Licentiate thesis 2001-008

Personal Service Environments - Openness and User Control in User-Service Interaction

Markus Bylund

June 2001


This thesis describes my work with making the whole experience of using electronic services more pleasant and practical. More and more people use electronic services in their daily life - be it services for communicating with colleagues or family members, web-based bookstores, or network-based games for entertainment. However, electronic services in general are more difficult to use than they would have to be. They are limited in how and when users can access them. Services do not collaborate despite obvious advantages to their users, and they put the integrity and privacy of their users at risk.

In this thesis, I argue that there are structural reasons for these problems rather than problems with content or the technology per se. The focus when designing electronic services tends to be on the service providers or on the artifacts that are used for accessing the services. I present an approach that focus on the user instead, which is based on the concept of personal service environments. These provide a mobile locale for storing and running electronic services of individual users. This gives the user increased control over which services to use, from where they can be accessed, and what personal information that services gather. The concept allows, and encourages, service collaboration, but not without letting the user maintain the control over the process. Finally, personal service environments allow continuous usage of services while switching between interaction devices and moving between places.

The sView system, which is also described, implements personal service environments and serves as an example of how the concept can be realized. The system consists of two parts. The first part is a specification of how both services for sView and infrastructure for handling services should be developed. The second part is a reference implementation of the specification, which includes sample services that adds to and demonstrates the functionality of sView.

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