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Showing posts from June, 2006

Ethnography in HCI -- Comments on Dourish CHI paper

In his CHI2006 paper “Implications for Design”, Paul Dourish gives a portrait of ethnography that helps me (and hopefully others) to understand its role in HCI. I have for a long time been looking for a kind of research in HCI that would provide me (and others) with substantial and solid ways of thinking about interactive systems and how they are appropriated and used. I would like such research to be focused on creating challenging new theoretical constructs that could help us to see invisible structures and processes that influence the complex interactions between people and technology. My constant disappointment with many attempts is that when I read so called "ethnographic" studies, they are usually interesting and worth reading as long as they do the "scenic fieldwork" (concept from Dourish paper), but they completely let me down at the end, since they don't move to what Dourish calls the "analytical" level. There is no theoretical or conceptual …

HCI research and the common good

When reflecting on CHI2006 there are some things in the academic field of HCI that I find problematic. Maybe the most pressing issue that raises many questions is the relation between research and development (I am not using "design" here for specific reasons). Many academic fields have the purpose of building universal true knowledge, and some also have the purpose of building knowledge that is "useful". This is true in the fields like medicine, health, and others. In these fields it is quite easy to see that research and development (i.e., inventions and innovations of new artifacts and procedures), is aimed at serving the common good. Improving health is always a valid reason for doing research (or?). But, what about a field like HCI? What is the common good? What is the goals, the intentions, for research that in a similar way is obviously for the greater good? Are new technological artifacts for any purpose in itself a worthy outcome? With what intention and p…