Adapting to Change

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• IT should be suitable for different spatial, temporal and social contexts.

• IT should also be designed so that it is adaptable to changes, not only

supporting a variety of suitable activities.

• IT services or devices should be designed to be shared within groups and

should ease the transition between common and individual activities and


• The use of IT should be easy to discontinue and then just as easily


Appearance and Activity

• IT should support both the engaging in certain activities and communicating

a certain activity to others. These two need not be the same.


Spatial, temporal and social aspects always influence human action and thus

also affect and are affected by the use of artifacts. This means that the design

of IT must be informed by an understanding of these aspects. Studying a setting,

in this case a public place where people wait to travel, points to the greater

problem of understanding the frames for action. The aim of this chapter was to

identify the behaviors of people, observing what it is they do in places for

waiting. In this chapter we describe how behavior is influenced by spatial,

temporal and social frames and how this affects use and thereby can, and should

affect, the design of IT. In our study of how people do what they do while

waiting to travel we have highlighted some of the interactional meanings that

spatial, temporal and social frames can have in a setting. We claim that these

meanings are important, and will most likely continue to be important for the

behavior of people in these types of settings. People interact with others in

public settings and the “rules” for public behavior are fairly persistent. This

means that our findings are interesting for future design, since acceptable

behavior changes gradually, and at a slow pace.

Waiting to travel means being in an environment where distractions are

common. The environment does not frame the sub-activities of waiting in the

same way as the store frames shopping (picking up things and putting them in

a trolley), or as the playground frames certain play-related activities. Waiting

does not mean doing certain preset things. Waiting is a preliminary state; it is

not something that people do for its own sake. Nevertheless people often

organize their waiting, use their time to sit down, read a paper, and make a

phone call, etcetera. These activities are usually not meant to last for an

extended period of time. Most activities that people choose to engage in are

easily managed, and require few preparations. This makes it possible to be

attentive to what is going on in the surroundings, something that is important in

a public place where people wait to travel. Since the environment might

distract, we have pointed to the need for artifacts that helps the user to resume

earlier activities. The use of artifacts in the studied contexts tends to be

constrained to things that can be accessed instantly, such as a paper, a book,

a mobile phone or paper documents. This can be due to one certain problem

with many of the IT devices of today, they are not as adaptable as they could

be, and they are foremost developed for continuous stationary work, not for

short intervals of use (e.g., Kristoffersen & Ljungberg, 1998). Concerning the

observations of the creation of private spaces, this is something that might be

difficult to enhance with IT, but it would be worthwhile exploring the possibility

of enlarging and decreasing individuals’ private space. One aspect of how

activity affects design is that the use of artifacts should be visible and easily

interpretable so that onlookers can understand what someone is doing in the

span of a glance. This is not always possible when new technology is introduced

in a new setting. The people present are not acquainted with the new artifacts

and can therefore not have an understanding of the use. After a while the

technology and associated behavior is more commonly known and thus more


We have made observations of people engaging in work activities in the study.

Instances of this are the use of mobile phones for making business calls or

reading work-related documents among other things. To design for doing work

while waiting to travel, we suggest that the implications presented in this chapter

are taken into account. However, to be able to support work activities the

designers have to look more closely at the actual practice that the support is

designed for. By doing this it can be determined which activities should be

supported, and how to create valid support for use in new contexts.

Time spent waiting is in a manner of speaking “free time,” it doesn’t require very

much of the traveler and in most cases not much is expected of you to

accomplish when waiting. A person waiting for a train doesn’t have to

accomplish anything in particular while waiting; one could for example sit still

and look at the bypassers without being reproached by angry looks. We see

it as a possible sanctuary for reflection and rest and it does not necessarily have

to be filled with effective and productive work. When studying people waiting

to travel it has become evident that they engage in activities frequently and do

not seem very discontent with waiting.

The main contribution of this chapter is descriptions of how people create

privacy in the public place, how they adapt to spatial, temporal and social

change, and how appearance and activity interrelate. In each of these descriptions

we also point to the use of artifacts and how this can affect design of IT.

One main design conclusion is that the use of technology must be possible to

negotiate or adapt to support use in different ways, in different contexts and to

produce a possibility to understand this use.


This research was partly funded by The Swedish Research Institute for

Information Technology (SITI).