… we are concerned with the argument, implicit if not explicit in many discussions about the pitfalls of interdisciplinary investigation, that one primary measure of the strength of social or cultural investigation is the breadth of implications for design that result (Dourish, 2006). While we have both been involved in ethnographic work carried out for this explicit purpose, and continue to do so, we nonetheless feel that this is far from the only, or even the most significant, way for technological and social research practice to be combined. Just as from our perspective technological artifacts are not purely considered as “things you might want to use,” from their investigation we can learn more than simply “what kinds of things people want to use.” Instead, perhaps, we look to some of the questions that have preoccupied us throughout the book: Who do people want to be? What do they think they are doing? How do they think of themselves and others? Why do they do what they do? What does technology do for them? Why, when, and how are those things important? And what roles do and might technologies play in the social and cultural worlds in which they are embedded?

These investigations do not primarily supply ubicomp practitioners with system requirements, design guidelines, or road maps for future development. What they might provide instead are insights into the design process itself; a broader view of what digital technologies might do; an appreciation for the relevance of social, cultural, economic, historical, and political contexts as well as institutions for the fabric of everyday technological reality; a new set of conceptual resources to bring to bear within the design process; and a new set of questions to ask when thinking about technology and practice.

Dourish & Bell (2011), p. 191-192

I’m very grateful to Jess Ogden for pointing me at this book by Dourish and Bell when I was recently bemoaning the fact that I struggled to find any concrete implications for design in Summers & Punzalan (2017).


Dourish, P. (2006). Implications for design. In Proceedings of the sigchi conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 541–550). ACM. Retrieved from http://www.dourish.com/publications/2006/implications-chi2006.pdf

Dourish, P., & Bell, G. (2011). Divining a digital future: Mess and mythology in ubiquitous computing. MIT Press.

Summers, E., & Punzalan, R. (2017). Bots, seeds and people: Web archives as infrastructure. In Proceedings of the 2017 acm conference on computer supported cooperative work and social computing (pp. 821–834). New York, NY, USA: ACM. http://doi.org/10.1145/2998181.2998345