In their influence, information technology (IT) and digital media reach across countries and continents. Yet the user experience can vary dramatically: Around the globe, people relate to technology in ways that reflect their particular histories, values and local concerns. Professor Paul Dourish examines how historical and geographical contexts shape the production, design and use of IT and digital media. His focus is the transnational context in which digital technology gets designed — and the real but often overlooked implications for everything from corporate practice to public policy.
Finding the Right Lens
While technology often has a global reach, its impact is far from universal. With technological turnover happening in increasingly rapid cycles, companies face pressure to predict future needs more accurately — and faster. It was precisely this recognition that led Intel to contact Professor Dourish and his colleagues in the Department of Informatics and the School of Social Sciences. Together, they established the Intel Science and Technology Center (ISTC) for Social Computing, headquartered at UC Irvine. “By examining people’s technology experiences through the lens of cultural values and individual experiences, we can understand the role that technology plays in people’s lives and what they might want it to do next,” Professor Dourish says.
By embedding himself in cultures and design practices in countries as diverse as China, India and Australia, Professor Dourish reveals the tangible ways in which design practices in IT drive global business practices. “Through IT design, the U.S. touches the rest of the world, and the rest of the world touches the U.S.,” Professor Dourish says. “It’s something we can leverage to strengthen international collaborations, ensuring that technology isn’t just about engineering, but also cultural respect and corporate responsiveness.”