New Challenges: Research Areas and Design Issues

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There are a lot of challenges to the Interaction Society; many issues that need

to be explored. In this section, I will only briefly touch upon a fraction of those

challenges to set the scene for the rest of this book. Each chapter in this book

will then add to this list of issues that needs to be dealt with in the near future.

The challenges for the Interaction Society can be found on all of the different

levels of human activities as mentioned above, and these new technologies that

enable the Interaction Society raise a lot of social and technological questions,

as well as raise some interesting theoretical challenges for further research.

Concerning the social dimensions of the Interaction Society, one obvious

issue is that with an increasing growth in adoption of technologies to support

interaction, and with an increase in interpersonal communication enabled by

these devices and gadgets, interruptions will be a focal issue when the

geographical place is no longer a useful filter for interaction (because of new

possibilities of interruptions caused by mobile phones, pagers, PDAs, etc that

break right into conversations “anytime, anywhere”). Further on, an increase in

computer-mediated communication might lead to issues concerning, e.g.,

interaction overload (Ljungberg & Sørensen, 2000), divided attention problems

(Wiberg, 2001a, 2001b), and stress, both in the workplace and during

leisure hours. Here, empirical case studies are important to describe successful

arrangements of interaction technologies, and work routines to enable effective,

and maybe healthy, fluid work. Further on, there is a need for analysis,

models, new knowledge, and design guidelines for how to effectively cope with

the increasing burden of interaction demands, and the increasing demands for

instant interaction and demands for being “always online, always available.”

Concerning the technical dimensions of the Interaction Society, some work

is needed on how to create integrated environments across stationary and

mobile computers, realize service handover, seamless session management,

etc., to enable us to focus more on interacting and communicating with other

persons and less on the technical aspects like establishing sessions, configuring

devices, finding and initiating network connections, etc.

There are also some interesting theoretical challenges in relation to the rise of

the interaction society. Some examples here might be, e.g., how to organize

these seamless/fluid work environments? Here, models that can better inform

us about the consequences and impact of interaction technologies on work life

and human performance are highly relevant. We also need to develop our

theories of basic human communication that take into account ongoing interaction

across multiple devices, and across different media channels. Finally, and

in relation to the section above, we also need new models on how to balance

the question that the fluidity in work for one person (empowered by this new

technology) is a potential interruption for another.

This book is a first attempt to start addressing these and several additional

issues. Thus, the overall objective and mission of this book is to provide its

audience with a rich overview of the emerging Interaction Society enabled by

new information and communication technologies (ICT), including gadgets

such as mobile phones, Love getties, PDAs, and pagers, and applications such

as email and chat clients, Internet communities, instant messaging systems,

video conferencing systems, and different kinds of alert- and notification

systems.

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Endnotes

1 At present (i.e., August 28, 2003), 1.2 billion people worldwide own a

mobile phone according to HS Business & Finance (http://www.helsinkihs.

net/news.asp?id=20030828IE7) and to just give an example the total

number of telephone users in China has now exceeded 287 million,

including 167 million fixed phone users and 120.6 million mobile phone

users. China now has the second largest telephone network in the world

and it ranks third in the world in terms of information industry. China’s

number of mobile phone users has just narrowly surpassed the United

States, whose mobile phone users number 120.1 million. This according

to People’s daily (http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200109/04/

eng20010904_79296.html ).

2 Almost 10% of the world’s population now has access to the Internet,

according to Nua.com, the compiler of Internet statistics. Figures for

Internet use had grown to 580.78M people by the end of May 2002, up

from 407.1M in December 2000.The Nua study indicates that for the first

time ever, Europe has the highest number of Internet users in the world.

There are now 185.83M Europeans online, compared to 182.83M in the

U.S. and Canada, and 167.86M in the Asia/Pacific region.

3 According to a research project at Berkeley university, US that conducts

studies of the development of email (http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/

research/projects/how-much-info/internet/emaildetails.html) the total number

of electronic mailboxes in the world had soared 83.5% in the past year

(i.e., 2000) to 569,171,660 mailboxes; In the U.S., in the year 2000 the

number of mailboxes has jumped 73% to 333.5 million mailboxes since

the end of 1998. In the rest of the world, the total number of mailboxes

has grown 101% to 235.6 million mailboxes in 2000. In the U.S., the

average corporate email user has around 1.5 mailboxes, and the average

household using email has about four mailboxes. In the year 2000 there

where about 89 million Americans using email at work and roughly 50

million households using email.

4 Source: http://company.icq.com/info/icqstory.html

5 For a more detailed discussion of how technology and society is, and have

always been, heavily and complexly intertwined (see, e.g., Castells,

1996).

6 Although the very concept of “networks” or “networking” has recently

become very popular, the idea of “networks” or even “knowledge

networks” is rather old. For a throughout discussion of, e.g., networks for

knowledge creation and sharing from the perspectives of Leibniz and

Hegel see Churchman (1972).