The Role of Mobile Computing in Daily Life
Paul Pangaro, PhD

SKP Session—Bell Labs Applications Domain Group
Villarceaux, Nozay, France
September 29, 2010

"shared whitespace" is a
gesture-driven, direct-manipulation software interface
that connects users via a conversation
whose purpose is to reach agreement

shared whitespace canvas


When the devices we carry everywhere are connected to always-on internet content and services, "mobile computing" is no longer about mobility or computing. More and more, technology seamlessly extends our nervous system by lowering uncertainty, increasing safety, and offering novelty and social connection.

As engineers and designers, how do we develop strategies and roadmaps to fulfill this potential?

First, Pangaro offers foundational definitions, including communication vs. conversation and coordination vs. collaboration. He then proposes frameworks that scaffold our rational and emotional needs, culminating in a layered architecture of interwoven services that support context, coordination, conversation, relevance, and identity.

These frameworks lead directly to prototyping. For example, Pangaro proposes a "shared whitespace" to replace the array of apps required to communicate with our social graph with a single surface whose purpose is to reach agreement.


related links

Presentation Slides [low-resolution PDF]

Mobile Devices should be about neither mobility nor devices. Discuss.

Bio-Cost: An economics of human behavior

Design for a self-regenerating organization — see section 11 of this PDF on "focusing problems"

Toward a Model of Innovation / Innovation Concept Map

What is conversation? / Designing for Conversation

Metadesign by Humberto Maturana


Paul Pangaro consults at the intersection of product strategy, prescriptive innovation, and models of conversation. By developing product strategies and release roadmaps, and through his lecturing and writing, Pangaro focuses on fulfilling the cognitive and social needs of human beings via disciplined design practices. His publications and presentations can be found at

Recent clients include Nokia UX London, Samsung, Intellectual Ventures, Poetry Foundation, Eight Inc., Citigroup, Ogilvy & Mather and Gideon Gartner. For seven years he taught a course in design at Stanford University in Terry Winograd's program and currently teaches in New York City at the School of Visual Arts and Parsons/The New School in interaction design and service design, respectively.

Pangaro spent ten years in Silicon Valley as CTO of startups, consultant in product strategy, and as senior director and distinguished market strategist at Sun Microsystems. He holds a BSci in computer science and humanities from MIT, and a PhD in cybernetics and conversation theory from Brunel University with Gordon Pask.


© Copyright Paul Pangaro 2010.