Describes intermediated technology use in resource-constrained urban slums, including mechanisms, interface requirements, and its broader effects. Can help designers of technology for "developing" regions.
Good morning. Thank you all for being here. In this talk, I will present glimpses of intermediated technology use in developing communities. Specifically I will discuss the case of urban slums in Bangalore, India.
Individual ownership of technology, textual literacy, and digital literacy are not necessarily the norm in the developing world. To give you a perspective, consider the technology penetration in India (where I carried out my research) and that of the United States (where we are right now). Despite the recent figures on steady growth of mobile phones in India and the emerging markets, the aggregate number of devices owned is still small. For a population of 1.1. billion, the telecom penetration is 36% in India, with a literacy rate of 66%, with the penetration for poorer communities being even less. Internet penetration is a dismal 7%. Contrast this with the United States, whose population is roughly 1/3 rd of that of India at 300 million, and the telecom penetration is 89%, with 74% internet penetration and 99% literacy rate, according to UNSECO. I would argue that these numbers present only part of the picture, d espite resource constraints and low technology penetration in these settings, in my research in the slum communities, I found that technology plays a central role in their lives, and there is relatively pervasive access to technology. How? Through the process of intermediation, which is, very briefly, the process of making use of third parties for technology access. I will come back to this shortly. .
In this talk, I will address the following research questions: how are technological benefits extended in the slum, what are the social, cultural and technical factors that affect technology access and usage, and What does this suggest about the conceptualization of use in HCI?
Human computer interaction, like the name suggests, is concerned with direct interactions between the user and computer. Many applications are designed for personal use and private ownership. However, in many contexts, use is not direct; intermediation by another person occurs when the primary user is not capable of using a device entirely on their own. For example, many people rely on experts in the family to help them set up home networks as discussed by Poole and others or to figure out how to use the Internet as discussed by Kiesler through technical gurus.
In the so-called developing world, informal help goes far beyond spot assistance and is a fundamental enabler of technology use and access for a vast number of people. These settings are marked by lack of textual literacy, numeracy, and digital operation skills, financial constraints affecting technology ownership, and socio-cultural and empowerment issues including gender, employment, and social status that affect access. Intermediated interactions enable technology use for such persons by means of a third party. As you can see in the photograph, the neighbor is helping the woman set up the phone camera.
These low-income communities are diverse and often include at least some literate members with technology-operation skills. These intermediaries overcome some of the these previously mentioned deficits and act as “bridges” between technology and community members lacking these skills. Intermediated interactions coexist with the traditional one-to-one, direct interactions. In the developing world, many technologies that are perceived as “single user” in the West are involved in more complex human-mediated relations that we need to understand. This suggests a serious re-examination of current designs and design assumptions if they are to cater to the needs and existing technological practices of the developing world.
For the rest of this talk, I will present how intermediation transpires in two slum communities of India. I will start off by talking about related work in the field of ICT4D. I will briefly talk about my study design and field sites. Then I will present some salient ethnographic findings of intermediated technology usage in India. Then I will examine the challenges in design for intermediation, broader effects of intermediation, present some considerations for design, and end with some thoughts on how to rethink HCI for intermediation.
Intermediaries form an important part of ICTD projects because they transfer technological benefits to grassroots levels, ensure that projects run smoothly, and contribute to their sustainability. Babajob is a job website that makes use of field agents who recruit workers in the informal sector. DakNet makes use of human-driven automobiles to transport the Internet to unconnected areas. Digital Green makes use of field officers to record and screen agricultural videos. In a study of multiuser interactions in India, Parikh defined secondary users as “those having only partial or no physical access to computing devices, who must interact with information resources via a proxy primary user who has the required access rights and skills” particularly in the context of ICT4D interventions and commercial services. For example, commercial kiosk operators helped secondary users (local villagers) access and print information from the Internet. Sukumaran examined changes in trust in source based on positioning of the intermediary or the user. However, all of the research has focussed on institutitonalized development and commercial settings. We add the very real case of intermediation in the ecology of slum habitats, that occurs “in-situ” and organically. As I noted earlier, a significant population lives in these settings. My goal in this endeavour is to study the information and communication needs that occur in economically disadvantaged settings and the various technologies, practices, actors, and relationships involved in fulfilling them.
I conducted field work in two urban slums of Bangalore over a period of 4 months. I spent time in NGO meetings, activist demonstrations, homes, temples, offices, and near water pumps, where the informants tended to relax and chitchat. I employed semi structured interviews following open ended interviews to gather uncover technology usage and development issues. I also employed household surveys to understand family structures, sources of income, education levels, and assets. In addition I gave out analog cameras to 5 participants to shoot “a day in the life of”. I also employed personas when the data was too abstract. Overall, I interviewd 22 women, who were employed as domestic workers, aged between 26-68 years. Most of them were not educated, however, 3 of them had studied up to high school. All of them were migrants from neighboring villages and states, ranging from first t I limit my focus to women in order to understand the complex interplay between technology access and social order. I also got cultural access to women, through the NGO. It is important to note here that women were financial heads of their families, yet tolerated abusive and sometimes violent treatment by their husbands, often resulting from alcoholism. I wanted to understand how these women's roles shaped their technology use o third generation.
Both slums were located in metro-core areas of Bangalore. Roughly 2000 households constituted each slum. Houses varied in size from 100-200 square feet. Resource constraints resulted in maximum utilization of real estate by cramming in objects within each household, open doors for ventilation, and activity on the by-lanes and doorsteps. As a result, an openly social environment was fostered. Children played in the alleyways while mothers sat on the doorsteps. Green spaces such as playgrounds were used for cricket by male members, and temples and water pumps were used by women. These spaces served as information hot-spots of neighbourhood gossip. Information ecologies in these neighborhoods are fluid and hybrids of humans, technologies and social norms.
Electricity was the most pervasive technology. However, it was prone to frequent failures. Other common technologies were used for entertainment and communication, such as the ubiquitous Nokia 2600, DVD players, cable television, fridge and kitchen technologies such as blenders. Phones, radios and television were always on, creating a constant influx of information.
In order to understand intermediation, it is useful at this juncture to draw a comparison with mediation, which forms a core component of AT. According to AT, all human experience experience is shaped by the tools and sign systems we use. Mediating tools connect us organically and intimately to the world; they are not merely filters or channels through which experience is carried”. Human activity is mediated by tools, both external (like a hammer or scissors) and internal (like concepts or heuristics). For example, communicating with a friend is my object, and the mobile phone is a mediating tool.
I add to this framing, by introducing the term human-mediated computer interaction, which is a second-order mediation, where the mediating tool as any technology that cannot be operated solely by the user without assistance, such as VCD players, television, or radio. The subject could be Priya’s mother, who may want to call her relative in her native village, which is the object In addition to the mediating tool, which is the mobile phone, Priya is now the intermediary user who performs second order mediation for her mother.
Intermediary-user: a person possessing technology-operation skills and possibly textual literacy who enables technology usage for other persons Beneficiary-user : derives value out of technologies through third parties, typically affected by non-literacy, non-numeracy, lack of digital operation skills, financial constraints, and socio-cultural and empowerment issues
Human-mediated computer interaction forces us to rethink the concept of “user.” Bannon defines a user as “someone who uses a particular computer system or application” but in our case “use” is split between at least two people: Beneficiary-users instigate the interaction and derive direct value from it, while intermediary-users often are closer to directly interacting with the device. Studies of intermediation in community development projects tend to view the beneficiary as being a passive recipient of information from the intermediary, in commercial or developmental contexts. Our study reveals that (i) beneficiary-users were highly resourceful in finding the appropriate intermediary-users for the right tasks. For example, Gauri, 52, sought out the help of her 8-year old grandson in operating her mobile phone, and her 10 th -grade educated neighbour in operating the VCD player. Beneficiary-users seek help based on prior rapport and trust. (ii) They exhibited agency in controlling the interaction process, not passively receiving information, and reciprocated the favour, leading to a peer-to-peer model An intermediary-user operates the system for the benefit of a beneficiary-user, and she may derive value out of the second-order effects of the interaction, through direct information gain, reputation management, sense of doing good, or welfare of community
Now I am going to talk about why intermediation occurs in these contexts. What are the factors that motivate intermediation in these communities? Intermediated interactions reflect the state of uneven textual and digital literacies in a community. So long as they remain, intermediation will continue. Despite an individual’s limitations, the overall community typically possesses a greater amount of digital proficiency that could be considered its collective digital proficiency. A combination of unfamiliarity with technology and lack of self-efficacy ( i.e., confidence in one’s ability) intimidates many people lacking technology-operation skills from direct usage. The easiest alternative, then, is to find a technologically skilled person. Saroja, 67:”My son recently purchased a phone for the family. My husband and daughter-in-law leave the phone at home when they head to work. I don’t know how to use it to make calls. I am a woman of those days. These things (technologies) are too hard to handle. I ask my young neighbour to dial my calls.”
So far we looked at what intermediation is, and why it occurs. Now I am going to talk about how it occurs. I will discuss three kinds of intermediation that I uncovered in my field. Surrogate usage is access “on behalf of” , when the technology has not penetrated the community, proximate enabling is when the beneficiary lacks the requisite skill to operate the technology at hand, and proximate translation is when the beneficiary is limited by non-literacy. These categories are not canonical, but are examples from our findings; it is possible for permutations of these interactions to exist elsewhere. The boundaries between them are porous. I profiled a wide variety of field subjects. Specifically, I considered various relationships between actors, such as family, non-family peer (neighbours, friends, co-workers, employees, or persons of other communities), and non-family expert (NGO workers, doctors, teachers, employers, and priests). I analysed various locations of intermediation, such as home, public space, and work places. I considered various situations of use, such as information requests and recreational usage. I also considered several situations of impact, such as achieving communication with family members in native villages, networking for job opportunities, and so on.
Surroagte usage is when the technology is not available in the community, and the beneficiary-user depends on intermediary-users for remote technology access. The intermediary-user in turn relies on their 1) technology-operation skills, and 2) physical or financial access to technologies unavailable to the beneficiary. This model overcame technology deficits, creating last-mile connections (which is literally the piece of cable connecting a location to the internet) through human through intermediary-users. Surrogate usage expands the information boundaries of the community otherwise closed to it. For example, the Internet is forbiddingly expensive, and there is zero penetration of PCs and Internet in the Bangalore slums. With the increasing interest among the younger generations to acquire technology-operation skills, and subsequently finding jobs in the information technology sector, or being able to access cyber cafes, this modality finds a home in communities of uneven technology penetration and technology-operation skills. Sharanya, an NGO worker, doubled up as a surrogate intermediary-user by consulting the Internet to meet information demands coming from the community of women who were her NGO members Sharanya: “Sometimes I am not in a position to advise the women on certain topics, such as reproductive problems. In such cases, I look up medical websites, take printouts, and read them out to the community”
Proximate enabling is when the beneficiary user has access to technology, but is limited by the skills required to operate it. In this case, the intermediary-user is collocated and operates the technology for the beneficiary-user, shield some of the UI complexity from the beneficiary-user, but allow the beneficiary-user use some of the application directly. Janaki, 35, mother of three, was educated in the regional language medium of instruction (Kannada) up to 10 th -grade. She recently purchased a DVD player, which was primarily used for playing audio CDs of devotional songs. She narrated an incident where her sister had mailed her a Video CD of a hit Tamil film freshly-released into the gray market. Janaki: “From my earlier experience with using the buttons on the DVD player, I knew how to eject the tray and insert the disc. I hit the mukkonam (triangle — play button) and a coloured box (menu) showed-up on the TV which I could not understand. Fortunately, my friend Suguna’s 10-year old son was around, and he was able to play the menu. I watched what he did — he pressed the mel pakkam kuri (Up-arrow), pressed the vattam (circle) button, and then the mukkonam (play button). From then onwards, every time I played the disc, I remembered that.”
Proximate translation is characterized by operational knowledge and inability to understand system output. The beneficiary-user has some technology-operation skills, but lacking textual literacy, runs into an interactional cul de sac, when device output is unfamiliar. When I interviewed Mythili, 30, her mobile phone started beeping. She immediately yelled out for her 12-year old daughter, Priya, and proudly mentioned to us, Mythili: “She learns English in school! She can understand everything!” Priya was then assigned the task of reading out the SMS, which she promptly did. The mobile service provider had kindly reminded Mythili that she had a balance of Rs5 left.
So now that we have seen some examples of intermediation, but what does this mean for design? The intermediated “user interface” is a combination of the intermediating channel and the actual device user interface. To work with the system, the beneficiary-user has to control and assess the state of the system. there is a dependency on the intermediary-user to mediate the input or the feedback. I will consider the process of handling input and output of the interface, and under information analysis, we consider the actual input and output. 30 MINUTES BY NOW ELSE SKIP QUOTES
As this figure shows, the beneficiary user has to deal with the intermediary-user interface, who in turn has to deal with the device user-interface.
Direct interactions allow “anytime” and sometimes “anywhere” usage of devices, due to the personal, private, or portable nature of device usage. In contrast, intermediated interactions are limited by the availability of the intermediary-user. This is constrained by the relationship between the intermediary and the beneficiary, and the fact that intermediary is not always present in the neighbourhood, in which case the beneficiary-user may have to wait or find another locally skilled person “ Sometimes when Suguna and Sangeetha’s families are not in town, I feel uncomfortable asking other women or children here to help me with playing DVDs. Then I just put it off until they return.” [Janaki, 35]
Usability in direct interactions is concerned with ease of use of computing applications. In intermediated interactions, in addition to the first-order usability of the application towards the direct user, two more dimensions of usability need further examination — the human relationship between the intermediary-user and the beneficiary-user, which can inhibit or promote access, and the second-order usability of the application for the beneficiary-user. They may do more to hide the complexity of the interfaces. “Whenever they (neighbours) call me for help, I just perform the tasks. The other day, it had rained heavily and I was called for ghost correction on TV. I helped them out, but I did not give them details on how to do it. It might have confused them.” [Shankar, 25, an intermediary-user]
Information accuracy in direct interactions depends entirely upon the accuracy of the information source, i.e., computing application Intermediation adds an onus of information accuracy to the intermediary-user. Even if the information source has high veracity and good quality, the intermediary-user packages the information into an oral format. Therefore, the accuracy of information is dependent upon the intermediary-user's technology-operation skill sophistication, and his comprehension, interpretation, and translation of information to the beneficiary-user. Information loss does occur sometimes in this process, despite the best efforts of the intermediary. In the case of surrogates, the information travel distance is increased since the intermediary-user transports the information. This adds an additional layer of information loss. Printouts (like we see in Sharanya’s case), phone calls (like in Lakshmi’s case), and word of mouth were typically employed
That segways into the next challenge – storage Direct interactions permit the ability to create and re-create interactions. The limited repeatability of intermediated interactions is overcome by physical storage. However, there was heavy reliance on human memory, leading to errors. Numeracy was also seen, but without textual literacy it was only constraining – Sushila, for example, who was numerate and non-literate, could not write names to associate with the phone numbers she had jotted down on the wall. The Address Book in the mobile phone was not directly accessible to her, either, because her daughter had stored the contacts, and she could not read the entries. Therefore, the dependency on the intermediary-user continued to be sustained for information retrieval as well as device usage.
And finally, the intermediated nature of these interactions immediately implies that privacy is socially constructed between the two users. The actions involved in creating an interaction varied anywhere from looking up a contact from the Address Book to reading out printouts on health problems. Here, the privacy concerns are not just limited to revealing of the content to the intermediary-user, but also involve more complex nuances of social dynamics, power relations, and gender. Shankaramma, 65: “Usually I ask my grandson or daughter to make the phone call (dial the number) and I speak to relatives in my native village near Madurai. But I will not ask my neighbour, since she may overhear and spread rumours.” IMPORTANT
So far we looked at the interactional issues..now I am going to zoom out a bit to look at the broader effects of intermediation. . Intermediation is built upon the foundation of human relations. A shared infrastructure is created through individual ownership. A gift economy is seen here, a notion of reciprocity is maintained rather than a quid pro quo . For example, when we asked Janaki how she perceived the help from her neighbours, “When Suguna or Sangeetha helps me out, I may not be as talented as them in operating these devices, but I try to return the favour in other ways. I take care of their children when they are late from work, or share my food with them, sometimes.” IMPORTANT Reciprocity is not always on a one to one basis, and is sometimes manifest as diffusion to other members of the community. R ecognition, reputation, and social good are drivers for contributing to the shared economy
With a bare minimum of technologies, intermediary-users act as gateways between unconnected households and ICTs. For example, a great number of people actually benefit from mobile phones, even when there are so few. In Ragigudda, among the 12 women we interviewed, only two of them possessed their own phones. Even in households with sufficient technology penetration in Nakalbandi, not everyone was positioned to enjoy access to technology. Most husbands owned mobile phones and carried them to work. However, the women not only borrowed but also sought the help of their neighbours and employers in fulfilling their communication needs. Thus, intermediation helps in extending the benefits of technologies to a wide range of users. The Grameen Village Phone is built upon the model of sharing one phone with an entire village The secondary diffusion of information contributes to its extensive reach.
In some cases, proximate usage led to learning by observing. Janaki’s case here is an example of digital habituation “ From my earlier experience with using the buttons on the DVD player, I knew how to eject the tray and insert the disc. I hit the mukkonam (triangle — play button) and a coloured box (menu) showed-up on the TV which I could not understand. Fortunately, my friend Suguna’s 10-year old son was around, and he was able to play the menu. I watched what he did — he pressed the mel pakkam kuri (Up-arrow), pressed the vattam (circle) button, and then the mukkonam (play button). From then onwards, every time I played the disc, I remembered that.” [Janaki, 35] SUMMARIZE IF NO TIME IS LEFT it allowed her to respond to the VCD player spontaneously and engage in a slow process of familiarization with the technology By watching the actions of the intermediary, she was able to map tasks to function. Collocated intermediation is inevitably demonstrative and may lead to an internalization of the actions required. The familiar face of the intermediary-user also reduces the barrier to learning the actions
I posit that a prevalent mode of access in these communities will continue to be intermediated. Therefore, the question is how we can design systems differently to better support intermediated interactions The challenge is to design under resource constraints such as obsolete technologies, irregular infrastructures, grey market goods, low literacies, and uneven familiarity with user interfaces. They involve multiple sets of users, intermediaries and beneficiaries, and, in addition, can involve various intermediaries (different experts for different technologies). An interesting avenue is to consider design requirements for supporting multiple users, across technologies. Overcrowding in slums resulted in congested spaces, with 4-7 family members in each household. Space constraints shaped groups into shoulder-to-shoulder formations. Positioning and directional orientation of technology can allow better “sharing” of an interface across multiple users Design must take into account that sharing implies a changing set of users and contexts of use. By allowing portability of information, history of use and stored information could persist. Despite driving the interaction, the beneficiary user has to wait for the intermediary-user to finish the interaction, and explain when done. The challenge here is to design for equitable engagement between the three entities – intermediary, beneficiary and the technology Finally, legibility in interactions can contribute to better comprehension of system actions by the beneficiary-user The use of visual and auditory cues  can help the secondary user “see” the interface output, or using adding low-cost devices, to make interactions clearer.
All of this goes to show that intermediated interactions increase the range of use and users of technologies. This calls for re-examining the current indicators of technology and use. Prevailing statistics of technology access and penetration quantify ownership such as telephone numbers or Internet subscription. This represents only part of the picture, because intermediated interactions expand the reach of the resource to a wider cross-section of users If a locality has X% mobile phone penetration ( quantified by ownership), then Y% of people also benefit from the device due to intermediated interactions, and Z% benefit from the beneficiary-users through word-of-mouth interactions Thus, the “collective access” is increased Ownership statistics distort realities by not counting those who may use technology but not have the capability to own it. Recall that only 36% of the women owned their phones, and the rest of the women used technology through intermediation. Non-ownership does not necessarily imply digital exclusion The dichotomy of use and non-use conceptualizes use as direct use and non-use as lack of use. this divide/dichotomy does not clearly unfold as a binary in developing communities, where the user is a direct user, beneficiary-user, or tertiary user, and the non-user is degrees away (conceptually) from the user I propose a new metric for quantifying access, by moving away from ownership paradigm to measuring the ability to benefit from use. A breakdown of the dichotomy requires a quantitative-qualitative bridging exercise. Studying intermediation opens us up to the possibility of users, non-users, and all those in-between who benefit from technologies.
I started off by asking – how technological benefits are extended in a slum what are the social, cultural and technical factors that affect technology access, and what does this mean for the HCI community.
Although technology users everywhere make use of intermediaries from time to time, intermediated interaction appears to be more pronounced and more deeply embedded in low-income communities. They increase the number of people who can benefit from these technologies. I discussed three types of intermediated interactions -- Surrogate usage, proximate enabling, and proximate translation Intermediated interactions pull apart the standard notion of a user into a beneficiary-user and an intermediary-user, who each fulfil different roles that a single, direct user would fulfil entirely by herself. Finally, in order to successfully design technology for the large populations in low-income communities, we must re-think the traditional HCI conception of user.
Consider the normative assumptions Reflexivity Ethnographer acts as a translator, not transcriber A native&quot; anthropologist is assumed to be an insider who will forward an authentic point of view to the anthropological community I invoke these threads of a culturally tangled identity to demonstrate that a person may have many strands of identification available, strands that may be tugged into the open or stuffed out of sight Even as insiders or partial insiders, in some contexts we are drawn closer, in others we are thrust apart. Multiple planes of identification may be most painfully highlighted among anthropologists
Overall I think this is a great paper that puts into words a phenomenon that many people have recognized but have failed to call out and name: that lots of people are using one &quot;computer&quot; in the developing world. Having some ways of talking about what is happening is invaluable and a great contribution. Furthermore I think this is a great piece of work for ICT4D because it is an issue that is made clear in the developing world, but has implications that reverberate in the developed world where seeing the same phenomenon is muddied by other confounding factors. That said I have one major concern with this work that requires a revision and a few minor ones that are easier to address. The major concern is the central place that the authors place on the role of skilllessness as the motivation for intermediation in interactions in the developing world. This does not seem correct to me and the authors even say as much. Nonetheless, the paper continuously asserts that lack of skills is what is causing intermediation while providing examples to the contrary. In fact what I observe the authors are reporting is that there are three things that are causing intermediation: 1) the beneficial users either can't or choose not to spend the necessary money on the technology in order to be direct users. 2) the beneficial users are not allowed to use the technology directly as a result of a variety of cultural and empowerment issues including gender, employment, social status, etc. 3) the beneficial users are unable to use the technology directly as a result of inadequate skill sets including literacy, numeracy or specific knowledge of the technology at hand. Examples of 1 are the Grameen bank telephone women and the subjects of the study in this paper who can't afford internet access. And most of the section in related work on shared technology in developing countries. The fact that this is a cause for intermediation calls into question a lot of the analysis that the authors do in the discussion of the gift economy on page 11 starting with the first sentence...&quot;a sharing economy evolves...&quot; Examples of 2 are the women in this study whose husbands take the phones with them to work. Examples of 3 are the people in this study who are unable to read the DVD output. To assert that 1 and 2 are &quot;skills&quot; would be a very unorthodox use of the word. In line with this I think the authors have to be very careful about saying that the beneficial users are &quot;unskilled&quot; generally. The process of finding and maintaining a network of friends who assist you in using a technology is a great skill. Suggesting that someone is unskilled because they can't use a technology suggests they are in an inferior position. In fact a non-trivial number of extremely talented CEOs and thinkers in the U.S. do not use information technology at all and manage to be extremely powerful despite never sending a single email. This line of thought also made me realize that these patterns of interaction really have nothing to do with &quot;technology&quot; the way technologists usually think of it. The same patterns of assistance are used by illiterate people to get news from newspapers, for me to get food at a restaurant (I don't interact with the stove directly for example), or whenever someone asks someone for something they themselves can't get. I think that this paper is correct in limiting the scope of the intermediated interactions to technology, but the framing could extend more broadly. Good things: The last paragraph on page 3 before methodology. The definition of beneficial user as requiring agency and participation &quot;Human relations for the foundation for intermediation&quot; Minor issues: I would really appreciate more elaboration on the first sentence of related work. I have not heard anyone clearly describe what ICT4D actually is as an academic discipline (despite the fact that I do it too!) and I have never heard the Millennium Development Goals invoked as being part of it. I would love to have a clear explanation of what the authors think ICT4D actually is and why (i.e. some references or further explanation). I didn't understand the following sentences: Page 3: with &quot;social prominence&quot; in it with &quot;negative relationship&quot; in it. with &quot;implying...gender&quot;?? in it. with &quot;informal sector&quot; in it. Page 4: with &quot;Nations agency&quot; in it. Page 8: with &quot;Kannada&quot; in it. I didn't understand Table 1 at all. On page 3, the 2nd paragraph that starts with &quot;In general&quot; seems to dangle. Are the authors asserting that beneficial users are or aren't passive? I think the authors should combine this with the discusion of agency and participation on page 6 as defining what a beneficial user must exhibit. It's a great definition. It needs to be put in one place, not two. On page 5 the sentence at the top of the second column that starts &quot;Mobile phones were...&quot; contradicts everything the authors have been saying about intermediacy in mobile phone usage. The first use of &quot;skill&quot; on page 10 is a conflation of the word compared to how the authors have been using it up till now, I would recommend rewording it to remove &quot;skill&quot;. Editting issues: Two periods at the end of the abstract. Would the authors mind adding a reference to Nomatic*AID in the explorations part of related work? It is pertinent and I'd like other people to know about it.
Concept of poverty determines our definition Competing conceptualizations: Absolute versus relative poverty lines Near poor, poor, extremely poor Temporary vs. chronic poverty Poverty in terms of economic deprivation (reductionist, economic growth and poverty can coexist), well being (HDI, social reforms), social exclusion (rights, livelihoods, well being, collective action, diminishes importance of structural causes of poverty) Isolated and proximate illiteracy -- 50% illiterate with 50% proximate access are much better than 50% isolated. More than a condition, it is a relationship - between a person and her possessions and between this person and other persons. Like other relationships, poverty is socially constructed and collectively defined. Individuals' understandings and their aspirations follow from this shared societal construction of poverty.
Intermediation CHI talk
Intermediated Technology Use in Developing Communities Intermediated Technology Use in Developing Communities Nithya Sambasivan | UC , Irvine Ed Cutrell | Microsoft Research India Kentaro Toyama | UC, Berkeley Bonnie Nardi | UC, Irvine
3 ITU, ICT stats, 2008 4 Internet World Stats, 2009 2 UNSESCO, 2008 1 Google Public Data, 2009 Technology penetration in India Population 1 : 1.1 billion Telephone penetr ation 3 : 36% Internet penetration 2 : 7% Literacy rate 4 : 66% Technology penetration in the United States Population : 300 million Telephone penetration: 89% Internet penetration: 74.1% Literacy rate: 99%
http://www.flickr.com/photos/markhillary/3819765986/ How are technological benefits extended in two slums of Bangalore, India? What are the various social, cultural, economic, and technical factors that affect technology access /usage? What does this suggest about the conceptualization of use?
<ul><li>In the “developed world”– one user, one computer </li></ul><ul><li>Personal and private </li></ul><ul><li>Designed expecting literacy </li></ul><ul><li>Intermediation when user needs assistance </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Typically trouble-shooting [Kiesler, Poole] </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Photo: http://i.ehow.com/images/GlobalPhoto/Articles/4913697/162743-main_Full.jpg </li></ul>Primary-user Technology
<ul><li>In the “developing world” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>technology deficits are common </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Lack of literacies, financial constraints, gender issues </li></ul><ul><li>Informal help goes beyond spot assistance </li></ul><ul><ul><li>fundamental enabler of technology access </li></ul></ul>Beneficiary-user Technology Intermediary-user
<ul><li>Intermediaries act as bridges between technology and communities </li></ul><ul><li>Intermediated interactions co-exist with one-to-one, direct interactions </li></ul><ul><li>Complex human-mediated relations are involved </li></ul><ul><li>“ Single User” technologies must be re-examined </li></ul>
In this talk.. Related work Study design Ethnographic findings Challenges in design Broader effects of intermediation Design considerations Conclusion
Intermediation in ICTD babajob Parikh: “those having only partial or no physical access to computing devices, who must interact with information resources via a proxy primary user who has the required access rights and skills” Positioning of intermediary and technology [Sukumaran et al.] Human mediators are important to ICTD projects Studies of intermediation Commercial and institutionalized settings DakNet Digital Green
“ all human experience is shaped by the tools and sign systems we use. Mediating tools connect us organically and intimately to the world; they are not merely filters or channels through which experience is carried” [Nardi] Mediation – Activity Theory In Activity Theory
“ all human experience is shaped by the tools and sign systems we use. Mediating tools connect us organically and intimately to the world; they are not merely filters or channels through which experience is carried” [Nardi] Human-mediated computer interaction In Activity Theory Second-order mediation
Intermediary-user: a person possessing technology-operation skills and possibly textual literacy who enables technology usage for other persons Beneficiary-user : derives value out of technologies through third parties, typically affected by non-literacy, non-numeracy, lack of digital operation skills, financial constraints, and socio-cultural and empowerment issues Definitions
User : “someone who uses a particular computer system or application” [Bannon] Use is split A broader definition of use Beneficiary-users were resourceful Exhibited agency Intermediary-users may gain information, reputation management, sense of doing good, or welfare Use and users
<ul><li>Fear of the technology </li></ul><ul><li>- combination of unfamiliarity and lack of self-efficacy </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of textual literacy, numeracy, or technology skills </li></ul><ul><li>- mutually exclusive skills </li></ul><ul><li>Habits of dependency </li></ul><ul><li>- age, lack of self esteem, social order gave rise to dependencies </li></ul><ul><li>Cost of owning technology </li></ul><ul><li>- purchase, but also in maintenance, subscriptions, updating, or repairs (Rs4,500/Rs5,000) </li></ul><ul><li>Access constraints </li></ul><ul><li>- 36% (N=8) for women, 82% (N=18) for men </li></ul>Factors motivating intermediation
<ul><li>Surrogate usage </li></ul><ul><li>Proximate enabling </li></ul><ul><li>Proximate translation </li></ul><ul><li>- trajectory of skills and access </li></ul><ul><li>- variety in age, education, family profile, skill-sets, occupation </li></ul>Interaction mechanisms
“ Sometimes I am not in a position to advise the women on certain topics, such as reproductive problems. In such cases, I look up medical websites, take printouts, and read them out to the community” [Sharanya, 26] <ul><li>Expands information boundaries otherwise closed to community </li></ul><ul><li>Last-mile connections </li></ul>Surrogate usage
When Lakshmi, 22, helped her mother watch movies: “My mother knows nothing about playing audio CDs in our stereo system, but she loves to listen to music. Sometimes when her chores are done, or after a long argument with my father, she wants to relax. She will then ask me to play her favourite music — old songs from MGR movies.” <ul><li>Hides complexity of user interface, yet outcome is known </li></ul><ul><li>Direct engagement </li></ul>Proximate enabling http://www.outlookindia.com/images/mgr_jayalalitha_20090713.jpg
<ul><li>Operational knowledge and inability to understand system output </li></ul><ul><li>Technology cul-de-sacs </li></ul>Proximate translation “ She learns English in school! She can understand everything!” [Mythili, 30]
<ul><li>Combination of intermediating channel and actual device </li></ul><ul><li>Beneficiary-user has to control and assess the state of the system </li></ul><ul><li>Dependency on the intermediary-user </li></ul><ul><li>Process of handling input </li></ul><ul><li>Actual input and output </li></ul>The intermediated “user-interface”
Design challenges – availability <ul><li>“ Anytime”, “anywhere” changes </li></ul><ul><li>Intermediary-users are limited, although leaps do occur </li></ul><ul><li>Availability depends upon intermediary </li></ul>“ Sometimes when Suguna and Sangeetha’s families are not in town, I feel uncomfortable asking other women or children here to help me with playing DVDs. Then I just put it off until they return.” [Janaki, 35]
<ul><li>Usability </li></ul><ul><li>Two more dimensions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Relationship between the users </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>-Second-order usability of the application for the beneficiary-user </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Abstraction makes interface usable </li></ul>“ Whenever they (neighbours) call me for help, I just perform the tasks. The other day, it had rained heavily and I was called for ghost correction on TV. I helped them out, but I did not give them details on how to do it. It might have confused them.” [Shankar, 25, an intermediary-user] Photo credit: Nimmi Rangaswamy
Accuracy <ul><li>Onus of accuracy on the intermediary </li></ul><ul><li>Information loss </li></ul><ul><li>Information travel distance increased in surrogates </li></ul><ul><li>Printouts and phone calls </li></ul>
Storage <ul><li>Reliance on memory </li></ul><ul><li>Sushila, numerate and non-literate </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- could not write names to associate with the phone numbers on the wall </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Dependencies continue to exist </li></ul>
Privacy <ul><li>Mediated nature </li></ul><ul><li>Complex nuances of gender, power, and social dynamics </li></ul>“ Usually I ask my grandson or daughter to make the phone call (dial the number) and I speak to relatives in my native village near Madurai. But I will not ask my neighbour, since she may overhear and spread rumours.” [Shankaramma, 65]
Broader effects – A give-and-take economy <ul><li>Gift economy , reciprocity </li></ul><ul><li>Recognition, reputation, and social good are drivers [Bauwens] </li></ul><ul><li>Local process, requires interpersonal and institutional trust </li></ul>“ When Suguna or Sangeetha helps me out, I may not be as talented as them in operating these devices, but I try to return the favour in other ways. I take care of their children when they are late from work, or share my food with them, sometimes.” [Janaki, 35] Photo credit: Bill Thies
The multiplier effect <ul><li>Gateway between ICT and unconnected households </li></ul><ul><li>Bare minimum </li></ul><ul><li>Overcomes access barriers (2/12 women) </li></ul><ul><li>Secondary diffusion </li></ul>http://blurringborders.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/bangladesh1.jpg
Digital habituation <ul><li>Familiarization with the technology [Ratan] </li></ul><ul><li>Collocated intermediated use is inevitably demonstrative </li></ul><ul><li>Familiar face of intermediary </li></ul>“ From my earlier experience with using the buttons on the DVD player, I knew how to eject the tray and insert the disc. I hit the mukkonam (triangle — play button) and a coloured box (menu) showed-up on the TV which I could not understand. Fortunately, my friend Suguna’s 10-year old son was around, and he was able to play the menu. I watched what he did — he pressed the mel pakkam kuri (Up-arrow), pressed the vattam (circle) button, and then the mukkonam (play button). From then onwards, every time I played the disc, I remembered that.” [Janaki, 35]
Some thoughts on design Resource constraints Multiple users Positioning and re-orientation Persistence and storage Symmetrical engagement Legibility and involvement
Re-conceptualizing the user Ownership is just one part of technology access - Prevailing statistics privilege ownership - X% penetration, Y% intermediation, and Z% diffusion - “ Collective access ” is increased Limitations of the user/non-user dichotomy - Not a binary - Several shades of use; non-use is degrees away - Move away from ownership paradigm - Qualitative-quantitative bridging exercises
How are technological benefits extended in a slum? What are the various social, cultural, economic, and technical factors that affect technology access /usage? What does this suggest about the conceptualization of use?
In sum Intermediation overcomes technology, access, literacy, and social constraints Surrogate usage, proximate enabling, and proximate translation Intermediation pulls apart the standard notion of user Re-think the traditional HCI conception of user
Future work Resource-constraints, infrastructures, access mechanisms (subversive and non-legal /gray) Commons, sharing, and economic modes of production Production, re-production, distribution and circulation of goods Non-instrumental uses of technology Design methods
Need to scale beyond the simple notion of the human accessing the interface, to one that encompasses the wider socio-technical system Implies participation with the system [Ito et al] A degree of social, cultural, or economic usefulness A broader definition of use
<ul><li>“ Native” “ethnographer” [Narayan, Srinivas] </li></ul><ul><li>Question the notion of development. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Understand the local idea </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Understand scope </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Domestic violence </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Understand internal politics </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Snowball sampling </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Understand the moral economy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bag tensions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Remix the method </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Kolangal </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mind the gap </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Foreign visitors </li></ul></ul>
Methods used <ul><li>Participant observation (hung out in meetings, casual chats) </li></ul><ul><li>Semi-structured interviews (Sociality, community, technology consumption, familial units) </li></ul><ul><li>Photo diaries (a day-in-the-life-of) </li></ul><ul><li>Surveys (trust) </li></ul><ul><li>Profile-building (age, marital status, profession, income, religion, education, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Scenarios (healthcare, education, domestic violence) </li></ul>
<ul><ul><li>IEEE/ACM ICTD : ICT – “comprises computing devices (e.g. PCs, PDAs, sensor networks), and technologies for voice and data connectivity such as mobile telephony, the Internet, and related technologies.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Application domains are education, agriculture, enterprise, healthcare, poverty alleviation, general communication, and governance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Toyama and Dias defined ICT4D as a field involving multiple sectors—governments, academia, small start-ups, large corporations, intergovernmental organizations, nonprofits, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)—and drawing interest from multiple disciplines: anthropology, sociology, economics, political science, design, engineering, and computer science to name a few </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Burrell and Toyama define ICT4D elsewhere as broadly involving a consideration of human and societal relations with the technological world and specifically considers the potential for positive socioeconomic change through this engagement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ICTD is the application of information technology in socio-economic development, can include Millennium Development Goals to include climate change, justice, money transfer, or expression. Can equally well apply to the “developed world.” </li></ul></ul>
Engagement <ul><li>Translation between interface and user </li></ul><ul><li>Perception and interpretation lie in the hands of the intermediary-user </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluation is oral </li></ul>
Key differences b/w Ragigudda and Nakalbandi <ul><li>Ragigudda </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Higher literacy levels among parents </li></ul><ul><li>Younger children (5-10 years old) </li></ul><ul><li>Single-room houses, fewer appliances </li></ul><ul><li>DVD players </li></ul><ul><li>Water issues </li></ul><ul><li>Multi-religious, but petty arguments are dominant </li></ul><ul><li>2 nd generation migrants </li></ul><ul><li>Early 20’s </li></ul><ul><li>Flattened social structures? </li></ul><ul><li>Broad topics of interest </li></ul><ul><li>Children in Kannada medium schools </li></ul><ul><li>Ration shop protests underway </li></ul><ul><li>Nakalbandi </li></ul><ul><li>Illiterate or semi-literate. Informants could sign. </li></ul><ul><li>Older children (15+) </li></ul><ul><li>2-3 rooms, more appliances and accessories </li></ul><ul><li>DVD players </li></ul><ul><li>Sanitation issues </li></ul><ul><li>Multi-religious and united social structures </li></ul><ul><li>1 st generation migrants </li></ul><ul><li>Late 30’s </li></ul><ul><li>More alpha women than Ragigudda </li></ul><ul><li>Resonant with the NGO’s voice </li></ul><ul><li>Atleast one child is a call-center employee in Mumbai. Children stagnating in class 10 and12. </li></ul><ul><li>Pioneered ration shop protests </li></ul>
Current interaction model <ul><li>Information Types </li></ul><ul><li>Healthcare – Occupational hazards, Gynecological issues, Children’s health, Cleanliness and hygiene, Diet & nutrition </li></ul><ul><li>Savings - Micro-financing, Savings account </li></ul><ul><li>Activism – worker’s rights, Passing the worker’s rights law, Increase of pay </li></ul><ul><li>Careers – available options, Incremental training, Adult education </li></ul><ul><li>Children – Career planning, Dropouts, Modernity and relationships, performance </li></ul><ul><li>Family unit – Alcoholic husbands, Domestic violence, Ageing, </li></ul><ul><li>Sexual health – Extra-marital relationships </li></ul><ul><li>Infrastructure – Water, Rations, Electricity </li></ul>Who owns? Listens? Mediates? Delivery mechanisms Leader women – Gita and cohorts Members of sangams Nakalbandi – voices of the community – Lakshmi, Mary, Channama, Venkatamma Ragigudda – flattened social structures Word-of-mouth NGO uses media such as video, CDs, audio etc.
Baseline <ul><li>What do you do? </li></ul><ul><li>What would you do? </li></ul><ul><li>Are you happy with current practices? </li></ul><ul><li>What do others do? </li></ul><ul><li>Healthcare and personal welfare </li></ul><ul><li>Performance in school </li></ul><ul><li>Finances </li></ul><ul><li>Workers relationships with employers </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
<ul><li>What is a developing country? </li></ul><ul><li>A “developing country” is defined as a country with a Human Development Index (HDI) score less than .8 </li></ul><ul><li>There are currently 99 countries in the world with HDI scores less than .8 or medium to low human development </li></ul><ul><li>The HDI is comprised of </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Life expectancy at birth </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adult literacy (age 15 and above) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Combined gross enrollment ration in education </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita </li></ul></ul>
Intermediation in HCI Technical gurus Internet usage [Kiesler] Home networks [Poole, Chetty] Importance of helpers in using CSCW applications [Eveland] Cost of seeking help and gender in hospitals [Lee] Spontaneous workplace learning [Twidale] Lack of literacies and technology skills Scope of investigation: slum community
Acknowledgements Many thanks to Ed Cutrell and Kentaro Toyama for their brilliant mentoring. Thanks to my committee: Bonnie Nardi, Donald J. Patterson, Alladi Venkatesh, Bill Maurer, and Ed Cutrell Thanks to my informants and Stree Jagruti Seva (Geeta Menon, Selvi, Shaku) for letting me into their lives. A special thanks to Nimmi Rangaswamy, Bill Thies, Indrani Medhi, Aishwarya Ratan, and David Hutchful for excellent discussions. Thanks to Vaishnavi, Prathiba, and Mallika for their invaluable help with the research. Finally, thanks to Arvind Venkataramani, Jahmeilah Richardson, Ann Light, and Heather Horst for insightful feedback.