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Toward a multidisciplinary model of context to support context-aware computing

Bradley, N.A. and Dunlop, M.D. (2005) Toward a multidisciplinary model of context to support context-aware computing. Human-Computer Interaction, 20 (4). pp. 403-446. ISSN 0737-0024

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Capturing, defining, and modeling the essence of context are challenging, compelling, and prominent issues for interdisciplinary research and discussion. The roots of its emergence lie in the inconsistencies and ambivalent definitions across and within different research specializations (e.g., philosophy, psychology, pragmatics, linguistics, computer science, and artificial intelligence). Within the area of computer science, the advent of mobile context-aware computing has stimulated broad and contrasting interpretations due to the shift from traditional static desktop computing to heterogeneous mobile environments. This transition poses many challenging, complex, and largely unanswered research issues relating to contextual interactions and usability. To address those issues, many researchers strongly encourage a multidisciplinary approach. The primary aim of this article is to review and unify theories of context within linguistics, computer science, and psychology. Summary models within each discipline are used to propose an outline and detailed multidisciplinary model of context involving (a) the differentiation of focal and contextual aspects of the user and application's world, (b) the separation of meaningful and incidental dimensions, and (c) important user and application processes. The models provide an important foundation in which complex mobile scenarios can be conceptualized and key human and social issues can be identified. The models were then applied to different applications of context-aware computing involving user communities and mobile tourist guides. The authors' future work involves developing a user-centered multidisciplinary design framework (based on their proposed models). This will be used to design a large-scale user study investigating the usability issues of a context-aware mobile computing navigation aid for visually impaired people.