Designing for Scale

Understanding the value of Information and Communication Technologies for individuals, communities and movements


Professor Steve Howard, Associate Professor Frank Vetere, Dr Jon Pearce, Professor Paul Dourish.


The project aimed to understand how Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) function at different human scales. Our focus is not just on the individual, nor solely the community, but rather on ICT mediated human activity at varying degrees of human scale. The solution to this problem will support the design of ICTs that assist people in acting individually and in concert in order to achieve enduring change over time. Our approach involves creating and deploying technologies that embody our understanding of collective awareness and action. We address questions that concern the change in human requirements as the use of technology shifts between different human scales. We chose domestic garden watering as the setting for this project. This setting is ideal for investigating the problem of scale because we are challenged to design technologies that meet people's local needs (eg domestic expense minimisation), and yet encourage and support broader community issues (eg national water policy).

The project's output is an empirically derived and tested understanding of the relationship between scale and ICT mediated human behaviour. We will create an understanding of scale that takes into account the changes in technology-mediated human interactions that emerge when technology shifts from the individual to the public. This knowledge is significant because it ensures that ICT innovations that operate within and between human scales are well informed, well connected and successfully satisfy the needs of individuals, communities and society at large.


Australia Research Council, Discovery Project



Project web page

Designing for Scale