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4 Augmenting Places

What can we do to enrich our capability to manage knowledge, and to support knowledge creation and sharing? It appears immediately clear, from what we have said above, that developing systems for collecting and making information accessible is not enough. Our experiences tell us that creating repositories of information does not solve our problems with knowledge, since those repositories become frequently the problem we have to deal with.

I think that the inextricable links between knowledge and space teach us three important lessons for designing systems supporting knowledge management.

First (human-centered design), even when we are designing a specific artifact like a house, a chair or a computer, we must focus our attention on its stakeholders and on their experience, behavior and practice around that artifact. It is at this level, where we can understand that the 'thing' we are designing is a potential transformer of the space of possibilities of its stakeholders, where we use space in the rather unconventional sense outlined in the above pages, that design can fully develop its potential for innovation. For long time, we have considered human-centered design as a good practice for its being democratic, more responsive of human rights, more acceptable by users[1]: it is time that we affirm that this is still true, but, should not be disjoint from the trust that paying attention to the stakeholders increases the effectiveness of design outcomes on their practice. It is not necessary to underline that user-centeredness is particularly relevant when we deal with systems supporting knowledge management! Recently, a new buzzword has emerged in relation to the above issues: user experience design. We can take it for its clear reference to human experience, but we should remember that even when we design 'human experience', we design things that are going to populate and/or augment the space where human beings live.

Second (interaction design), design is always spatial: any new ICT based system transforms the space of possibility of action and interaction of its users as well as any new space modifies the way people access, create and share knowledge. The issue is designing, with the functions and features of the new system, new possibilities of interaction and not designing user-friendly interfaces for the functions and features of the new system. Having in mind things augmented with ICT, John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid suggested in 1994 that good design should look at their borders separating different functions or their being in use and not in use or, finally, their working correctly or not (Brown & Duguid, 1994). They claim that putting resources at those borders will allow continuity in switching among different ways of experiencing them, so that they enrich the potential of their users. I have rephrased their ideas claiming that good design should give to the system diversity and openness through continuity (De Michelis, 1998). Therefore, instead of limiting design to the interfaces of new artifacts, we should enlarge our gaze to define the research agenda for ICT on the basis of the interactions we want/need to sustain.

Third (situated computing), the aim of design is creating spaces capable to place

any action and interaction within its context, supporting seamless switches among contexts as well as openness of contexts. Rather than, dedicating our energies to create always more sophisticated virtual emulators of human beings and of their experiences, we should develop systems capable to transform the space where we live habilitating experiences that are not possible without them. We have called this new paradigm for the development of ICT applications situated computing and we are engaged in promoting it (De Michelis, 2015b). Situated computing may increase the capability of users of ICT systems to act as bricoleurs (Ciborra, 2002) avoiding to impose rigid procedures to their users.

  • [1] Participatory Design has been strongly influenced by a political inspiration, but today usercentered design can be redefined as a means for both respecting workers and creating more effective systems (see: Ehn, 1990; Telier et al., 2011)
 
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