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: Wednesday May 1

The day started out with Papers about Food and Health, with the last talk the most interesting: Rita Orji showed us the effect of different elements of serious games, on various gamer types. I found it intriguing to see that rewards, for example, can motivate one player to change their behaviour, while it actively discourages another to do so. It seems that there is only one positive element for all types of gamers: self-efficacy (feeling ownership, pride, optimism). There is a table in the paper giving a complete overview.

Alt.chi: Ethics was a diverse and highly entertaining section, with talks on HCI studies with animals (ACI?), an attempt to replace public toilet graffiti with micro blogging, and the unique Kirman et al. with their talk from the perspective of the computers: how do they see HCI? As it turns out, the computer overlords are pretty satisfied with several developments that make it easier for them to control the humans and make them work harder. They even managed to bridle us with google glass. How efficient!

Then the last Papers session of the day: Design for Children. I was especially inspired by the beautiful work of Fenne van Doorn, who made a class of primary school children her ‘co-researchers’. They would design a toolkit and questions together, and then the kids would go out and interview the elderly in their community about a shared playground for elderly and children. The children also processed their findings in a persona template. The children were motivated to help, because they were working on improving their playground. Can this model also work in other situations, where the benefit for the co-researchers is perhaps not that obvious?


I also have to take a look at the work of Walsh et al., they have collected existing co-design techniques and evaluated them. This can provide some scaffolding for creating new techniques.