I am a faculty member in the Department of Informatics
in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the
University of California, Irvine. In 2014, I was awarded an honorary doctorate, “Doctor Honoris Causa,” from the University of Umeå in Sweden, for which I am very grateful. I was elected to the CHI Academy in 2013. I co-edit, with Kirsten Foot and Victor Kaptelinin, the MIT Press Acting with Technology Series which has many award-winning titles. I am a founding member of the ICS Center for Research on Sustainability, Collapse-preparedness and Information Technology at UC Irvine. I
like social theory, ethnographic fieldwork, and doing things people don’t expect me to do (like playing video games).
Activity theory proposes that consciousness is shaped by practice, that people and artifacts mediate our relationship with reality. Consciousness is produced in the enactment of activity with other people and things, rather than being something confined inside a human head. Activity theory began in Russia with the work of Lev Vygotsky in the 1920's, continuing through his student Aleksey Leontiev, and then through students of Leontiev. This work has been influential in education, organizational design, and interaction design. Activity theory works well with design because activity theorists have always tested their theories in practical ways and believe that application is an outcome of theory, not a separate activity. In some of my writings I have discussed how, as a psychological theory, activity theory can be scaled to collaborative settings without losing sight of individual participants in an activity.
My research suggests that a good deal of communication is intended to create feelings of connection between people rather than to convey specific messages. Affinity, commitment, and attention are aspects of connection. They are active fields of connection between dyads that are constantly negotiated and monitored. These fields "decay" or grow inert without interaction. While face to face interaction is especially rich in ways to establish connection (touching, eating together, making eye contact, sharing common space, informal chitchat), people also establish connection through mediated communication. Blogs, wikis, instant messaging, email, chat, newsgroups, listservs, websites, and games are especially interesting forms of human communication that establish and maintain fields of connection as well as allow for the exchange of substantive information. My most recent research concerns massively multiplayer online games. I am conducting participant-observation fieldwork in World of Warcraft , the most popular MMOG, studying how players collaborate as well as the relationship of offline, online, and in-game activity.
is a strong need to find new ways to think about the social and cultural
changes that come with new technologies. I have examined some such changes
with respect to the work of librarians and others discussed in Information
Ecologies. Our limited ability to predict change coupled with enormous
human creativity has led to a situation of instability in which systemic
effects of technological change can only be responded to after the fact.
In the current global economy we have efficient ways of distributing technology
but ineffectual means of addressing negative consequences (such as pollution
from wireless devices). New political and social forms are needed. Movements
such as green design, life cycle analysis, and cradle to cradle design
address some problems and can be applied to digital technologies. Social
changes are more difficult to characterize and require better theorizing. My students are investigating important topics in this area such as the use of digital technologies by the homeless in the U.S., and for women in slums in urban India. The ways in which we portray our digital selves are just as critical. They are fraught with the dangers of our preconceptions magnified by the power of digital technologies as discussed in my article with Yong Ming Kow on Chinese gold farming.
Movie Pundit, 2013
Movie Pundit, 2013