Studies and design of Information Technology support for workplaces, especially workshop floors and office floors, have a strong tradition in Scandinavia, involving workplace users and their trade unions and other stakeholders.
The projects emphasized the active co-operation between researchers and workers of the organization to help improve their work situation. While researchers got their results, the people that they worked with were equally entitled to get something out of the projects.
Since then the obvious idea to involve the users as early as possible in systems and interface design, using low and high tech prototypes, has become a standard to which most developers pay at least lip service. That it is not necessarily followed in practice is usually because of time constraints and lack of insight rather than reluctance, but there are also inherent difficulties.This tradition is put into perspective, starting with the roots in Norway in the early 1970s, highlighting the seminal UTOPIA project, led by Pelle Ehn 1981–86, and its off-springs all the way up to UsersAward, KLIV and other Scandinavian workplace projects of today.
We analyse changes in design and use context, from social and technical aspects, over three decades.
In the early 1970s computer technology and use in Scandinavia was dominated by mainframes in “computer centres”, guarded by technicians in white frocks, with text input and output, and rudimentary communication between the installations. Few were aware of the future, broad and powerful use of computers that was being formed in laboratories, especially in California.
Today computer use and interaction possibilities are changing quickly, while usecontexts and application types are radically broadening. Technology no longerconsists of static tools belonging only to the workplace, but permeates work on the move, in homes and everyday lives.
Pervasive technologies, augmented reality, small interfaces, tangible interfaces, etc. are dramatically changing the nature of HCI (human-computer interaction) and its possibilities for workplace settings. We witness the creation of ad-hoc configurations of large and small user interfaces. The new interfaces are moveable and used in changing locations and contexts; different tasks are done through a combination of specialized technologies. A wider repertoire of physical devices is available than just the keyboard, the screen and the mouse.
The Scandinavian tradition of user involvement in development is facing up with the challenges of new contexts. Here we will concentrate on work contexts.
London: Springer Publishing Company, 2009. 13-41 p.