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Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction [Hardcover]

Paul Dourish
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 2001 Bradford Books
Computer science as an engineering discipline has been spectacularly successful. Yet it is also a philosophical enterprise in the way it represents the world and creates and manipulates models of reality, people, and action. In this book, Paul Dourish addresses the philosophical bases of human-computer interaction. He looks at how what he calls "embodied interaction"—an approach to interacting with software systems that emphasizes skilled, engaged practice rather than disembodied rationality—reflects the phenomenological approaches of Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and other twentieth-century philosophers. The phenomenological tradition emphasizes the primacy of natural practice over abstract cognition in everyday activity. Dourish shows how this perspective can shed light on the foundational underpinnings of current research on embodied interaction. He looks in particular at how tangible and social approaches to interaction are related, how they can be used to analyze and understand embodied interaction, and how they could affect the design of future interactive systems.

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Review

"Important reading for anyone engaged in designing computer-based systems to support human activities... full of interesting ideas and insights."
Richard Mateosian, IEEE Micro

"Engagingly written...."
R. Keith Sawyer, Philosophical Psychology

About the Author

Paul Dourish is Professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, with courtesy appointments in Computer Science and in Anthropology.

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It is a truism that computers are becoming faster and more powerful all the time. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This is a major work on the redesign of the human/computer interface. It is well written but very deep. Excellent academic research is clearly demonstrate throughout. I would not say, however, that it is an easy read.
Engineering research does not generally have to be as strongly academically founded as scientific research. The controlling factor is "does it work," not how does it relate to previous work. This tendency leads to problems when it is necessary to do multidisciplinary work involving both engineering and science. The redesign of the human/computer interface is just such a problem.
As an engineer working independently in this field, I have often wished for the time and resources to do proper academic studies. Paul Dourish has now done them for me. All my future publications will have to show consistency with this book, show they are clearly outside the area covered by this book, or show the book is wrong. The last alternative is most unlikely. I think I can show my work, based on Darwinism and ontology, complies with the first option. I am certain that my work will be stronger for this effort.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Major work on Human Computer Interface Jan. 7 2002
Format:Hardcover
This is a major work on the redesign of the human/computer interface. It is well written but very deep. Excellent academic research is clearly demonstrated throughout. I would not say, however, that it is an easy read.
Engineering research does not generally have to be as strongly academically founded as scientific research. The controlling factor is "does it work," not how does it relate to previous work. This tendency leads to problems when it is necessary to do multidisciplinary work involving both engineering and science. The redesign of the human/computer interface is just such a problem.
As an engineer working independently in this field, I have often wished for the time and resources to do proper academic studies. Paul Dourish has now done them for me. All my future publications will have to show consistency with this book, show they are clearly outside the area covered by this book, or show the book is wrong. The last alternative is most unlikely. I think I can show my work, based on Darwinism and ontology, complies with the first option. I am certain that my work will be stronger for this effort.
_______
Why is the human/computer interface now so important?
It is quite possible that the events of 9/11 are just the first in a series of major shocks that will mark the first quarter of the twenty-first century. Others that may follow within a few years include the end of cheap oil (Hubbert's Peak) and environmental deterioration from human activities (Greenhouse Effect).
The first lesson learned from 9/11 is that resources in place at the start of a major event are the only ones you can use to address it. You may have the time and money for research later but in the hour of need only those things that are already developed are of use.
Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear, interesting, inspiring, but also a little like a religion July 7 2007
By twark maine - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One of the strong sides of this book is that it makes it really easy for the reader - things are generally summarized and repeated exactly in the right places. It can serve as an introduction to the world of phenomenology, sociology and philosophy as pertaining to Human-Computer Interfaces.
It felt more like a mixture between a proposal and an introductory philosophical treatise than an overview of the current state of the field (it carries the word "foundations" in its title for a reason).
After reading it however, I still wasn't convinced that "social computing", "tangible computing" and "embodied interaction" really add up to a construct that can effectively inform the design of new HCI devices even though this claim was repeated throughout the book almost like a prayer wheel.
Interestingly, while the book points out the meaning of embodiment in already existing work practices, it fails to give any strategies on how these theories can actually be applied to the design of effective new HCI devices that go beyond the shiny toys produced at MIT Media Lab.
The loophole seems to be that embodied practices can only arise once the tools are defined, so that it is hard to predict what practices will be used once it's out there - since the way we use tools is largely improvisatory, as Dourish points out.
I also can not stop to wonder if the term "embodiment" is akin to "multimedia" - a belief system that can mean so many things that it effectively disintegrates sooner or later.

So, while it left me not exactly sure that there really is another end to it, it was certainly worthwhile and inspiring to work through this book in a thorough manner - I now feel courageous enough to put my nose into "Being and Time" by Heidegger.
A friendly way to get your brain going!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book, interesting and clear June 2 2007
By Hussein Ahmed - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A very interesting, and yet clear to read and follow book. "Where the action is" was a reading reference for my qualifier exam and after reading it I was hooked up to HCI forever. Very exciting and a "must read" for all HCI researchers.
15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a major work on the human/computer Interface Jan. 2 2002
By J. T. Riley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a major work on the redesign of the human/computer interface. It is well written but very deep. Excellent academic research is clearly demonstrate throughout. I would not say, however, that it is an easy read.
Engineering research does not generally have to be as strongly academically founded as scientific research. The controlling factor is "does it work," not how does it relate to previous work. This tendency leads to problems when it is necessary to do multidisciplinary work involving both engineering and science. The redesign of the human/computer interface is just such a problem.
As an engineer working independently in this field, I have often wished for the time and resources to do proper academic studies. Paul Dourish has now done them for me. All my future publications will have to show consistency with this book, show they are clearly outside the area covered by this book, or show the book is wrong. The last alternative is most unlikely. I think I can show my work, based on Darwinism and ontology, complies with the first option. I am certain that my work will be stronger for this effort.
5.0 out of 5 stars Equally as important as Suchman's Plans and Situated Actions. April 1 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This work figures to be front-and-center in my dissertation as a sociologist.

If you're straddling the line between sociology and technology, or between philosophy and technology, this is a fabulous work to own and digest.

Does a great job of elaborating both Garfinkel's ethnomethodological perspective with a particular eye toward its sociotechnological implications, and of marrying this exposition to an account of some of the most important works in phenomenology and 19th/20th century phenomenology.

For anyone that doesn't take technology seriously as an inherently social phenomenon, this work will be an eye-opener. For those that are hardcore social/cultural scholars, this book will help to bridge the analytical and theoretical gap for works and projects that have to confront the technological nature of the contemporary social epoch, as heavily technologically mediated as it is.

Marry to Mumford's Technics and Civilization for a broad, deep confrontation with the sociotechnical present.
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