Course Documents
     Main Page
     Contact Information
     Course Announcement
     Schedule and Syllabus
     Course Participants
     Discussion Forum
     Swiki Chat Area
     Lecture Material
     Independent Research
     Previous Course
Swiki Features:
  View this Page
  Edit this Page
  Printer Friendly View
  Lock this Page
  References to this Page
  Uploads to this Page
  History of this Page
  Top of the Swiki
  Recent Changes
  Search the Swiki
  Help Guide
Related Links:
     Atlas Program
     Center for LifeLong Learning and Design
     Computer Science Department
     Institute of Cognitive Science
     College of Architecture and Planning
     University of Colorado at Boulder

Untitled Document William S. Beachley
Assignment 15
Due: 4/5/04

source: Chapter 3 "Home Alone" in Brown, J. S. & Duguid, P. (2000) The Social Life of Information, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA

1. what did you find

1.1. interesting about the article?
I thought the experiment with hot desking at Chiat/Day was very interesting. I can only imagine how chaotic and frustrating the power struggles were with every day turning into a brand new adventure. I really related to the jornal excerpt at the beginning of the article. I have seen some pretty awful ISP installation programs which were nothing more than spyware disguised as easy access to the internet. These programs need to do is provide a way to talk to a PPP server and what they really do is create a lot of unnecessary overhead which can render slower computers unusable. Anyway, I really liked what the article had to say about the importance of going to an office, having your own space configured to your own cognitive style and having the support of fellow employees. Working from home, I believe, would get old very fast.

1.2. not interesting about the article?

2. what do you consider the main message of the article?
The main message of the article is that the promise that people would be able to "work anywhere, any time" failed, because of the lack of support and the limitations of the individual mind. This approach was shown to fail within an office environment. Collaborative potential was virtually eliminated because everyone was busy looking out for their own needs, fighting over the best areas to work. If this proved inefficient in an office environment, it must also be inefficient in a home environment where company resources are scarce. Even simple technical problems may take weeks to fix as the person trying to set up an internet connection found out.

3. what does the following quote mean to you: "design needs to attend not simply to the frailty of technological systems and the robustness of social systems, but to ways in which social systems often play a key part in making even frail technology robust"
This is basically saying if designers need to pay particular attention to providing a means for getting the right information to the right people at the right time as this is the key to making technological systems robust.

3.1. why are social systems robust?
Social systems are robust because people need them and will take the time to learn them well. For example, practically everyone knows how to use email and chat systems.

3.2. why are technological systems frail?
Technological systems are frail because they are harder to learn and people are not as willing to take the time to learn them well. They just want to know what they need to know for their current task.

3.3. or do you disagree with the authors about his?
I agree with the authors.

4. think of a couple of persons (maybe family members or friends) who are in a position to use computer by being "home alone"! Characterize the major problems that these persons have!
I am thinking of one person who works at Career Services who set up a wireless network at home. Getting it working is one thing, but figuring out what to do when things go wrong can be tough. Even switching between CU Boulder's various wireless networks and home networks can be challenging without sufficient troubleshooting experience. How do you know if your router, computer, or provider is the source of the problem? These things, I have found, are only learned by experience. Lack of proper support is the biggest problem for anyone "home alone."

5. Describe briefly some new innovative technologies that you can think of which would address these problems!
Web forums, Google, chat rooms, FAQ's, etc are great, but useless if an internet connection cannot be established. The internet is a great resource for tech support, but is the information usable for a non-techie? Most people who are not very technical are unwilling to figure out how to modify a registry key or even figure out how to save an attachment to their hard drive in a place where they can find it. They just want things to work and are afraid or unwilling or convinced that they can't fix it. Simply providing the right information at the right time is still not enough unless a user is willing or feels competent enough to use that information.

6. in case of problems with computer systems ?how often to you look for help/advice

6.1. from humans?
Very rarely. In my office, I am the resource for these problems.

6.2. from written documentation?
Never, unless it is an online resource or pdf that I printed out.

6.3. from online resources?

View this PageEdit this PagePrinter Friendly ViewLock this PageReferences to this PageUploads to this PageHistory of this PageTop of the SwikiRecent ChangesSearch the SwikiHelp Guide