Monday, September 22, 2003

In search of interdisciplinarity

Given my PhD studies and recent adventures in interdisciplinary design, I am very interested in the role of sociology and anthropology in the research and design of ubiquitous computing and mixed reality applications.

Current research in sociology and cognitive and computer sciences at the University of Surrey is closely related to my dissertation work: INCITE researchers are looking at connections between innovative ethnography, critical cultural theory and design, RIS:OME researchers are looking at regulation, information and the self: ownership and mobile environments, and the Interact Lab researchers are looking at pervasive environments and ubiquitous computing. However, there doesn't seem to be any obvious or overt connections between these projects - and I wonder how much influence sociology and anthropology actually have on the research and design of ubicomp ...

The RIS:OME project has organised The Life of Mobile Data: Technology, Mobility and Data Subjectivity conference, and I will be presenting a paper at the Alternative Mobility Futures conference at Lancaster University, but neither of these conferences seems to connect to the, shall we say, more technologically inclined - even when UbiComp researchers discuss mobilities and privacies here and here in prep for UbiComp 2003.

I am left wondering how successful our attempts at interdisciplinary research are actually going. The EC Convivio Network for social computing - our sponsors in Rome - seems dedicated to this sort of research and design, and I experienced the amazing work that comes from such an approach. And so when I read this Doors of Perception exchange, I found myself agreeing (and disagreeing) with both "sides" - and ultimately fearing we are no closer to true collaboration.

Now, I certainly don't mean to suggest a conspiracy - and I hold no particular discipline or sector any more or less responsible for this perceived lack. But, at least in my mind's eye, something is clearly (not) going on ... Am I misunderstanding? Too demanding? What do you think?


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