Finding individuality in the technological complexity: Why People do it themselves?

in International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Journal article


Today, the technological complexity is often overloading and frustrating the individual user. At the same time, technology motivates users to explore new ways to handle this complexity. Users modify and customize the various attributes of a product (e.g. the user interface) within the limits foreseen by the manufacturers. But, in some cases, also unexpected modifications are made. People express their individuality in the technology they use in order to experience a more personal interaction with a product. The user's role is no longer restricted to be a passive consumer, but they turn into active users and innovators by doing modifications of technology themselves. In social science, different approaches already explored the role of the user in the process of adaptation and domestication of new technologies. The social construction of technology (SCOT) approach, for instance, conceives the users as social group playing an important part in the construction of technology. This paper extends the social science perspectives, focusing on design approaches (e.g. participatory design), which increasingly engage and actively involve people into the design process of new interactive systems. The main purpose of this paper is to investigate user driven modifications emphasising why and how user modify interactive systems, especially in the home context. The theoretical framework reflects a broad interdisciplinary view on the ongoing "bottom up" movements in the new media landscape, where traditional barriers between mainstream and homemade media are dissolving. These movements are mainly favoured by the Internet as a main place for sharing and exchanging ideas and cooperatively innovate. Practical and empirical insights are gained through the analysis of two case examples for user driven modifications and the investigation of the user motivation and motives in the home context. © Common Ground, Marianna Obrist, All Rights Reserved.