INF 242: Ubiquitous Computing and Interaction Winter 2015 Syllabus

Professor Theresa Jean Tanenbaum, Department of Informatics, Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences

Tuesday & Thursday, 12:30 – 1:50pm, Donald Bren Hall 1300


Course Overview

The emergence of the “ubiquitous computing” paradigm in the late 1980s introduced a series of significant challenges for research and practice in human-computer interaction, by moving the locus of interaction from the person sitting at a desk in front of a PC to the person moving through a world suffused with devices and information. This has supported an expansion of HCI’s topics to include questions of spatiality, tangibility and experience. New theoretical understandings and new practical issues attend the design of ubiquitous applications, but also shed light on issues at play in traditional interaction models.

One of the defining features of ubicomp research has been its orientation toward The Future:  ubicomp has consistently been concerned with “what’s next”.  In this course we will explore the relationship between the future as envisioned in Ubiquitious Computing and broader theories of futurity, futurism, design futures, speculative design, critical design, and science fiction.  This will provide us with an opportunity consider how the future is continuously being imagined and reimagined through technology and computing research.

This class will survey classic and current research at the intersection of ubiquitous computing and interaction. The primary format of the class will be student led discussions of the readings, facilitated by the instructor and supplemented with a collection of video materials from the history of ubiquitous computing and science fiction.

Grading and Evaluations

Grades will be based on two factors.  60% of your grade will come from your participation in class discussions and your contributions to the online discussion board.  Everyone will have at least one opportunity to lead a class discussion, which will be primary basis for this mark.  The remaining 40% of your grade will come from a final deliverable – either a paper or a project – of your choosing, done either individually or in pairs.  For more details see below.

Discussion Presentations and Online Participation

Most of the quarter is structured around in-class discussions of readings (see schedule below). For each class, four to five students will sign up to lead the discussion. They may divide up the readings and presentations however they like between themselves, but should make certain that everyone gets a chance to present. Everyone else should post a response to the readings online, due at 6PM the night before class. Your participation in discussions, online and in class, will count for 60% of your grade for the class.  Students leading discussions should come to class prepared to summarize the main takeaways from each reading, and with several critical questions to begin the conversation. Some sort of visual aid (handout, powerpoint slides, video, etc.) is strongly encouraged, but not required. A good resource for leading discussions can be found here:

We will also have an online message board where we can post links to appropriate design fictions and continue the conversation out of class ( Your participation in this will contribute to your overall participation grade.  The discussion board is also the first place to take any questions that you have about the course.  I much prefer answering one question on the discussion board where everyone can benefit from the information over having to field the same question in multiple emails.

Final Project or Paper

You may choose any one of the following as your final deliverable for the class:

  • A term paper. You may write these individually or in pairs. Term papers are typically around 5000 words, on any topic related to the subject of the class. Abstracts/topics for term papers are due at the end of week 4; drafts or outlines of papers are due at the end of week 8 (these drafts are not graded, but are an opportunity to get early feedback.)
  • A “critical design” project (and 2500 word research statement connecting it to the course material). You may create this individually or in pairs. This might be a research prototype, meant to address an open question in the field, or a high-quality video or other form of design fiction exploring the issues and concepts covered by the course. Each project must demonstrate a clear connection to the course materials, and must be accompanied by a research statement that positions it within the context of the field.  If you choose to submit a project instead of a paper, a proposal including a work plan with milestones that scopes the project and clearly highlights the distribution of work (in the case of teams) is due at the end of week 4; a brief presentation/demo for the project, and a draft of the research statement are due at the end of week 8 (these materials are not graded, but are an opportunity to get early feedback).

It is worth noting that this course will be teaching the history, theory, and concepts discussed above, and will not specifically include lessons on technical implementations or media production skills that might be necessary for the implementation of the critical design project.  Students lacking pre-existing implementation or production skills take responsibility for their own learning should they desire to do a project instead of a paper.

Schedule and Materials

The two main textbooks for the course should be in the bookstore.  They are:

There is one other book that is completely optional, but is highly recommended as supplementary reading  for the course.  It is:

This book is a fun one to have in your arsenal, and I will be drawing examples from it throughout the quarter.

The remaining readings are stored on UCI’s webfiles service. To gain access, you will first need an activated UCINet ID, and then to register for a Webfiles account.

Week 0

Before arriving to class on the first day, take some time to look over the syllabus, and SIGN UP TO PRESENT READINGS.

Student presentations of the readings will begin on the Thursday of Week 1, so please come to class that week having done the readings for that day.

The students who sign-up for these first presentations are going to be in the hot-seat, since they are going first, but it means that they will have a larger margin for error as we all get up to speed.




Week 1

01/06Introduction and Course Overview

Discuss the syllabus, watch some design fiction videos.SIGN UP TO PRESENT READINGS

01/08Foundational Ideas

Week 2

01/13Embodied Interaction 1: Foundations
  • Dourish (2004) Where the Action Is: Chapter 1: History of Interaction. (pp. 1-23)
  • Dourish (2004) Where the Action Is: Chapter 2: Getting in Touch. (pp. 25-53)
  • Dourish (2004) Where the Action Is: Chapter 3: Social Computing. (pp. 55-97)
01/15No Class! – Tess at TEIStart reading and watching for Week 3

Week 3

01/20Embodied Interaction 2: Significant theories
01/22Settings and Contexts

Week 4

01/27Design Fiction Theory 1: Origins
01/29Design Fiction Theory 2: Current Work


Week 5

02/03Pasts and Futures
02/05Mobility and Spatiality

Week 6

02/10Critical and Cultural Perspectives

Week 7

02/17Utopian Futures
02/19Dystopian Futures

Week 8

02/26Progress check-in and  Project Demo DayNo readings today.  Instead, bring your questions and concerns around your papers and projects, and we’ll workshop things in small groups.

Week 9

03/03Progress check-in and Project Demo’s ContinuedI’ve decided to cancel the methods readings and instead give us an extra day to present and discuss our projects and papers.
03/05Systems and applicationsMethodologies: Evaluation and Ethnography

“Pecha Kucha” Presentations on Ubicomp SystemsPAPER AND/OR PROJECT DRAFTS DUE

Submit the draft/prototype of your final paper/project by midnight Thursday. This will not be graded, but it is an opportunity to get early feedback on the work before the final deadline.

Week 10

03/10The future of the future
03/12Ubiquitous Computing and Design Fiction 2: Popular CultureFilm Festival day!

Finals Week

03/20Final Papers/Project Due (Midnight, Pacific Time)

Important Class Policies

(Note:  These policies are adapted and modified from the policies of Gillian Hayes, who taught this course last year.  Please read them carefully, as I have made some adjustments to reflect my own teaching style.  Ignorance of these policies – especially those pertaining to academic honesty and plagiarism – is no excuse for failing to observe them.)


If you are a student with a disability (e.g., physical, learning, psychiatric, vision, hearing, etc.) and think that you might need special assistance or a special accommodation in this class or any other class, please check out the Disability Center online or visit them in person at: 100 Disability Services Center, Building 313, Irvine, CA 92697-5130

Counseling Center

If you find that personal problems, career indecision, study and time management difficulties, etc. are adversely impacting your successful progress at UCI, please check out the Counseling Center or Graduate Student Services.


Email is BY FAR the most reliable way to get in touch with me; however, for most course related inquiries (anything that is not of a personal or individual nature) please post your question to our online discussion board FIRST : Likewise, I will use your university email address for all communications. Please check this account on a regular basis. When you communicate with me please put Inf242 in the SUBJECT LINE.

Technology Requirements:

You need access to a personal computer (Mac or Windows) for major amounts of time for this course. You need Internet access for this course. You must be able to save word processing files in a .doc or .docx (Microsoft Word) or .pdf format for sharing and submitting files to the instructor. You are expected to have working knowledge and capability with your computer before entering this class.

An assignment submission process for the the class is still being worked out.  Check back here for more details as the quarter progresses.

Class information and announcements will be communicated through your UCI email address.  Additional material will be regularly posted in the message board, so be sure to check it regularly.

Plagiarism & Cheating:

Please read and heed the following information regarding academic dishonesty. The instructor cannot and will not tolerate academic dishonesty. For more information, refer to the UCI Student Handbook. The UCI campus policy on plagiarism can also be found on the Registrar’s website, under “Academic Honesty Policy”: If you choose to work with a partner on your term paper or final project, you will BOTH be held EQUALLY responsible for any plagiarism, regardless of who actually wrote what in the paper. Your reading reflections WILL BE CHECKED FOR PLAGIARISM. However, if you are leading discussion that week, you SHOULD use information posted by other students as part of their reflections in your discussion. You must in those cases note whose comment(s) you are using.

The penalty for plagiarism is at a minimum to receive a 0 on the assignment and have the case reported to the Associate Dean’s office. Particularly flagrant cases may receive more severe punishment (notably failing the course).

  • What is cheating?
    •  Supplying or using work or answers that are not your own.
    • Providing or accepting assistance with completing assignments or examinations.
    • Faking data or results.
    •  Interfering in any way with someone else’s work.
    •  Stealing an examination or solution from the teacher.
  • What is plagiarism?
    • Copying a paper from a source text without proper acknowledgment.
    • Buying a paper from a research service or term paper mill.
    •  Turning in another student’s work with or without that student’s knowledge. 
    • Copying a paper from a source text without proper acknowledgment.
    • Copying materials from a source text, supplying proper documentation, but leaving out quotation marks.
    • Paraphrasing materials from a source text without appropriate documentation.
    • Turning in a paper from a term paper website.

You should be on guard against plagiarism at all times.  At any time that you read anything in preparation for a paper or consciously recall anything that you have read or heard, you must be prepared to provide documentation.

Generally, when you use someone else’s ideas and/or words, you will either quote that person directly or you will paraphrase or summarize that person’s words. You must let the reader know which you are doing.

  1. If you quote the source directly, you must
    1. put quotation marks before and after that person’s words;
    2. let the reader know the source by (1) putting a footnote or endnote number at the end of the quotation, or (2) putting at least the source’s name in parentheses after the quotation marks (such as when being taken from fieldwork).
  2. If you paraphrase (a paraphrase is about the same length as the original, but in different words) or if you summarize (a summary is a severely shortened version of the original), you must
    1. introduce the source in some manner at the beginning of the passage being paraphrased (or summarized) so that the reader can tell where your idea stops and the other person’s begins;
    2. state the ideas taken from the source in your own words and your own arrangement. It is possible to plagiarize sentence patterns as well as exact words. A handy rule: if, in a paraphrase or summary, you use a stretch of more than three words in their exact order from a source, you should put those words into quotation marks;
    3. provide an exact source citation for those ideas paraphrased or summarized. This may be done either by footnote/endnote number at the end of the passages or by parenthetical references to the work and page(s). This citation provides credit to the author being used and allows the reader access to the material for further study.
  3. You must also provide a footnote for any chart, graph, figure, table, summary, or other data taken directly from another source or any information derived from such materials. You should also be sure to check copyright as to whether you are allowed to use this figure.

For example, the text here on plagiarism was initially written Gillian Hayes for the Winter 2013 version of this class, although some modifications and additions of my own have been integrated into it.  The original can be found here:, along with Professor Hayes’ own disclaimer that the material has been “generously borrowed and slightly modified from the UTC Center for Advisement and Student Success.” The course plan and Syllabus also borrow heavily from earlier versions of this class, as taught by Gillian Hayes ( and Paul Dourish (  The whole futurity thing is all me, and I’m excited about taking this class in a new direction (consequentially, if it doesn’t work out, then I am solely to blame).

Oftentimes plagiarism isn’t intentional – it happens because the writer either isn’t in the habit of citation, or because the overhead of citing sources turns the process into a burden. I strenuously advise you to adopt the use of a reference management system if you do not already use one.  This is one of the single best investments of your time you can undertake as a graduate student, and it will reward you a thousand times over once you have integrated it into your workflow.  There are many great options out there at this point.  I used EndNote for a long time, before it got crufty and slow.  The university library officially supports Mendeley but I am not particularly familiar with it.  I’ve moved all of my bibliographic management tasks over to Zotero in the last year, and I am extremely happy with it: it’s free, it works as both a stand-alone program, and as a browser plug-in, it integrates very smoothly with Word, it has great collaboration support, it has AMAZING citation scrapers for the major online repositories (ACM DL, JSTOR, Springer, etc.), and it has a very complete database of reference formats that are easy to install.  Did I mention that it’s FREE?  It is! For more information about the options out there, the UCI Library has a good resource here: