The last 6 months have been a whirlwind of writing, reframing, designing, and presenting as the deadline for my thesis submission approaches. I haven’t posted any of this new work here as it’s been such a dynamic process that I haven’t wanted to document it in public. However, a few weeks ago I was forced to finally update my abstract to reflect what the final incarnation of this research is likely to be. I’ve updated the abstract page, but to save you a click, here it is:

 Ubiquitous Computing is a project within human-computer interaction that aims to embed computers into everyday spaces. As computing has moved away from desktop paradigms and is increasingly designed to operate ‘in the world’, the practice of ubiquitous computing has become heavily concerned with issues around space and place; particularly, with how technology fits in the relationship between people, space, and the understandings that bind them. Given the wider range of social and cultural contexts computational devices find themselves in, understanding the existing relationships between humans and their environments has become increasingly important to designers of technology. However, most of this research is centred around urban computing, conducted within cities, or focused on the mobility of urban dwellers. Indeed, little focus has been given to ubiquitous computing for non-urban environments.

This research expands the understanding of the relationship between technology and environmental understanding for ubiquitous computing. Through the case study of a national park, this thesis proposes new ways of thinking about designing technology that plays a role in the production of environmental understanding that moves beyond the typical focus on urban centres and mobility. It does so by drawing upon relational notions of space and understanding from cultural geography; examining how meaning of the world is socially and culturally produced and constructed. Building on this foundation, two multi-sited ethnographic studies with a state government organisation, Parks Victoria, are presented that demonstrate various productions of environmental knowledge in practice. 

Based on analysis of these studies, a series of design principles are presented that reframe space and environmental understanding as emergent and seasonal processes. Drawing on these design principles, two design concepts are presented that are envisioned for use within Parks Victoria: Habitat, a location-based platform for tacit knowledge, and Wayfarer, a visualisation and narrative tool for situated understandings. A reflection on these related pieces of research will then serve to highlight new, practical directions for further work in ubiquitous computing in a non-urban context. 

This is approximately the 10th version of my thesis abstract, and no doubt it will be tweaked even further in the coming weeks.There’s 30 days or so before my thesis is due, and I’m exciting about some of the new developments in it. Once I catch my breath I’ll be sure to post snippets of individual chapters here.

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