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ERIC Number: ED527829
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 301
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1245-6597-2
Supporting Advice Sharing for Technical Problems in Residential Settings
Poole, Erika Shehan
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Georgia Institute of Technology
Visions of future computing in residential settings often come with assumptions of seamless, well-functioning, properly configured devices and network connectivity. In the near term, however, processes of setup, maintenance, and troubleshooting are fraught with difficulties; householders regularly report these tasks as confusing, frustrating, and unpleasant. Prior attempts at reducing technical complexity in homes have largely focused on automating configuration tasks, automatically detecting and correcting improper configurations, and offering intelligent interfaces for providing help to users. Little research, however, has examined how we might be able to support "human-to-human" communication around complex technologies at home. In this dissertation, I investigated the sources of and ways that people grapple with technical complexity in the home, and built tools to support people in their endeavors to overcome these difficulties. I examined the problem of home technology complexity not just from a technology- or usability- centered perspective, but through a socio-technical approach that addresses factors such as routines, rituals, and knowledge disparities between people who interact with residential computing infrastructures. In particular, a growing number of people rely on family and friends for help with computing problems. Yet these support practices are largely ignored in the design of systems for supporting users who have computing questions or problems. How do we handle computer support for cases in which people either cannot or choose not to have access to a professional? How can we support people in learning more about how the possibilities of what their applications, devices, and combinations of devices can do, as well as coping with situations in which technology does not function as expected? How can we leverage family and friends as a knowledgeable source of information? In my research, I conducted a series of empirical studies examining both the sources of digital complexity in residential settings well as how people cope with these complexities. Grounded in this fieldwork, I designed a technology probe called Tech Clips, which facilitates the sharing of technology-related information by and for people within one's social network, then conducted a study in which ten families used the software for an extended period, while also simultaneously completing a series of common computing setup and maintenance tasks. Based on the results of this study, I provide both a rich description of home technology usage and maintenance practices, as well as implications for the design of software systems that facilitate help giving between family and friends. The contributions of this research include (1) empirical studies of how lay people understand and cope with vexing technology problems in environments lacking technical experts; (2) the development of a software system to facilitate technical advice sharing; (3) deployment of this system in real-world settings; and (4) recommendations for the design of future tools for facilitating technical help-giving between family and friends. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Adult Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A