CPSC 701.81: Ubiquitous, Domestic and Tangible Computing

A variant of this course, which focused more generally on ubiquitous computing, was last taught in Fall, 2006.

Note: The information on this site is tentative and subject to change.

Instructor: Saul Greenberg
Semester: Fall, 2008
Time: Wednesday 10:00 am - 1:00 pm. If all students permit, we will occassionaly split the class time so that half is on Monday and Wednesday 10 - 11:15 (tentative) instead of a single block on Wednesday.
Video Conference: Part of this course includes a Social Science component, delivered by video conference, currently scheduled as a 3.5 hour block on Wednesday. This continues beyond class time. If you have a time conflict, you will have to view the remaining video outside of class time as part of your homework.


This year, this advanced course in Human Computer Interaction will focus on Domestic Computing and Social Science Field Methods. Its contents is structured around:

  • readings related to core social, conceptual and technical concepts in domestic computing;
  • social science qualitative field methods that give you the skills to analyze domestic environments
  • a major independent project that you define that develops a requirements analysis of a domestic situation and that generates a prototype for that situation.

This will be a demanding, time-intensive course. Students are expected to take the lead in pursuing projects and course sub-topics. They will gather and distill academic materials, and define and implement major projects. I strongly encourage projects that are tightly related to one's thesis research, and that can generate research results such as publications and/or thesis chapters.

The social science aspect of this course will be done primarily through a video conference offered by Dray and Associates, and exercises that you will perform; see below. A brief overview of topics is:

  • Introducing the Challenges of Qualitative Field Research and Placing It in Its Intellectual Context
  • Planning the Research Strategy
  • Data Gathering: What Makes for Credible Interpretable Field Data?
  • Interviewing and Contextual Inquiry
  • Artifact Walkthroughs and Naturalistic Usability Evaluation
  • Analysis: Clustering, Affinities, Dimensions
  • Wrap-up


Required: Computer Science 481 or equivalent
Highly recommended: CPSC 681 and/or CPSC 601.23 or equivalent
Or Permission of the instructor: Contact saul.greenberg@ucalgary.ca

Typical Students

Typical students attending this course will be:

  • those pursuing Human Computer Interaction as part of their thesis research, where their research will include aspects of ubiquitous, domestic and tangible computing.
  • those pursuing some aspect of Computer Science (e.g., software engineering) that may require field studies in non-work settings

Students with no background in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) sometimes ask me about this course. I caution that this is not an introductory HCI course. Rather, it is an advanced course on a highly specialized topic in HCI. While people without any HCI background may be able to get through the material, they will have to work much harder and will likely not get as much out of it due to its specialized nature. If you are looking for a basic introduction to HCI, or interface design, or basic HCI methods, I suggest you take or sit in on CPSC 481.

Come speak with me if you are unsure.

Social Science Field Methods.

Through the NSERC Network Research Networks, a video-based course equivalent to a 1/2 semester in Qualitative Field Research for User-Centered Design of Technology will be offered this coming fall. I will be including this as a course component if logistics work out.

This part of the course will consume about one-half of the semester. Consisting of seven 3.5 hour sessions, it will cover various aspects of Qualitative Field Research including planning a research strategy, data gathering, interviewing and contextual inquiry, data analysis and interpretive issues. Students will also be assigned readings and involved in carrying out activities and exercises representative of tasks in a field research project. Further information and details of the course can be found by clicking the link above.

Instructors for the class will be Susan Dray and David Siegel of Dray & Associates, Inc. A small consulting firm with an international reputation, Dray & Associates specializes in user-centered design of systems and products. Dr. Dray, a leader in the Human Factors profession, has given over 80 talks at conferences and symposiums worldwide and published numerous papers and book chapters. With a strong background in psychology, Dr. Siegel has been involved in all aspects of consultation and usability, user interface design, and user-centered design processes. For more information on both Susan and David, please visit their website at .

Deliverables and Grading

  • Written / oral presentations: 20%
  • Assignments: 20%
  • Term Project: 60%
  • See details ...

Details and Schedule



The Blog and ePresence

  • The blog is at: http://cpsc70181.blogspot.com/
    • create a google account. Once you do so, you will be able to post a comment.
  • ePresence
    • If you haven't registered an ePresence account, click go to http://nectar.epresence.kmdi.utoronto.ca/ and click "Join" at the top-right of the interface. Fill in the form and submit.
    • On the day of the event navigate to http://nectar.epresence.kmdi.utoronto.ca/ and look for your event in the Live Event schedule. Click on the event link. You will be asked to login with your username and password. If the event hasn't started yet you will be placed in a waiting room. When the webcast begins "Join Event" button will be available. Press it to enter the webcast room.

Student Sandbox (highly tentative)

Students: The sandbox is a place for you to put your own materials for this course.

Saul Greenberg
Nicole Edworthy
Yaser Ghanam
Helen He
Paul Lapides
Shaunna Milloy
Nicolai Marquardt
Paul Saulnier
Maha Shouman