University of Calgary

Weaving computers into our everyday fabric

UToday HomeJanuary 11, 2013

Saul Greenberg, a computer science professor seen here in Slot Canyon, Utah, has been named a fellow in the ACM. Photo by Judy OttonSaul Greenberg, a computer science professor seen here in Slot Canyon, Utah, has been named a fellow in the ACM. Photo by Judy OttonSaul Greenberg, a professor in the Department of Computer Science in the Faculty of Science, has been named a fellow in the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), an international umbrella organization for computer professionals.

Greenberg is thrilled to have been named a fellow for his contributions to computer supported cooperative work and ubiquitous computing, which concerns designing computer systems and interfaces to best fit social practices within our everyday physical environment.

“The particular aspect that I am being recognized for is my work on how people can interact through their computers together in a socially meaningful way,” says Greenberg.

“In contrast to traditional technologies that are stand-alone products isolated from the everyday world — like desktop computers — our systems are designed to fit particular physical environments and contexts, and all the things that people do within them.”

Greenberg’s recent work includes examining how a large digital display can sense people approaching and adjust the information it shows, how people in long distance relationships use technology to stay connected, and how to design interaction techniques to ease information exchange between mobile and non-mobile devices.

Computer design has progressed from focussing on the computer itself to user centred design to social interaction to today, where “it’s not just about the computer and it’s not just about multiple computers; it’s about multiple people living in their everyday world, where they interact in particular ways in particular spaces to work, communicate, and play together,” says Greenberg.

It’s been a “massive change.” And we don’t have to look any further than the phones we carry with us everywhere.

“The fact that we have a mobile device in our pocket means that we have to think about the context where it’s used,” says Greenburg.

“For example, calls interrupting conversations, driver distraction, addiction ― such as the ‘crackberry’ syndrome where people keep glancing at the phone ― and unsafe uses such as texting while walking or driving.”

Technology design has progressed beyond designing a tool to carry out tasks, Greenburg says. “It’s now about social practice — computer science influenced by psychology, sociology, and culture — and how we get computers to be part of it.”

Founded in 1947 and headquartered in New York City, ACM has 100,000 members around the world. The organization creates and provides resources including an extensive digital library, publications and conferences that help advance computing as a science and a profession.