CHI2013: Impressions and a Reading List

Bruno Latour CHI2013

The CHI conference, the main Human Computer Interaction conference in the world, was in Paris this year, and I went there! I had a wonderful start of the conference by attending the workshop Methods of Working with Teenagers in Interaction Design, where I presented my paper. It was a great way to meet and get to know people, something I appreciated even more when I realized the vastness of the main conference, with over 3400 attendees.

The whole experience was so overwhelming, full of great lectures, workshops, courses and panel discussions, and with 16 (!) tracks, there was no way I could see it all. I attended a selection, and resolved to read some of the things I missed.

I will put up a separate post for each day with my notes and reading list. Links are below.

In general, my first CHI was inspiring, humbling, and educational. I found some of the presentations very original and captivating, but some of the concepts I already heard or read about, as they were published before. Also, 20 minutes in general is very short to convey all the intricacies of the work, and I am probably not skilled enough (yet) to fully appreciate the complexity. I was really inspired by most of the work I saw however. Especially the keynotes of Paola Antonelli and Bruno Latour will stay with me.

The conference spurred a lot of thought about my Master’s graduation project, and I began to realize my project was set up too broadly, and perhaps also too optimistically. Some of the things I had planned to do were somebody else’s complete PhD research, for example the reviewing and categorization of existing co-design methods. Also, I was aiming to become an expert on co-design, when in reality I am just starting to learn about it. I believe my project will eventually benefit from a more precisely defined scope. So back to the drawing board it is!

CHI2013: Thursday May 2

The last day of CHI, but not by any means the least. Possibly from all the lectures I saw this week, today were some of the most interesting. Why this is? Perhaps I was able to understand the concepts better through the things I had heard in other lectures. Perhaps I chose more wisely.


In any case, my day started with Papers on Design for Developers, which wasaltogether a bit more technical than I expected. I found it engaging to hear how Piorkowski et al. described the behaviour of programmers by comparing them to foraging animals, and was very intrigued by the possibilities offered by Kumar et al. (who had brilliant shoes by the way), of finding websites through their design features and how you could then use these features to build something new.

In the afternoon, again there was too much to choose from and I had to skip two excellent papers in the tracks Different Perspectives and Case studies: In the Wild:

All so I could see the great Design Strategies paper session with Marc Hassenzahl talking about his ‘punch-pillow’ project, Jayne Wallace showing her thoughtful and beautiful cultural probes, and Bill Gaver with his experiences with distributing little indoor weather stations to people’s homes.

Design Probe Wallace

And then, finally it was time for the closing keynote by Bruno Latour. He spoke from a sociology standpoint, explaining that sociology is not about the social, not about people, but it is about relations. Relations between ideas, between things, between people, between the person and the world.

In trying to understand these relationships, we always want to see ‘the whole’, the overview. Instead, Latour said “there is no overall collective, there are only collecting practices”, playing on the difference between the noun and the verb.

“The ‘indiviual’ is not an atom that stands on its own, it extends as far as all the entities”. There is no such thing as being unconnected, there are always connections to other entities, and this influences the individual.

“There are as many phenomena as there are collecting devices”

Latour CHI2013 PDF slides (thank you Tamara Peyton!)

Bruno Latour CHI2013