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Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction Paperback – August 20, 2004

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Human-computer interaction meets philosophical treatments of embodiment. The result: a foundational study of living and acting in a wired world. And a rare achievement too: a readable and engaging book which manages to be both sensible and groundbreaking at the same time.

(Andy Clark, Department of Philosophy, University of Edinburgh)

A revolution in design and the role of computer science is upon us: Where the Action Is describes the way. In the old days, the focus was upon the technology and 'computing,' hence the interest is the interface between humans and machines -- us versus them. Not anymore. As Dourish so cogently explains, design should not be about tasks and their requirements, or applications, or computing--design is really about interaction, with a focus on ubiquity, tangibility, and most of all, shared awareness, intimacy, and emotions. This is a revolution badly needed: It's about time.

(Donald A. Norman, Norman Nielsen Group and UNext Learning Services, author of The Invisible Computer)

Where the Action Is provides intellectual foundations for the emerging movement that makes people, and not machines, central to the process of design. With a clarity and thoughtfulness that make hard ideas easy, Paul Dourish's book will only increase in importance as the social nature of computing becomes evident to a new generation of technologists.

(Philip E. Agre, Department of Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles)

Engagingly written....

(R. Keith Sawyer Philosophical Psychology)

Important reading for anyone engaged in designing computer-based systems to support human activities... full of interesting ideas and insights.

(Richard Mateosian IEEE Micro)

In this beautifully written book, Paul Dourish synthesizes conceptual resources drawn from across the humanities, social and computing sciences, in a way that is generative for our thinking about human/artifact relations. He surveys an intellectual terrain that provides both theoretical and practical support for new forms of engagement across the disciplines, and with the objects of creative technical practice. This book will be a resource not only for designers in human-computer interaction and computer-supported cooperative work but also for scholars of science and technology interested in understanding those worlds from a deeply insightful, reflective practitioner's point of view.

(Lucy Suchman, Professor, Centre for Science Studies, Lancaster University)

This is the first book to provide a broad view of how our interaction with computers is intertwined with our physical world. Dourish gives a wealth of examples of innovations in computer technologies, along with a deep grounding in the philosophical, psychological, and sociological issues and theories. The book is unique in combining great breadth of intellectual underpinnings with a clear explanation that elucidates the relationships between the fields without falling prey to the jargon of either. Everyone interested in seeing where computer interaction is leading us in the coming century will benefit from the wide view and clear perspective that Dourish presents.

(Terry Winograd, Professor of Computer Science, Stanford University)

About the Author

Paul Dourish is Professor of Informatics in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences with courtesy appointments in Computer Science and in Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction (MIT Press, 2001, 2004).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 245 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; New Ed edition (August 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262541785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262541787
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Dourish is Professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, with courtesy appointments in Anthropology and Computer Science. His research interests span a wide range of concerns at the intersection of computer science and social science, with a particular interest in the cultural practices of digital media and their infrastructures. At the center of most of these projects is the idea of the digital imagination -- both how designers and researchers in information technology conceive of the technologies the produce, their users, and the relationships between the two, and how people adopt and adapt digital technologies as sites for producing their own cultural identities and imagining themselves and their societies.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By twark maine on July 7, 2007
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!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Hussein Ahmed on June 2, 2007
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.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By J. T. Riley on January 2, 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 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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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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