Archive for the ‘Indexicality’ Category

Indexicality: Understanding mobile human-computer interaction in context

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Indexicality: Understanding mobile human-computer interaction in context Authors: Jesper Kjeldskov, Jeni Paay Keywords: Mobile computing, indexicality, physical context, spatial context, social context, prototype systems, field evaluation, public transport, healthcare, sociality


A lot of research has been done within the area of mobile computing and context-awareness over the last 15 years, and the idea of systems adapting to their context has produced promising results for overcoming some of the challenges of user interaction with mobile devices within various specialized domains. However, today it is still the case that only a limited body of theoretically grounded knowledge exists that can explain the relationship between users, mobile system user interfaces, and their context. Lack of such knowledge limits our ability to elevate learning from the mobile systems we develop and study from a concrete to an abstract level. Consequently, the research field is impeded in its ability to leap forward and is limited to incremental steps from one design to the next. Addressing the problem of this void, this article contributes to the body of knowledge about mobile interaction design by promoting a theoretical approach for describing and understanding the relationship between user interface representations and user context. Specifically, we promote the concept of indexicality derived from semiotics as an analytical concept that can be used to describe and understand a design. We illustrate the value of the indexicality concept through an analysis of empirical data from evaluations of three prototype systems in use. Based on our analytical and empirical work we promote the view that users interpret information in a mobile computer user interface through creation of meaningful indexical signs based on the ensemble of context and system.

One of the more interesting observations by the authors is that the greater the awareness of context, the less information that has to be presented to the user. For a mobile device, with limited display area that is an advantage.

It would be an advantage for other interfaces because even with a lot of screen real estate, it would be counter-productive to over run the user with information about a subject.

Present them with the information relevant to a particular context, leaving the option for them to request additional information.