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Much research has been conducted on different aspects of computers and their

relation to work. For instance, the systems development profession (Mathiasen,

1998), the user (worker) involvement through participatory design (Ehn,

1988), and computer supported cooperative work (Bannon, 1993; Hughes,

Randall & Shapiro, 1992). During late 1990s, when mobile computing started

to attract the interest of the research community, work continued to dominate

the research agenda. There was a transfer “from desktop computing to mobile

work” (Dahlbom & Ljungberg, 1998). Recently, other areas than work and

mobile information technology (IT) have received interest. Research has

started to explore the use of mobile IT in the leisure¹ domain; for instance, tour

guides (Abowd, Atkeson, Hong, Long, Kooper, & Pinkerton, 1997; Cheverst,

Davies, Mitchell, & Friday, 2000), electronic guidebooks for exhibitions

(Aoki, Grinter, Hurst, Szymanski, Thornton, & Woodruff, 2002) and Internetbased

mobile guides for museum visitors (Oppermann, Specht, & Jaceniak,

1999). The cell phone has received particular interest as a technology changing

everyday life (Kopomaa, 2000), and especially for teenagers (Weilenman,

2001). Little research has been conducted on supporting spectators in the

context of sporting events. A couple of contributions have focused on various

visual enhancements for the TV audience, especially for digital TV (e.g.,

Cavallaro, 1997; Rafey, Gibbs, Hoch, Le Van Gong, & Wang, 2001). Perhaps

the closest related project to this research is the Arena Project² by the

Mäkitalo Research Centre. This project provides spectators with event

specific data through the use of handheld computers. The context where this

technology has been introduced is focused at arena-based events, i.e., basketball

and ice hockey. Spectators can watch the game live with supplementary

information such as statistics. The technology developed enables the spectators

to view the heart rates and breathing of the players via the handheld computers.

In addition, the spectators can also see replays of goals and penalty situations

from the player’s field of view. One of the goals in the project has been to

investigate how event specific information can be broadcasted to people

outside of the arena, as opposed to spectators in situ.

The research on mobile IT in the work domain and in the leisure domain is often

different in terms of, for instance, research approach, unit of analysis, theoretical

foundation, etc. However, in most mobile IT research, despite domain,

there is an interested in the context where the IT is used, or is to be used. The

context places limitations on how IT can be used and the context is often a

prerequisite for the use. We refer to this as contextual requirements. To shed

light upon this, the chapter reviews and applies two different views on context,

first, the notion of formative context (Ciborra & Lanzara, 1994) and

secondly, the Situated Action approach (Suchman, 1987). From the view of

formative context we attempt to elucidate distributed events as a phenomenon,

such as norms and established ways of how they actually run and take place.

Moreover, the Situated Action approach is used as a background to investigate

the individual behavior of actors within these contexts.

The aim of this chapter is to provide a set of contextual requirements to help

designers develop new concepts and to understand how IT can be used as

information support for spectators at distributed events.


This chapter empirically explores the context of three distributed events: the

Swedish International Rally, the Roskilde music festival, and the Swedish

Match Cup ocean sailing. Distributed events are those divided in several parts

held at different geographical locations at the same time or in a sequence with

one part of the event followed by the next. Distributed events are also when the

spectators can only view portions of the event taking place. Conventional arena

events, such as ice hockey, track and field, and soccer make use of large

screens for close-ups, replays and text-based information such as results and

split-times. However, at distributed events taking place outside the conventional

arena it is more difficult to provide spectator information support. At

many distributed events, media channels, such as local broadcasts via loudspeaker

systems and large screens, are used to inform the audience. These

channels are located at hot spots of the event where many spectators are

located, for instance at the start and at the finish line. But a large number of

spectators are not at the critical spots and they thereby miss event information.

To deal with this, some spectators bring radio receivers; this of course only

when the event is radio broadcasted. With this background the following

research question is to be further elaborated in this chapter: What are the

contextual requirements for the design of spectator information support

at distributed events?

Field studies of the three events were conducted. The collected data were

analyzed in relation to related research. Drawing upon these findings, three

main contextual requirements are outlined. Further, based on the requirements,

the main challenges concerning the support of spectators are discussed.

Following this, suggestions and implications for design to meet these challenges

are presented.

The remainder of the chapter is structured as follows: The first section reviews

and applies two perspectives on context as a theoretical background. The

second section describes the methods applied in this research. Next we report

on the fieldwork. We then turn to an analysis, which discusses our findings from

the three studies, before the chapter concludes and outlines future work.

The Understanding and Use of Context

The literature provides a number of ways of understanding and studying

context, with perspectives departing from the interplay between individuals,

organizations, and environments, and how these aspects influence the design of

technology and its use. Regardless of which starting point, particular circumstances

and aspects within the context of interest have direct influence on how

IT is used or can be used. Some approaches to context have viewed and

analyzed it in terms of describing the interplay between individuals and the

surrounding organizational structure, some has put the emphasis on what role

technology can play to accommodate and facilitate interaction with regard to

the surrounding environment, i.e., context-aware computing. Burrell (2000)

propose a model of context-aware computing with social navigation. This is

used to make earlier user experiences visible to add relevance to physical space

and tasks. Schilit (1994) provides a set of important aspects regarding context:

where you are, whom you are with, and what resources are nearby. In addition,

a model of context-aware software dimensions is presented (Schilit, 1994).

Abowd & Dey (2000) claim that users should not be confronted with

expressing all the information relevant to a given situation. Further, they claim

that it is likely that users cannot formulate which information is relevant. Instead,

the context-aware application should collect contextual information and, based

on choices made by the designer, the application should provide relevant

information to the user.

“Context is any information that can be used to characterize the

situation of an entity. An entity is a person, or object that is

considered relevant to the interaction between a user and an

application, including the user and applications themselves”

(Abowd & Dey, 2000, p.3).

Pascoe (1998) describes a set of context-aware capabilities to be able to

describe context-awareness independently of functionality or interface. The

capabilities emphasize on how to strengthen the link between contextual data

and the resulting behavior and execution of applications.

“Context is a subjective concept that is defined by the entity that

perceives it. For example, one entity may conceive of its context

as location whereas another may view it from a temporal perspective.

It could also be a more ethereal construct, e.g. the emotional

state of a person. Therefore, context could be generally described

as the subset of physical and conceptual states of interest to a

particular entity” (Pascoe, 1998).

These definitions are useful on a general level. To a large extent these views on

context put the emphasis on how to make technology feature a sense of context

in its operation and execution. In this research we are interested in understanding

distributed events as a phenomenon, i.e., its basic structure and execution.

Moreover, the interest also concerns the fundamental behavioral patterns

among the spectators, such as norms, needs and general practice. With this as

background we have chosen to apply two different perspectives on context in

order to shed light on these two instances of the events. First, Formative

Context (Ciborra & Lanzara, 1994) is used to support our understanding of

distributed events and its fundamental properties. Secondly, the Situated

Action approach (Suchman, 1987) is applied to elucidate the practice and

behavior of the actors, i.e., the spectators in situ. The two general constructs

of the views on context have been used as a lens to guide our general

understanding of empirical phenomena and to shed additional light upon

derived findings. The approaches towards context will be described in more

detail below.

Ciborra & Lanzara (1994) describe context from an organizational perspective.

They introduce the notion of formative context in order to interpret

empirical findings from a study of a software development company. They

argue that:

“The outcome of a formative context in a work setting is a texture

of routines, roles and tasks that come to possess an ‘aura of

naturalness’ for those who daily execute the routines in that

context” (Ciborra & Lanzara, 1994, p. 70).

The daily work practice, established in the organization and between individuals,

preserves and maintains the formative context, enacted by the actors. They

also claim that the “aura of naturalness” is often conceived as inescapable.

However, the formative context is under a negotiated evolvement:

“Formative contexts show a pasted-up nature, and a makeshift

one, where old and new routines are tested, discarded, retrieved,

collated, and combined along a main stream of sense” (Ciborra &

Lanzara, 1994, p. 71).

And, as organizations are confronted with new major tasks, for which new

organizational structures are formed, the formative context is actively developed

to better accommodate the challenges brought by new projects:

“…when developing a system like the software factory, the object

of design and construction – be it deliberate or unintended – does

not only consist of new organizational routines, programs, procedures,

databases and flows but, more importantly, of a new

formative context” (Ciborra & Lanzara, 1994, p. 71).

The concept of context is here used in its transactional meaning, enacted in a

situation of action, where formative contexts are expressions of social cognition

that transcends the individual (Ciborra & Lanzara, 1994). The meaning of

context herein stems from the cyclic flow from established norms and values of

practice to how new tasks and challenges imply changes to the formative

context, thus having direct influence on how work is coordinated and conducted.

The social and organizational impact on the formative context can thus

maintain, reinforce or alter it in various ways.

Another view on context has been made by Suchman (1987) and her Situated

Action approach. Suchman is primarily concerned with the interaction between

people and systems that are based on some notion of anticipating the users’

needs and how they go about deciding what to do, i.e., trying to understand the

user’s goal to take the appropriate action. Further, Suchman discusses the

cognitive science perspective, i.e., the planning model, which suggests that

human action inevitably stems from some kind of predefined plan. Thus,

systems that are intended to accommodate this perspective are designed to

identify these plans to act and interact in a purposeful way. Suchman (1987)

provides insights from a study of such a system, which indicate weaknesses of

this approach when human action tends to deviate from the implemented plan

in the system (Suchman, 1987, pp. 121-170).

“The coherence of situated action is tied in essential ways not to

individual predispositions or conventional rules but to local interactions

contingent on the actor’s particular circumstances”

(Suchman, 1987, pp. 27-28).

This implies that circumstances, as Suchman (1987) puts it, or context specific

aspects in a particular situation, vary on the situation at hand and in ways that

are difficult to predict. In addition, these circumstances can be constituted by

either social or material aspects. She further argues:

“In fact, because the relation of the intent to accomplish some goal

to the actual course of situated action is enormously contingent, a

statement of intent generally says very little about the action that

follows. It is precisely because our plans are inherently vague –

because we can state our intentions without having to describe the

actual course that our actions will take – that an intentional

vocabulary is so useful for our everyday affairs” (Suchman, 1987,

p. 38).

Due to the unpredictability of the chosen course of action, the underlying intent

and so on, there is no recognition algorithm to identify or anticipate behavior

without considering the prevalent context.

The two different perspectives on context concerning actors, action and

interaction provide us with a general tool to interpret and analyze our data.

These interpretations along with some theoretical considerations are presented

at the end of our discussion. Next, the methods applied in this research are