Five professors from five different universities talked about new frontiers of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Research in a SIGCHI Finland seminar 16.1.2014. Some of the professors had really exciting topics to share.
Kari Kuutti (University of Oulu, Finland) asked if HCI research is in crisis, because there doesn’t seem to be coherent research focus nowadays – anything seems to go as “HCI”. But no crisis – instead Kuutti saw it as a clash of two paradigms:
- Interaction paradigm where user and the system are in center, and focus in a short-term interaction
- Practice paradigm which studies the overall activity or routine (~practice) involving e.g. people, artifacts and contexts, and looks at longer-term actions
Practice paradigm has become more common, and it studies many same themes than social sciences, but less systematically. Some of the central frameworks in current HCI share a common interest in “practices”, which do have a lot to give. But the movement towards practice research could be more systematic and comprehensive.
Inventing the future through design
Mikael Wiberg (Umeå University, Sweden) reflected a quotation from Alan Kay “The best way to predict future is to invent it.” Prediction has been a central concern for the classical sciences. To invent it refers to design-approach.
HCI has lots of well-established idea generating methods such as user studies and prototype design. We can invent the future by designing it, which also re-locates the future to the present. That leaves us with a classical research concern – how do we know if something is really a good idea?
Oskar Juhlin (Mobile Life Centre at Stockholm University, Sweden) went to new frontiers with his speech about fashion as a new design front in HCI. His research interest was in how can we make mobile devices become of interest of fashionable people.
His studies had shown that for fashionable people it is important 1) how well an item looks, 2) to show it off publicly and 3) to have it fit the whole outfit. The studies went on prototyping what a smart phone could look like if it could take any shape and color, and asked target users to select which one to use and how. Users did found different ways to take the “devices” as part of their outfits. Aesthetic interaction can indeed be anywhere.
Societal impact of HCI
Jan Gulliksen (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden) gave a great speech about how HCI can influence public policy making and IT politics. Gulliksen himself is a chairman of Swedish Committee for Digitization, whose goal is to make Sweden the best country in the world when it comes to using the opportunities for digitization. By certain measures Sweden truly is among the best, e.g. 89% of the population is online.
HCI has great potential for societal impact e.g. by making public services easier to use and more accessible. Policymakers in turn need more information, as not all of them are IT-savvy enough themselves. Yet they make decisions and laws about these things.
According to Gulliksen the HCI community should 1) focus more on research that has societal impact and 2) be better at communicating their knowledge to policymakers. I couldn’t agree more!
HCI in erotic life
Olav Bertelsen (Aarhus University, Denmark) really went to new frontiers talking about what IT could do for our erotic lives. He reasoned this is important for HCI, because IT has invaded the sphere of our intimate lives. Examples are e.g. TVs in bedrooms or intimate products such as sensual massagers by Phillips (!). HCI community should reflect that somehow.
Technology can be both enabler and disabler in intimate interactions, depending how and when it is used. E.g. texting with mobile phone may may make you more distant, if your couple expected something else at the moment. Or it can make couples closer if used during the day for warm, loving messaging.
Interesting topic, and it truly gives participatory design a whole new meaning…
New frontiers in NordiChi 2014?
These five professors with their unusual but interesting topics also happen to be the committee members of NordiCHI 2014 conference to be held in October in Helsinki, Finland. It’ll be interesting to see the vastness of topics to be presented there. I’m sure we have an exciting conference to look forward to!