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Accounting for System Behaviour: Representation, Reflection and Resourceful Action

Paul Dourish
A clear tension exists between the traditional process-oriented view of interface design and the emerging improvisation-oriented view of interface activity, which arises particularly from sociological investigations of computer-based work. This paper has two goals -- first, to address this disparity and attempt to bridge the gap; and second, to do so in a way which makes the insights of sociological investigations "real" in design. It presents a novel approach to interface architectures, based on the use of explicit, causally-connected self-representations in computational systems. These are treated as "accounts" which systems offer of their own activity. The paper traces some of the consequences of this approach both for design and interaction, and shows how it addresses current problems in the design of flexible interactive systems.
Proc. Computers in Context '95, Joining Forces in Design, 14-18 August 1995, Aarhus, Denmark, pp 147-156.