected to effectiveness and hard labor, and non-work technologies to fun and enjoyment; the ways in which technologies move back and forth between mediating work activity and non-work; the role of place and time boundaries in relation to the ability to work any time, anywhere and the metaphors used to address these boundaries; and the perceived boundaries of private versus public, and the new boundaries created by technologies in and across our lives and work. Using an empirical case, the paper offers an alternative use of boundaries as resources to be activated and used in design. It suggests that we need to more carefully design technologies that provide seamfulness on these specific and dynamic boundaries.


Technology-mediated boundaries Seamfulness Work–life boundaries 



I thank my many collaborators of past and more recent papers and case studies. I thank the editors/workshop organizers for making it possible for me to revitalize some of my old ideas, and the reviewers for their careful comments. The work is sponsored by the Aarhus University interdisciplinary center PIT.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer Science, and Center for Participatory ITAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark

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