Ubiquitous Computing and Interaction

The emergence of the "ubiquitous computing" paradigm in the late 1980s introduced a series of significant challenges for research and practice in human-computer interaction, by moving the locus of interaction from the person sitting at a desk in front of a PC to the person moving through a world suffused with devices and information. This has supported an expansion of HCI's topics to include questions of spatiality, tangibility and experience. New theoretical understandings and new practical issues attend the design of ubiquitous applications, but also shed light on issues at play in traditional interaction models.

This class will survey classic and current research at the intersection of ubiquitous computing and interaction. We will begin with a mixture of lectures and discussions, with the emphasis on discussions of readings as the quarter moves along.

Grades will be based on participation in online and in-class discussion, and on a term paper due at the end of the quarter.


The primary reading for the class is a book that I published last year with Genevieve Bell from Intel, entitled "Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing." While on one hand, it feels a little odd to assign a text that I wrote, on the other, it seems silly to ignore a book that captures exactly what I think on the subject!

Other readings are drawn from research research literature, especially at the Ubicomp and CHI conferences, and will be made available online (see class schedule below).

There may be more reading than you're used to (unless you've taken a class with me before, in which case there is actually likely to be less.) Make sure you give yourself enough time to read everything at least twice before the class sessions meet. You need to be familiar with the readings in order to participate adequately in class (which is a significant percentage of your grade.)

Weekly Discussions

Most of the quarter is structured around in-class discussions of readings (see schedule below). For each class, two students will be selected to lead the discussion. Everyone else should post a response to the readings online, due 48 hours before the class starts (in order to give the discussion leaders time to use them to prepare for the discussion.) Your participation in discussions, online and in class, will count for 40% of your grade for the class.

Discussion responses should be posted on the class wiki. You can login using your UCINet ID.

Term Paper

The second component of your evaluation is a term paper. You may write these individually or in pairs. Term papers are typically around 5000 words, on any topic related to the subject of the class. Abstracts/topics for term papers are due at the end of week 4; drafts or outlines of papers are due at the end of week 7 (these drafts are not graded, but are an opportunity to get early feedback.)


The readings are stored on UCI's webfiles service. To gain access, you will first need an activated UCINet ID, and then to register for a Webfiles account.

4/3 Introduction and course overview
4/5 Class cancelled No class due to instructor illness.
4/10 Seminal ideas: Discussion
4/12 Foundations of Embodied Interaction
  • Dourish, P. 2001. Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction. MIT Press. Chapter 4.
  • Dourish, P. 2001. Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction. MIT Press. Chapter 5.
4/17 Foundations of Embodied Interaction (contd.)
4/19 Embodied Experiences
4/24 Embodied Experiences
4/26 Class cancelled
4/27 End of Week 4: Term paper topics due
5/1 Infrastructure
5/3 Mobility and Spatiality
5/8 No class (CHI conference)
5/10 No class (CHI conference)
5/15 Case Study/Discussion
5/17 Domestic Space
5/18 End of Week 7: Term paper outlines/drafts due
5/22 Shaping Norms
5/24 Critical and Cultural Perspectives
5/29 Theory and Design
5/31 Enquiring Ethnographically
6/5 Term paper discussion

6/7 Making Futures
6/12 Term papers due (midnight. Pacific Time.)