Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW)

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 329–345

Building a Context Sensitive Telephone: Some Hopes and Pitfalls for Context Sensitive Computing


DOI: 10.1007/s10606-004-2806-4

Cite this article as:
Brown, B. & Randell, R. Comput Supported Coop Work (2004) 13: 329. doi:10.1007/s10606-004-2806-4


Although the idea of making technology more context aware is an alluring one, this seemingly simple move hides a great deal of complexity. Even simple examples such as a context sensitive mobile phone which knows when not to ring, are unlikely to be successful. Any context sensitive technology is likely to make mistakes – like ringing in the middle of a film, or not ringing for an urgent call. Using three examples from fieldwork of alerting systems (two ringing phones and one medical alarm in a hospital), we suggest three guidelines for context systems which could genuinely assist users. First, we argue that context sensitive computing should be used defensively, where incorrect behaviour is tolerable. Second, that technology can provide structures to which people themselves can add context. Third, that technology can communicate context to users, allowing users to make sense of that contextual information themselves. Lastly we argue for an understanding of the long term use of technology use, dwelling with technology, a process which changes how the world is seen and experienced.


alarms context sensitive computing dwelling telephones 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK
  2. 2.Interaction Design Centre, School of Computing ScienceMiddlesex UniversityLondonUK

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