1                                                       Chapter I                  For Those About to Tag                 ...
For Those About to Tagacademia. Interaction among mobile workers, but            The motivation of this chapter is to disc...
For Those About to Tagwho were plagued by poor signal reception and            tion via wire, broadcast through the air an...
For Those About to Tagtion, pendulums who work at two different sites,      Contextnomads who work from many sites and car...
For Those About to Tagbile workers spend a great portion of their days       visors spend an enormous amount of time on th...
For Those About to TagThe Mobility of Things                                 received power on board. On the ground RFID  ...
For Those About to Tagmore optical scanners at supermarket checkouts,         co-workers were shown how to use the data co...
For Those About to Tagit is the human involvement that is on-demand,              For the practitioner, this raises many n...
For Those About to Tagreports formed the most important representations       to share details of their mobile work; the h...
For Those About to Tagprovides cohesive, context-specific information         are highly cohesive. In other words, mobile ...
For Those About to Tag    Third, why would these mobile workers sup-         superiors and traffic managers who were able ...
For Those About to Tagstationary readers (Garfinkel & Rosenberg, 2006),     that these advantages will improve their organ...
For Those About to TagBooth-Thomas, C. (2003). The See-It-All-Chip,         Kakihara, M., & Sørensen, C. (2001). Expand-Ti...
For Those About to TagPerry, M., O’Hara, K., Sellen, A., Brown, B.,          Sørensen & B. Dahlbom (Eds.), Planet Internet...
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For those about to tag: mobile and ubiquitous commerce


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The recent evolution of mobile auto-identification technologies invites firms to connect to mobile work in altogether new ways. By strategically embedding “smart” devices, organizations involve individual subjects and real objects in their corporate information flows, and execute more and more business pro- cesses through such technologies as mobile Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID). The imminent path from mobility to pervasiveness focuses entirely on improving organizational performance measures and metrics of success. Work itself, and the dramatic changes these technologies introduce to the organiza- tion and to the role of the mobile worker are by and large ignored. The aim of this chapter is to unveil the key changes and challenges that emerge when mobile landscapes are “tagged”, and when mobile workers and mobile auto-identification technologies work side-by-side. The motivation for this chapter is to encourage thoughts that appreciate auto-identification technologies and their socio-technical impact on specific mobile work practices and on the nature of mobile work in general.

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For those about to tag: mobile and ubiquitous commerce

  1. 1. 1 Chapter I For Those About to Tag Jan H. Kietzmann Simon Fraser University, CanadaAbstractThe recent evolution of mobile auto-identification technologies invites firms to connect to mobile workin altogether new ways. By strategically embedding “smart” devices, organizations involve individualsubjects and real objects in their corporate information flows, and execute more and more business pro-cesses through such technologies as mobile Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID). The imminent pathfrom mobility to pervasiveness focuses entirely on improving organizational performance measures andmetrics of success. Work itself, and the dramatic changes these technologies introduce to the organiza-tion and to the role of the mobile worker are by and large ignored. The aim of this chapter is to unveilthe key changes and challenges that emerge when mobile landscapes are “tagged”, and when mobileworkers and mobile auto-identification technologies work side-by-side. The motivation for this chapter isto encourage thoughts that appreciate auto-identification technologies and their socio-technical impacton specific mobile work practices and on the nature of mobile work in general.Introduction ment of workspaces, times and contexts. Despite a long tradition of mobile work arrangements,Mobile work is everywhere; and despite claims for example Hackney carriage drivers started inby vendors and organizational consultants mo- London, UK in 1622, the phenomenon of mobilitybility is neither new nor particularly novel. On has not received much attention by organizationalthe contrary, many traditional occupations have scholars over time.always been highly mobile, including the work The advancement of modern mobile tech-of taxi-drivers, policemen, traveling merchants, nologies from the heavy, transmission-weak andentertainers and trades people, to name a few. battery-hungry, expensive mobile phones of theTheir degree of mobility may differ, but what 1980s to the omnipresent devices of today havemobile workers have in common is a fluid arrange- raised mobility to the fore of both industry andCopyright © 2009, IGI Global, distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.
  2. 2. For Those About to Tagacademia. Interaction among mobile workers, but The motivation of this chapter is to discussalso with location-dependent colleagues, superiors the fundamental difference of mobility and per-and clients is carried out via technologies that al- vasiveness, with a focus on the user-technologylow subject-object-subject communication, with relationship which, in today’s attempts to opti-the device as a tool that facilitates the exchange mize organizational effectiveness and efficiencyof voice, video or data. through embedded technologies, has been entirely Surprisingly, until recently, the success of the overlooked.mobile phone has not brought many radical innova- The aim of this chapter is to unveil the keytions forward. Improvements of mobile technolo- changes and challenges that emerge when mobilegies are seen primarily as incremental, with no landscapes are “tagged”, and to prepare the readernew breakthroughs or killer-applications in sight. for the impact that tagging technologies can haveHowever, emerging mobile auto-identification on mobile work environments. This chapter shouldtechnologies invite firms to connect in various be useful for developers of mobile technology, butways to their mobile landscape. By strategically also for application developers. Most importantly,embedding technologies with a very small foot- this chapter is aimed at “those about to tag” – atprint, events involving individual subjects and practitioners who contemplate the adoption ofreal objects can be included within organizational auto-identification technologies to improve theirinformation flows. Mobile radio-frequency identi- organizational information flows.fication (mobile RFID), for instance, allows firmsto place transponders (i.e. tags) and transceivers(i.e. readers) throughout the terrain they cover to Mobile landscapesinitiate object-to-object communication and drivemobile business processes. The term and concept of mobility is difficult to In light of these developments, industry and delineate; and in many ways are any attemptsacademia have predominantly examined the to define mobility too restrictive or not focusedincreasing embeddedness of such context-aware enough to be meaningful in any way (Kristoffer-technologies in terms of their impact on the infor- sen & Ljungberg, 2000). However, a discussionmation content of work. The imperceptible object- of changing mobile environments requires theobject interaction enabled by auto-identification delimitation of mobility and location. In this light,technologies is hailed as a dramatic improvement common approaches conceptualize mobility andfor logistics and supply-chain management. mobile technologies as the opposite of the fixed-However, along this path from mobility to per- location devices.vasiveness, work itself, and the dramatic changes In its early days, mobility indicated that athese technologies introduce to the organization particular application could be carried out atand to the role of the mobile worker have so far different but specific geographical localities,been neglected. The introduction of mobile RFID whether within urban spaces or at remote sites.is discussed here as an example of many auto- This notion of connectivity at different localesidentification technologies that mark the move was of enormous significance when devices werefrom a mobile landscape, in which mobile workers first networked in a wireless fashion, and mobilitycommunicate at will with others as they navigate referred more closely to the concept of portabilitytheir terrain, to a pervasive ecosystems that exists of devices. Remember working on laptop comput-as an interactive system between its living, human ers and having to find a wired access point (inparticipants, the objects that shape their work and an Internet Café, possibly) to send your emails?the environment in which they exist. How about the early adopters of mobile telephony,2
  3. 3. For Those About to Tagwho were plagued by poor signal reception and tion via wire, broadcast through the air and datawidespread dead spots? Those were the days of transmission made possible through computers.portable technology, when the worker used to The results are products such as mobile phonestravel to the data. Under mobility today, at least or satellite networks that make use of a host ofin urban environments with the adequate infra- these technologies. In addition to an increasedstructure, users are less concerned with where they depth through the convergence of technologicalare. With GSM, 3G, GPRS etc., data travels to the features within devices, artifacts will assume newmobile worker, and as conquering a larger terrain roles to facilitate amplified networking capabili-becomes less of a novelty, mobile connectedness ties. Each new generation of mobile communica-across space, time and contexts becomes more of tion technology (e.g., infrastructure and mobilea necessity to the contemporary worker. phones) allows for higher rates of connectedness and increased throughput for a range of devicesSpace that span spatial boundaries. For practitioners, this often means that theirThe essence of spatial mobility lies in its inde- workers are equipped with mobile technology,pendence from the concept of location, at least and that work that had to be pre-planned beforewith respect to connectivity and data transfer. could now be arranged more dynamically and onViewed more conceptually, true mobility refers to the fly. For many, the mobile phone is seen as anomadic arrangements that assume a convergence silver-bullet that enables mobile workers “to ex-of systems and a compatibility of services across change and retrieve information they need quickly,devices and operating systems independent of efficiently and effortlessly, regardless of theirlocation. Kleinrock, the much acclaimed origi- physical location” (Hansmann, Merck, Nicklous,nator of the expression refers to this nomadicity & Stober, 2003, p. 13). However, despite all of theas the arrival of the cliché of Anytime, Anywhere new networking and communication choices, thecomputing (1996), a concept approached with concept of mobility does not suggest the “death ofincreasing capabilities of technology and infra- distance” (Cairncross, 1997), or more importantlystructure. Recent studies discuss the notion of that location may become inconsequential. Muchhypermobility, signifying the “dynamic transfor- of the work carried out by mobile workers is inmation in location, operation, and interaction in fact location-dependent; it is in many ways aboutthe workplace” (Kakihara, 2003, p. 238) facilitated being at being somewhere, at sometime (Cousins &through mobile technology. Robey, 2005), at a particular place, at a particular In pursuits of higher degrees of spatial mobility, time (Wiberg & Ljungberg, 2000).many seemingly new devices are introduced to the Accordingly, more and more people andmarket, promising to bring altogether new tech- devices are on the move, requiring more andnologies to the user. In many ways are such items more information to cross spatial boundaries.not entirely new inventions, but rather products Nonetheless, mobility has not solved all of thethat incorporate numerous existing technologies in problems. Many mobile activities are emergent,one device. For example, computing and telephony any upcoming tasks in the field might not even bedevices are becoming more indistinguishable as known by mobile workers themselves, let aloneone is adopting features usually associated with the their remote colleagues (Kakihara & Sørensen,other. Traditionally distinctly different technolo- 2001). Managing schedules, for example, hasgies are blending into hypermedia (Kallinikos, become much more difficult for on-site movers2001(a)). Ljungberg and Sørensen (2000) describe who move about at a specific work site, yo-yossuch convergence as a combination of communica- who occasionally work away from a fixed loca- 3
  4. 4. For Those About to Tagtion, pendulums who work at two different sites, Contextnomads who work from many sites and carrierswho work on the move (Lilischkis, 2003). While Spatial and temporal dimensions of mobile com-their work can be managed more flexibly, this munication are the more obvious improvementsflexibility requires increased communication introduced through modern technology. Bothbetween mobile workers and their peers. As a are based on the objective affordances (Gibson,result, mobile work is most important for purposes 1977) of the devices, infrastructures and support-of data exchange and communication but is still ing technologies. A more subjective affordanceseen as practically exercised in many cases at (Dourish, 2001) refers to how people and mobileparticular times and places. In other words, while technologies interact in different contexts (Perry,location does not matter from the perspective of O’Hara, Sellen, Brown, & Harper, 2001). A callconnectivity, signal reception and the ability to in the middle of a meeting, for instance, requiresuse a mobile device, it not only plays an impor- the businesswoman to shift from her work contexttant role in the examination of where and how to the context of being a mother, a text messagemobile work is carried out, but also in the mobile during a security guard’s site visit interrupts hismanagement of time. work and requires him to shift contexts and pay attention to his mobile phone. With features suchTime as call waiting, incoming calls even interrupt ongoing calls, requiring mobile workers to juggleIn addition to bridging spatial boundaries, mobile two calls, and contexts, at a time, perhaps eveninformation and communication technologies al- while driving or carrying out some other mobilelow people to communicate across temporal con- work tasks.straints. Particularly synchronous technologies Most communication devices function in ahave of course shaped interaction with workers binary fashion; based on signal reception theyin the field, and the mobile phone continues to either render their users are generally availablebe the communication medium of choice in most or not accessible to everyone. For the practitioner,instances. Asynchronous technologies such as this means that mobile workers need to be moremobile email are also important, especially for flexible, and manage potential interruptions andthose who work from areas that do not provide the danger of communication overload throughsufficient signal strength for mobile telephony or screening incoming phone-calls and selectinginstant messaging. Either communication option whom to answer or to ignore, prioritizing amongallows mobile workers to plan their tasks with different contexts. Nonetheless, even this processless of a focus on time, as site visits etc. can be requires a shift in context for the user, a cognitiverearranged flexibly with supervisors, colleagues move away from his previous activity and towardsor clients. Similarly, mobile workers can now the mobile device. These interaction modalitiesuse their time away from their real work to be range from unobtrusive to obtrusive and fromproductive. Mobile technologies are heralded ephemeral to persistent (Ljungberg & Sørensen,as reviving dead time, time spent at airports, in 2000). As a result, individuals’ work schedules,traffic, or between meetings, thereby surpassing their tasks’ start and completion times are harderboth the spatial and the temporal constraints of to predict (Perry, O’Hara, Sellen, Brown, &fixed-location technologies. Harper, 2001). Today, context shifts and interruptions with email and particularly with mobile telephony raise expectations of responsiveness, and mo-4
  5. 5. For Those About to Tagbile workers spend a great portion of their days visors spend an enormous amount of time on thereplying to a text message by sending another phone, inquiring and reporting on mobile workers’message, responding to an email with another progress, location or upcoming stops. Moreover,email and so on. Repetitive non-responses on a Morrison’s customers, who never know if theirmobile telephone cause unease, even suspicion, sites have been checked and if they are secure,on behalf of the caller (Plant, 2001), whereas the continuously call Morrison’s managers, who thensame scenario on a landline would not nearly have need to call the mobile security guards beforethe same effect. These examples clearly highlight they call their customer back with the respectivehow mobile information and communication information.technologies (ICTs) change the contexts in which Communication involving mobile workers likepeople communicate and interact on a personal Simon, in most cases, suggests that the commu-and professional level. nication is not carried out face to face, but via a The following scenario is a common account mediating tool, a mobile communication device.of mobile work today, and the reader likely recog- This requires that any information from the fieldnizes how mobile technology is deployed to span needs to be needs to be sourced, worded andspatial, temporal and contextual constraints. It communicated by the respective mobile workersshows how the use of mobile ICTs is dramatically in the field. Not only does this suggest that thisshaped by the situation in which this communica- information is highly subjective, but also that thetion occurs, but also shows how mobile interaction mobile worker has a high degree of discretionshapes the mobile work activity itself. with which he can shape the information passed on to others. In one instance, a mobile security guard could mistakenly report that a site wasVignette A: Mobile Work at secure, when in fact it had been compromised.Morrison Security Patrolling In the scenario above, the mobile worker could knowingly pretend to be at a different locationSimon, a security guard for Morrison Patrolling to circumvent being sent to an emergency bystarts his shift at 6pm, five evenings per week. the traffic dispatcher. As a result, the mobileHe arrives at the main office, where he collects a worker is at the heart of mobile communication,worksheet that contains the various stops for his in charge of mobile interaction even to the pointshift, a vehicle and a mobile phone. Throughout where he could simply ignore an incoming call.his twelve-hour shift, Simon does not return to In the mobile landscape, the mobile worker is inthe office. He patrols the assigned premises and charge, not only of his work activities but also ofensures they are secure. In the event that they are communication with others (see also Kalakota &not, he calls his superior to inform him that he Robinson, 2002). The objects that shape the mobilewill be late for his remaining stops. In the event landscape, including the tools the mobile workersof an emergency at a different site, a dispatcher uses and the sites he visits are marginalized, andcalls Simon on his mobile phone to direct him details of mobile work are only communicatedaway from his scheduled visits and towards the through subjective representations, via the phonemore urgent matter. For all activities, Simon keeps or through documents, composed by the mobilea paper-based log with the pertinent details. Of worker (Kietzmann, 2008a).course, as security guards spend their days away,it is very difficult for the superior or dispatcherto know where Simon and his colleagues arethroughout their shifts. As a result, guards, super- 5
  6. 6. For Those About to TagThe Mobility of Things received power on board. On the ground RFID transceivers (readers) sent out signals that wouldMobility mostly refers to the extension of people’s communicate with these tags. When a plane wasgeographical reach, spanning both time and con- approaching, and a communication between thesetext. The mobile landscape is the result of com- components could be established, it was assumedmunication carried out between different subjects, that it was a friendly plane. If however, the signalwith the help of mobile phones, for instance, that sent out by the reader did not trigger a responseenables and mediate the subject-object-subject from the tag, the assumption was that it was aninteraction from a distance. Accordingly, mobility enemy aircraft that should be attacked.mostly refers to people who navigate the mobile Applications today still rely on similar commu-landscape. But what happens when objects start nication between RFID tag and reader; althoughto talk to each other? How does this influence now the tags are miniscule microchips attachedmobile communication? to an antenna, and are generally passive. This The movement of objects has traditionally means, the tags do not have a constant power-referred to shipping and transporting goods from source, but are powered by an electromagneticone location to another, to importing and exporting field emitted by the reader. In most cases, radioof merchandise and to carrying personal belong- signals inform nearby readers of a serial numberings to new locations while traveling (Kakihara, stored on the tag, which uniquely identifies any2003). In discussions of mobile interaction, objects item that bears it. So-called Smart Tags are usedoften refer to activity-supporting objects, includ- to track or trace objects everywhere. Think ofing paper and pen, but also technological artifacts the readers at the exit of a retail store that soundsuch as mobile phones, PDAs and BlackBerry an alarm when an unpaid item is taken out of theterminals. Traditional mobility assumes that store. Especially high value items, but also thoseobjects are inanimate goods, unable of initiating that are popular store-loot are tagged, and the tagand maintaining any type of communication, needs to be disabled at the register before they canand that human involvement is responsible for be taken out of the store. Similarly, worldwide,their movement and participation in any activity. such tags already help keep track of more thanAs such, the involvement of objects in mobility 100 million pets and 20 million livestock (Booth-discussions is of limited interest; things are seen Thomas, 2003).as only supporting human activities on-demand. The Auto-ID Center, initially established as anHowever, novel developments especially through academic research project headquartered at themobile RFID and Near-Field Communication are Massachusetts Institute of Technology, developedgiving life to objects. the architecture for creating a seamless global network of all physical objects (Auto-ID LabsMobile Radio Frequency Identification 2005). The technology has since been transferred to EPCGlobal, which now oversees the develop-Traditional, non-mobile Radio Frequency Identi- ment of standards for Electronic Product Codesfication (RFID) is an auto-identification technol- (EPC). Such EPC tags attached to every imagin-ogy that has been available for several decades, able item, and even people, are revolutionizingperhaps with the first remarkable use in WWII, logistics, supply chain and inventory managementwhen the Royal Air Force employed RFID to dif- around the world, based on three main advantagesferentiate between friendly and enemy aircraft. of RFID over current alternatives (e.g., barcode).The planes of the Allied Forces were equipped First, RFID can identify items from a distance,with bulky RFID active transponders (tags) that without line of sight requirements. This means no6
  7. 7. For Those About to Tagmore optical scanners at supermarket checkouts, co-workers were shown how to use the data com-for instance. Second, RFID can read multiple items ing from the mobile RFID driven system. Mobileat once. A truck can drive through the gates of a guards then read tags attached to many objectswarehouse, and the inventory of the warehouse within their mobile landscape (e.g., at gates, doorsis automatically updated with all the items ar- and windows) and selected status responses fromriving at or leaving the premises. Third, RFID is the menu on their mobile phone. For instance, whenunique. Barcode describes batches of items, for a property was secured and checked, a securityinstance soda-cans from the same flat carry the guard placed the reader close to the tag on a doorsame information. With RFID, each can can be and selected “all ok” from the phone’s menu.uniquely identified and traced. Together, these This information was synchronously sent to thethree properties lead to a dramatic shift of interac- back-office. In other events, temperature sensorstion with and between objects. Especially when were attached to tags, and once a security guardreaders and tags communicate from a distance they with his reader was nearby, the tags queried himtransform subject-object-subject communication to conduct certain safety checks. In even moreto object-object interaction. complex setups, a connected sensor measured the But all of the readers mentioned above are temperature in a room, and once it exceeded itsstationary, attached to a store or a warehouse, allowable limit, it sent a text message to the mobileand the tags are mobile. What would happen if worker or even left a voice message, asking himthe readers were mobile, too? to come to the room’s rescue immediately. The Mobile RFID was introduced only a few years auto-identification properties and the mobilityago, and surprisingly has so far stayed under the and synchronicity of the RFID system virtuallyradar of industry and academia. Unlike other eliminated manual logs and work-sheets andmobile technology developments, mobile RFID in- drastically reduced the time guards had to spendtroduces entirely new affordances and interaction on the phone to report on their whereabouts. Man-possibilities to mobile work. Mobile RFID utilizes agers, too, had to spend much less time manuallythe combination of a mobile phone, equipped with locating and coordinating the security guards,an RFID reader, a local interaction server and reports could be drawn up within minutes anda large number of passive tags that work over a Morison’s customers could access RFID-eventsshort distance (<3 centimeters). Passive tags, for via extranet sites.instance, are able to initiate communication once These advantages are compelling, and “thosethey are in the proximity of a reader, and vice about to tag” have been convinced that auto-iden-versa. Imagine the following: tification will solve their current mobility-related information flow problems. However, introduc- ing mobile RFID, for example, is not just aboutVignette B: Work with mobile adding a more advanced technology – it is a bigRFID technology organizational intervention. It is often unclear that everyday objects, as a result, become moreFor Morrison Patrolling, tagging the mobile land- active participants in mobile communication;scape and supplying the mobile security guards they adopt an increasingly important role in ourwith mobile RFID readers promised to overcome discussions of mobility.many of the mobility-related difficulties. Simon While some might argue that this interactionand his mobile colleagues were trained to use the is simply machine-to-machine interaction, mobilemobile reader, tags were positioned throughout RFID still involves human participation. How-their work environment, and Simon’s office-bound ever, the important change is that in many cases 7
  8. 8. For Those About to Tagit is the human involvement that is on-demand, For the practitioner, this raises many newrequested by objects in motion, not the other way challenges. IT directors, systems designers, whoaround. Mobile objects increasingly assume a previously often worked on technology outsideheightened level of agency in mobile interactions of its future application, now increasingly focusthat increasingly rely on mobile data, or informa- on embedding technologies within their specifiction. In addition to, or perhaps as a result of more use context (McCullough, 2004). By buildingpeople and more devices on the move, the amount technology around everyday life their values shiftand depth of personal, public and organizational from “objects to experiences, from performancedata transmitted is immense. In addition to wired to appropriateness, from procedure to situation,artifacts (e.g., landlines, desktop computers), or and from behavior to intent” (McCullough, 2004,fixed-location wireless devices (e.g., satellites), p. 50). Thus argued, industry need to move frommobile devices supply an ever-growing share of linear to more complex and interactive ways ofdata transmissions. Thanks to mobile phones, viewing both technology and its future use. ForBlackBerry terminals, pagers and even short- pervasive environments, professionals have torange Bluetooth enabled devices, the need to be learn how to capture, codify and represent mobileat specific locations to transmit, broadcast and work contexts most appropriately, to “disregardreceive data is at a decline. Moreover, wireless irrelevant details while isolating and emphasiz-local-area networks, often open to the public or ing those properties of artifacts and situationsinviting customers at a minimal charge, and wire- that are most significant” (Brooks, 1991, p. 53).less broadband connections (e.g. WiFi cities) are Developing and implementing context-awareincreasingly popular, adding to the mobility of mobile auto-identification systems is tremen-data and objects and bringing us ever closer to a dously difficult, and many developers of mobiletruly pervasive ecosystem. information systems might find that they are not well suited for the challenge. In a different paper, the author of this chapter outlines an innovativeTowards Pervasive approach to understanding mobile work and anEcosystems interactive way to developing mobile information systems accordingly (Kietzmann, 2008a). In thisIn order for auto-identification technologies to be- discussion of tagged environments, the focus iscome useful for mobile work, they need to “know” more on the impact the technology will have onmore about the mobile context they are support- its users and their communication practices.ing. Basic mobile technologies are off-the-shelvedevices that support workers across all possible A Mobile Worldactivities, regardless of the context of their mobilelandscape. A mobile phone knows nothing about In a mobile landscape, the interaction depends onits environment, and does not respond to unique the mobile worker’s discretion and willingness tochanges other than signal reception. In a perva- conduct mobile work accurately and disclose thesive ecosystem; however, different technologies requested information (e.g., location, time and the(e.g., embedded tags, sensors, webcams) must to status of the object or activity). Details of mobilevarying degrees “understand” which environ- work are communicated directly through a mobilemental and use characteristics to reveal (e.g., the phone and through field notes, asynchronous logstemperature of a room, users’ facial expressions) and progress reports. In Simon’s case, his patrol-(Höök, Benyon, & Monroe, 2003) and when to ling logs were composed in his own language,involve the human participant. according to his frames of reference. The resulting8
  9. 9. For Those About to Tagreports formed the most important representations to share details of their mobile work; the humanof his mobile work, the only common objects remains at the core of the mobile activity.shared by mobile workers, mobile colleagues andtheir remote supervisors. The worker’s discre- A Tagged Worldtion and the accuracy of his representations ofotherwise purely cognitive accounts of their work While such an understanding holds true for the ma-determine the overall reliability and validity of the jority of mobile activities today, the developmentinteraction and its context. However, such subjec- of mobile RFID is an indicator of a changing leveltive, imprecise evidence of details of mobile work of coupling and embeddedness of computationalrequires extensive synchronization with other devices for mobile work. Good practice of systemslogs and legacy systems to replicate the chain of development is to focus on a high level of intra-events of mobile actions and operations. activity cohesion and a low level of inter-activity Who does not remember the countless calls dependencies, facilitating resilient relationshipsthat were necessary between manager and mobile with minimal assumptions between interactingworker to understand what had happened in the activity systems. As computers disappear andfield? How about those necessary to understand blend into the natural human environment (Weiser,the reports written by mobile workers? Some 1991), they promise to become less distinguishableare illegible because they have been written in a from human affairs and to support their practices.moving vehicle; others are unclear because they Mobile technology lacks this embeddedness; it isrefer to specific objects that are well known to the developed and diffused as a blank slate technol-mobile worker, but not his manager. Due to this ogy, one which has no built-in knowledge base orinherent ambiguity of details of mobile activities, knowledge capability of its environment beyondthe drawback of asynchronous representations and the planning reasoning of its designers.the challenge of interpreting others’ externaliza- Pervasive computing, on the other hand,tions, participants increasingly need to rely on negates this concept and spirit of tabula rasasynchronous verbal confirmations via the mobile (McCullough, 2004) and relies on inscriptionsphone for the coordination and control of mobile into the social and physical environment (ibid.).work activities. However, just as much as the For this, “no revolution in artificial intelligence isasynchronous representations of mobile work, the needed – just the proper embedding of computersmediating tool (e.g., a mobile phone) guarantees into the everyday world” (Weiser, 1991, p. 3). Asno meaningful, objective account of fieldwork for technology is becoming increasingly embeddedthis subject-object-subject interaction; it is merely and context aware, for instance through RFID ora conduit that enables the interaction. sensor technology, mobile and stationary people In any event, the mobile worker maintains and objects can interact, collect and receive datacontrol over the technology and autonomy over from a distance. The embeddedness of perva-the content of the interaction, his cooperation and sive technology meets current demands for anparticipation in such communication (e.g., in some increased time and data-sensitive understandingcases, disclosed information about location may be of the contexts of mobile work, as employers ofdeliberately incorrect, in others the phone could mobile workers and their customers insist on im-consciously not be answered). Tools are neither proving their insight into mobile work practices.cohesively embedded within the mobile work en- By developing an infrastructure of embedded,vironment nor directly coupled to work activities. physically nearly undetectable and location-Attempts to exchange parameters of mobile work independent tags and mobile RFID readers withmost definitely depend on the subject’s willingness inscribed rules, the resulting pervasive ecosystem 9
  10. 10. For Those About to Tagprovides cohesive, context-specific information are highly cohesive. In other words, mobile workdirectly to the tag-reading device. Given this practices are no longer communicated selectivelyincreasing participation of information and com- and by the choice of the individual, but by object-munication devices, interaction becomes much object interaction. This, of course, has a tremen-less focused on the mobile worker and places dous impact on the mobile worker, her mobile andgreater emphasis on the tools at the core of work stationary colleagues, and their long-establishedactivities. communication protocols. Pervasive ecosystems In these more advanced, pervasive activities, query a number of details with each tag-readerit is not only the mediated subject-object-subject interaction in the field, and synchronously com-interaction that is improved through this increased municate the results via an interaction server toembeddedness and availability for participants to the back-office. While this interrogation soundsinteract (e.g., through consciously writing to tags highly complex, it is actually quite simple.and sending messages that are associated with Once a system learns about four dimensiontag-events). Contradictory to mobile landscapes, of a mobile activity, it can provide a highlyin pervasive ecosystems, objects not only convey contextual picture of mobile work. Location,information and mediate the interaction between identity, status and time form the basis for thissubjects, but rather adopt an active stance and add “individual pervasiveness” (Kietzmann, 2008b).value through event-specific information, at times For our security guard, this means that each timewithout the explicit permission or knowledge of he approaches a gate, for instance, and tag andthe mobile worker. Through embedding pervasive reader connect, information is sent to the back-devices among subjects (e.g., ID cards), tools (e.g., office that contains the identity of the object (andmobile phones) and objects (e.g., gates and doors) hence its location), the identity of the worker,much more sophisticated and cohesive informa- the status of the object (“all ok”), and the timetion systems emerge, in which subjects, tools and of the event. Similarly, superiors or even objectsobjects are beginning to talk to one another and, can reverse this information flow and impose aby extension, know about each another. It is this “pervasive order” (ibid.) onto mobile work (e.g., apervasive ecosystem, this interaction and embed- machine can call the worker, or traffic managersdedness, that determines mobile behavior at work, can liaise a message through a tag to the worker).rather than the free navigation of geographical This object-driven information flow changes mo-spaces. A mobile worker no longer travels through bile work, particularly as it relates to elements ofhis work world without traceable interaction transparency, control and discretion.(Sørensen, Fagrell, & Ljungstrand, 2000), but For those about to tag, this raises the follow-through a pervasive ecosystem (see Figure 2) ing questions.in which “mobility becomes less of a descrip- First, is the mobile landscape one that can betion of an autonomous user freely moving in the understood at all? Can the complexity of whatworld and more of a contingent subject-position mobile workers accomplish every day actuallymade possible by object-object communication” be captured and translated meaningfully into a(Elichirigoity, 2004, p. 10). context-aware auto-identification system? Second, who owns the information that needs to be captured so that it can be codified? To a largeFor Those about to Tag extent, this will likely be the mobile workers, as they usually are the only individuals who knowIn pervasive ecosystems, all participants, human the mobile landscape in detail.or not, are directly coupled and their activities10
  11. 11. For Those About to Tag Third, why would these mobile workers sup- superiors and traffic managers who were able toport the new system? Why not? These are ques- schedule their mobile workers and trusted thattions of control and discretion. If the mobile work they completed their work independently nowenvironment was heavily regulated before, the had transparent data that they could not ignore.new order that the pervasive system will introduce Some RFID driven events even demanded thatmight not pose a great threat to mobile workers superiors form decisions, which were previously(e.g., heavily controlled occupations like bus left up to the mobile worker. This requires adrivers). If the mobile workers were left to their system-wide look at users, not just a look at theown judgment before, like taxi drivers, they might mobile workers. If good data comes from therefuse to use the system outright. This relates to field, but those in the back office have no reasonthe second question. If the mobile workers are the to use it, the auto-identification system will failonly individuals who understand the context of to live up to its promise.their work, and if they resist the notion of working Lastly, the perception of auto-identificationin a more closely controlled environment, where technologies requires some attention. On thewill the necessary context-information come technology front, many seemingly futuristic de-from? Will it be reliable? velopments are possible, if not already underway. Fourth, how is agency affected by the tagged Imagine introducing a GPS sensor to the securityenvironment? In a mobile landscape, as outlined guard’s mobile RFID tool, or add a techographabove, communication rests with the mobile to the equation. The iPhone has already shownworker and the phone and other interaction tools what is possible. How about connecting all of theare simple conduits. In a pervasive ecosystem, mobile RFID events to each other to populate anthe communication is driven increasingly by “internet of things” that adds transparency andthese tools, and the person becomes the conduit. extensive data-mining capabilities to all mobileIf mobile workers like this new arrangement, the events? While these questions are of a much biggertagged environment has a much higher chance of Orwellian nature, they might be on the minds of thesuccess. Under pervasiveness, the mobile worker mobile users who are critical to the developmenthas much less control over the type of informa- and adoption of a tagging technology. Especiallytion revealed, and over the content that becomes users who are technology savvy might envisionvisible to others. A previously sovereign mobile how the following emerging trends might be ad-worker all of a sudden becomes dependent on the opted next, and how, as a result, their role mightinformation system, and the discretion with which continue to change if they support the adoptionhe carries out his work is now not up to the judg- of auto-identification technologies today.ment of the worker but to the embedded knowledgeand pre-programmed logic of the context-aware Emerging Technologiessystem. A security guard who previously used hisexpert-knowledge to navigate through traffic and Mobile RFID is only the beginning of manymight have changed the sequence of the stops along context-aware technologies. And, in their currenthis route now is required to follow the sequence form, pervasive ecosystems are not yet entirelyordered by the mobile RFID system. location independent since their read-range is still Fifth, who else is affected? Will everyone quite limited. However, the pervasive ecosystemsupport the new system? Tagged environments marked by mobile RFID technology alreadynot only change mobile workers’ job description, points at what will be presented by the inevitablebut also affect everyone who works with data improvement of technology. Reading ranges arefrom the field. In the Morrison Patrolling case, already projected to approach 20 meters for more 11
  12. 12. For Those About to Tagstationary readers (Garfinkel & Rosenberg, 2006), that these advantages will improve their organiza-on the mobile front this will only be a question of tional metrics and success measures. Particularlypower management on the device. As more and once mobile RFID becomes more standardized,more objects and tools of mobile work become the advantages of auto-identification technologiesembedded with tags and improved readers, we might suggest an even stronger positive impactwill witness a continuously increasing mobility of tagging the mobile landscape.with pervasive devices, ultimately approaching This chapter outlines some of these positiveubiquitous computing environments (Lyytinen & affordances of auto-identification, but also aims toYoo, 2002). Visions of the future home and retail raise a word of caution. Tagging is a very complexorganizations (Albrecht & MacIntyre, 2005), the and complicated process, which requires that anext generation of cash (Angell & Kietzmann, number of critical questions are asked and an-2006), interactive fashion and wearable comput- swered. In many cases, these are not of a technicaling (Mann & Niedzviecki, 2002) etc. contribute nature, but relate to the social and socio-politicalto the notion of a pervasive ecosystem. environment that is to be tagged. Of course, improved devices alone will not Certainly, mobility and pervasiveness are notchange pervasiveness. Improved infrastructure the same. Each has its unique advantages andand middleware technologies, including smart drawbacks. As this chapter outlined, the argu-antennas, mesh networks and ad-hoc computing ments that once led organizations to adopt mobilewill elevate current networking technology to- technology must be different from those that drivewards pervasive data-throughputs, especially once tagging decisions today. It was the ambition of thisagreed-upon standards are in place. Derived from chapter to illustrate how a tiny technology, suchnanotechnology’s concept of swarm computing, as a mobile RFID tag, can change mobile workamorphous technologies require that collective practices and the nature of mobile work entirely.networks can be built on individual devices’ ca- Hopefully, this chapter has provided “those aboutpacities to transmit signals without intercepting to tag” with a number of interesting questions tothem. This ad-hoc technology allows each client ponder, and has informed their decision in favor(e.g., mobile phone) to function as a server and or against mobile auto-identification technologies.signals to hop from device to device. This increas- It was not the motivation of this chapter to sug-ingly location independence of computing occur- gest that mobile RFID etc. are bad choices, butrences will render a fixed-location infrastructure to endorse critical thoughts among “those aboutof senders and repeaters unnecessary, giving way to tag” that will help determine if, and how, auto-to a truly pervasive and ubiquitous world. identification choices will transform their mobile landscapes into pervasive ecosystems.Conclusion ReferencesMany developments are at the horizon, and some,including mobile RFID are already commercially Albrecht, K., & MacIntyre, L. (2005). Spychips:available. Of course, only the positive impact How Major Corporations and Government Planof auto-identification technologies is advertised to Track Your Every Move with RFID. Nelsonto organizations. And indeed, the synchronous Current.object-object information from the field enables Angell, I., & Kietzmann, J. (2006). RFID andaltogether new forms of managing mobile work. the End of Cash? Communications of the ACM,Rightfully so, practitioners might be convinced 49(12), 90-96.12
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