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Understanding contexts by being there: case studies in bodystorming


A thorough appreciation of physical, social, interactional, and psychological contextual factors is crucial in the design of ubiquitous computing applications. This paper investigates the benefits of a method called bodystorming for carrying out design sessions in the original context, `in the wild', instead of the office. A location is selected that is identical or similar to the original environment. Innovation, carried out on-site, is based on ethnographical data presented as concrete design questions. Individual solutions to design questions are brainstormed and discussed on-site. Facets of data collection and preparation, formulation of design questions, selection of locations, session administration, and evaluation of design ideas are presented. We found that bodystorming permits immediate feedback for generated design ideas, and can provide a more accurate understanding of contextual factors. Bodystorming sessions were found memorable and inspiring. It is best suitable for designing for activities that are accessible and unfamiliar to the researchers.

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We are grateful to Martti Mäntylä, Ilpo Koskinen, Anu Kankainen, Sauli Tiitta, and Jan Blom for help and comments on this article. This work has been supported by our industrial partners Alma Media, Elisa Communications, Nokia, Sonera, SWelcom, and by the Academy of Finland grant to the first author.

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Correspondence to Antti Oulasvirta.

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Oulasvirta, A., Kurvinen, E. & Kankainen, T. Understanding contexts by being there: case studies in bodystorming. Pers Ubiquit Comput 7, 125–134 (2003).

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  • Bodystorming
  • Brainstorming
  • Context:Context-awareness
  • Ubiquitous computing
  • User-centered design