Research Overview

My research lies broadly at the intersection of computer science and social science. I work in the areas of human-computer interaction (HCI), computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), ubiquitous computing (Ubicomp), and science and technology studies (STS). My students and I work closely with collaborators in sociology, anthropology, and cultural studies. I use the term "embodied interaction" to talk about an approach to interaction design that is grounded socially and culturally as well as cognitively and experientially.

Previous specific projects have included studies of privacy with an emphasis on privacy as something that people do rather than as something that people have. By studying people's collective ways of orienting towards information as privacy, public, sensitive, or secret, we wanted to examine the production of private practice as a social phenomenon. Another long-term interest has been how information technologies shape our experience of spatiality and mobility by providing us with new lenses through which to encounter the world as available for particular kinds of action. Again, we want to see spatiality as a social and cultural production -- not to talk of mobility in terms of access, bandwidth, and latency, but to talk instead of the ideas invoked by talking of pilgrimage, diaspora, road warriors, nimbyism, wilderness, segregation, and tourism.

Much of our work lately has examined trans-national and trans-cultural contexts of information technology use, often informed by theoretical frameworks drawn from cultural studies and post-colonial studies. These have included work with indigenous Australians using Internet technologies to teach about language and cultural practice from their traditional homelands, Chinese game-players and their use of games as ways of strategically situating themselves in the changing economic and social contexts of Chinese life, alternative configurations of small-scale and large-scale mobility in between Thailand and the United States, and the movement of design methods and design processes around the world as part of an shifting picture of technology development and technology use (with a particular emphasis on IT design in India). We are drawn to these settings for two reasons. The first is an attempt to counter the predominant investigation of Western contexts that informs design and tends to mean that we presume that everyone is (or wants to be) "just like us." The second is that these moves help to defamiliarize technological practice and so to reveal tacit assumptions and commitments in everyday design practice.

Methodologically, I am interested in the relationships between design practice and ethnographic investigation, and particularly intrigued by the opportunities to use design as a means of ethnographic engagement (rather than as an goal.) My work is characterized by a combination of social theory, empirical examination, and technology design, in different combinations and with different emphases depending on the project.

For more detail, see my list of publications or check my students' web pages, all of which are probably updated more often that this page.