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We live in seductive times. Ever-growing datasets of user behavior, preferences, and social ties are piling up, and will continue to grow with the use of sensors beyond the keypad. Devices can now sense location, movement, and other devices, which in many eyes amounts to a new paradigm of technologies that are “context aware.” This leap of faith—from datastream to context—is a fantasy that gets many businesses into trouble.
This talk will show how this leap narrows the scope of possibilities rather than widens them, by perpetuating an “add GPS and stir” mentality that misses the bigger picture.
Anthropologists, on the other hand, have a lot to say about context. We study it extensively, we know how it scales, and we know that switching contexts involves a lot more than moving from one set of location coordinates to the next. From an anthropological point of view, what to do with these datasets is less a problem of math and more a problem of how to make it meaningful.
The talk, based on social science research of real-world users in both mature and emerging markets, will demonstrate what needs to be done to put the context back into context aware technologies for delivering end user value.
Dawn Nafus is an anthropologist at Intel, where she conducts social science research to inspire new products and strategies. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from Cambridge University, and was previously a research fellow at University of Essex. She has published widely on communication technology and society in academic journals, and worked with both public policy makers and industry leaders on issues such as widening participation in open source communities, and knowledge transfer policies for local economic development. Her recent work has focused on how patterns of mobility and their social meanings affect technology usage. She is also working on an interdisciplinary project combining statistical modeling and social theory to explain cases of accelerated adoption rates at the national level. Her areas of regional expertise are Russia and the UK.
Ken Anderson is at Intel Research where he conducts ethnographic resarch of human culturese and social practices to inform corporate strategy and technology development. His specialties are in globalization, identity, and urban studies. His work focuses on mobilities, time, transnationals in and between urban environments.