the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs;
In the physical world, context denotes a location as well as a
set of circumstances. The location frequently dictates the types
of people and activities that will occur, giving a fleshed-out meaning
to the idea of context. Context is important because it gives an
individual a sense of what types of behavior and language is appropriate.
When translating the idea of context to the digital realm, an initial
approach would be to associate context with digital location (i.e.
website, email, bboard or IM window). We might presume that changing
websites signifies the same types of change in context as changing
shops does in the physical world. Unfortunately, though, this is
not the case.
In the digital world, information can be easily aggregated between
different sites or forums. Not only do cookies allow sites to share
information, but search engines help converge any output that one
might have entered into a variety of different sites. Thus, what
might appear to be appropriate at one site becomes inappropriate
when the context shifts to the Internet as a whole.
One of the most obvious ways in which people manage context digitally
is to maintain separate accounts that aren't associated with an
individual's name. In this way, individuals can articulate separate
personas without fearing the repercussions of them being linked.
Unfortunately, such an approach is confusing and a hassle.
Digital context must be reconsidered. Location is simply a substitute
for context because it conveys a great deal of meaning about the
types of people and their activities. Since location is convergent
online, it becomes meaningless as a way to make sense of who is
accessing information that one is presenting. In order to give meaning
to context, we must focus on the interactions. Who can get access
to information and how can that determine the context?