This paper presents Digital Habitats, a conceptual and methodological framework for analyzing and designing smart appliances in the context of pervasive computing. The concrete topic is a project in pervasive gaming for children. The paper is semiotic in two senses: on the one hand, it is based on the linguistic theory of semantic roles; on the other hand, it focuses on signs, their referents, and their mode of signifying. After an introductory discussion of smart technology and networks of stupidity, we present our framework which consists of a set of theoretical concepts supplemented by diagrams for representing semi-formal models. We then give a short overview of selected theories of play and gaming and apply the framework to an implemented simple pervasive game. Finally, we put it all together by using the framework in a constructive manner to produce a concrete design of a new game. The result is discussed and compared to other approaches. The main points in this comparison are: (a) The framework provides a description of action dependencies that is relatable to organizational concepts like qualifications and norms, (b) it can describe communicative as well as material acts plus the way they hang together, (c) it provides an explicit link between human activities and their spatial context, (d) it has an explicit dynamic model that precisely describes the conditions for executing actions, and (e) it offers a typology of participant roles, based on linguistic theory, that reduces complexity and therefore supports design processes.
Semiotics and Intelligent Systems Development, 2007, p. 211-256