The Application and Its Consequences for Non-Standard Knowledge Work

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Application-centric computing dominates human-computer interactions, yet the concept of an application is ambiguous and the impact of its ubiquity underexplored. We unpack “the application” through the lens of non-standard knowledge work: freelance, self-employed, and fixed-term contract workers who create knowledge in collaboration with a wide variety of stakeholders on a per-project basis. Based on interviews with fourteen participants we describe how: i) their economic value is intertwined with data and skills related to specific applications; ii) their access to this value is systematically jeopardised in collaboration due to the different application practices, preferences, and proficiencies of other stakeholders; and iii) they mitigate the costs of this compromise through cross-application collaboration strategies. We trace these experiences to common characteristics of applications, such as update processes, interface symmetries, application-document relationships, and operating system and hardware dependencies. By empirically and analytically focusing on “the application”, we reveal the implications of the current application-centric computing paradigm and discuss how variations within this model create qualitatively different human-computer interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 36th annual ACM conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '18)
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Publication year22 Apr 2018
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 Apr 2018

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