Technology and users: a conceptual map

Wim J.M. Heijs, Peter Paul Verbeek

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


The goal of the first part of this book was to identify concepts, conceptual frameworks and methods in various disciplines and areas of application that are used to describe and measure features of the interaction between technology and users. From the previous chapters it is clear that many scientific domains contain relevant knowledge for studying this relationship. However, they also show that the information is scattered and often unknown outside of a particular field. By providing an overview, this part of the book aims to take a first step towards a deepening of the understanding of user-technology interaction. The unveiling of different frameworks to conceptualize apparently similar phenomena may stimulate reflection and hopefully even invite co-operation. In the end, this may produce design guidelines that serve an easier, safer and sustainable use of technology and the well-being of its users. The following synopsis attempts to outline the various concepts and frameworks, their differences and their mutual associations by using the metaphor of a map. This 'conceptual map' also serves to identify areas that are covered and fallow land. Before we draw the map, some introductory remarks are required. The first concerns the selection of concepts and frameworks in this part of the book. They emanate from scientific disciplines (environmental and social psychology, philosophy of technology, science and technology studies) and some specific areas of application (action theory, safety studies, and household and consumer science). This selection does not imply that other disciplines or fields do not have appropriate information: it is the result of a search that was extensive and, simultaneously, limited because of practical reasons (e.g. authors willing to participate) and the coherence of the book as a whole (some insights have a special bearing on a particular subject and are presented in other parts). We are confident, however, that most of the primary concepts are covered here. Secondly, we would like to stress that this chapter does not offer an integrated conceptual model, nor an elaborated view of the interaction process between users and technology itself. The matter at hand is far too complex for that purpose. The frameworks in the various chapters of this part of the book all have their own bearing, specific mechanisms and evolutionary history. We aim at relating these frameworks, not molding them together. As a consequence of leaving out the interaction process, global input variables (technology and user characteristics) and results (e.g. efficiency or pay-off on the side of technology and satisfaction or well-being on the user side) are not discussed either, although we recognize that these results are crucial for the reiteration of the process. We do hope, however, that the overview will contribute to future efforts to develop such a model. And thirdly, the map to be drawn does not represent an overview of the determinants of interaction. We focus on concepts that are useful to describe and analyze relations between users and technology. These concepts may be determinants, but they may also be research methods or analytical terms that encompass more or less complex issues. In the next section we will describe the metaphor of the conceptual map. Sections 3 and 4 explain the arrangement of the concepts on the map, their theoretical backgrounds, and their main differences and associations. Conclusions, including the identification of fallow land, are discussed in section 5.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUser Behavior and Technology Development
Subtitle of host publicationShaping Sustainable Relations Between Consumers and Techno
EditorsPeter-Paul Verbeek, Adriaan Slob
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4020-5196-8
ISBN (Print)978-1-4020-4433-5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2006

Publication series

NameEco-efficiency in industry and science
ISSN (Print)1389-6970

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