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Chapter 44. Abstract Objects > The Context Concept

The Context Concept

Work is contextual. Whether working in a warehouse or an office, in the garage or on the screen, people carry out tasks in well-defined contexts with predictable collections of tools and materials. To perform a particular task, people turn to a particular place with the appropriate tools. To paint a picture, you stand before the easel with palette and brush in hand. To whip up a late night Italian meal, you go to the kitchen, gather some tomatoes and basil and garlic, a pot for the pasta and a skillet for the sauce, a spoon to stir and a grater for the pecorino. To repair a broken chair you go elsewhere and gather different supplies and equipment. Even when the site remains the same, the context is changed to conform to the requirements of the task at hand. The dental assistant arrays a different set of tools and materials on the tray for a root canal than for a routine cleaning.

How do we represent such varied contexts for use without getting concrete? Without drawing floor plans or screen layouts, how do we show what should be gathered together and what should be separated? The interface content model is one approach. Variations on the theme may have been worked out by various people, but the immediate inspiration was a technique for capturing requirements with Post-it notes on flipchart paper (Holtzblatt and Beyer 1998).


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