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Luigina Ciolfi inaugural lecture 2019

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'Users, participants, co-designers or just pesky humans?
On the challenges of human centred research in Human-Computer Interaction.'

A main aspiration of HCI is to be human- and user- centred in its approach to creating novel digital interactions. But how do we engage, involve and encourage end users to participate in HCI? The field has tackled this challenge in many ways. Notably, Participatory Design has been widely adopted in order for users and stakeholders to become active part of the technology development process itself. This, however, is no easy feat.

In this lecture, Professor Luigina Ciolfi will examine how focusing on people, their practices and the places where they occur does lead to illuminating insights, but also brings hefty challenges. Understanding and bridging cultures, languages, priorities, and identities is hard work, with difficult negotiations and some failures bound to happen along the way. Drawing from her experience of human-centred and participatory research on topics such as cultural heritage technologies, mobile and nomadic lives, interaction in public spaces, and tangible and embodied interaction design, Luigina will reflect on the opportunities, successes and difficulties that arise when working in partnership with end-users, and on what being “human-centred” means for HCI in an age of apparent ubiquitous sharing and participation.

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Luigina Ciolfi inaugural lecture 2019

  1. 1. Users, participants, co-designers…Or just pesky humans? On the challenges of human-centred research in Human-Computer Interaction Professor Luigina Ciolfi C3RI - The Cultural, Communication and Computing Research Institute Sheffield Hallam University (UK) l.ciolfi@shu.ac.uk @luiciolfi luiginaciolfi.net https://blogs.shu.ac.uk/c3riimpact/
  2. 2. “The two hardest problems in computer science are: (i) people, and (ii) convincing computer scientists that the hardest problem in computer science is people.” Prof Jeff Bigham, Carnegie Mellon University
  3. 3. They change their mind They are complicated They are part of complicated organisations and groups They are busy and might not want to talk to you They often say one thing but mean, or think, another They often want what experts know will not work Humans Are Hard Work
  4. 4. They change their mind They are complicated They are part of complicated organisations and groups They are busy and might not want to talk to you They often say one thing but mean, or think, another They often want what experts know will not work They are smart and adaptable They can empathise They make very complicated systems work, using very complex tools They like to be and work with other humans They can figure things out They find ingenious workarounds, solutions, or alternatives Humans Are Hard Work…But They Are Interesting!
  5. 5. Humans And (Interactive) Machines
  6. 6. Humans And (Interactive) Machines
  7. 7. How Do We Study Humans in HCI? The Human Processor
  8. 8. The twists and turns of 30+ years in the field of HCI according to Susanne Bødker (2015): ● First wave: cognitive science and human factors (model-driven) (Critique by Liam Bannon, From Human Factors to Human Actors, 1991) ● Second wave: focus on groups of people working with a collection of applications; situated action; social research methods ● Third wave: participation, sharing, holistic experiences; integration of methods from creative practices (particularly design) How Do We Study Humans People in HCI?
  9. 9. Museo Civico, Siena
  10. 10. "To study a user 'in the field' does not mean find a user, bring them to a field and watch them get chased by cows for an afternoon (unfortunately)” (Anonymous HCI student, 2012) …From mapping behaviours to understanding practices in context Studying People (and Technology) in the Field
  11. 11. Working in the Hunt Museum (Limerick), for the SHAPE project (2001-2004) “Re-Tracing The Past” (2003) Studying People (and Technology) in the Field
  12. 12. Studying People (and Technology) in the Field
  13. 13. Studying People (and Technology) in the Field NomadS (2004-2006)
  14. 14. “Customers ring me all the time. They never ask me ‘Are you up on the scaffolding, are you measuring?’. They never say ‘Can I talk with you, can you check something for me’ But they ask me everything. So at least when I’m in the car, even when I’m driving, I’m looking through this information trying to give an answer. So I just carry everything.” (Jane, sales representative) Studying People (and Technology) in the Field
  15. 15. Studying People (and Technology) in the Field
  16. 16. Studying People (and Technology) in the Field
  17. 17. Established and well-tested approach to systems design (UCD iterative cycle: understand users-design-prototype-evaluate) Design decisions about a system are made by those who will not use it - We go away and then return with a system/prototype for evaluation Constraints and limits to number of iterations we can go through Changing the way people work/do things is complicated, adoption of new systems might be difficult and often disruptive. Extracting requirements from the user-centred design process to feed into the system’s development can over-simplify the real-world aspects of practices that might mean a system’s success or failure The Challenges of User-Centred Design
  18. 18. Involving people to design together with us (the “experts”) Recognizing both the expertise and context/organizational knowledge that people have to contribute to the design of systems, and the right to be part of decisions that can change the way they work Also, a general intent to democratise the process of (digital technology) design and to make change open and visible to those that it affects (originated in the 1970s in Scandinavia, participation in workplace decisions) Powerful yet challenging way to work with participants: balancing constraints, agendas, interests and expertise Involving People as Co-Designers
  19. 19. Involving People as Co-Designers – meSch (2013-2017)
  20. 20. “At the time of the co-design workshop we had in [City] in the summer of 2013, due to what happened in my own group, I had the feeling that we had betrayed the museums. Tech took over the show. As a designer, I felt we lost control. (...) But looking back, nothing was lost, we learnt from experience and this episode proved useful” (anonymous co-designer A) “From speaking with some of the museum professionals (...) I get the impression that they are delighted to have all of these co-design activities, but the same time I have the feeling that they are somehow frustrated at how the actual prototypes are finally being implemented, somehow they are cut out off [from] the equation.” (anonymous co-designer B) “It is also important for those [designers and curators] to trust the process, and to believe what comes out will have value and be useful” (anonymous co-designer C) Involving People as Co-Designers
  21. 21. A lot of work needed, a lot of negotiations, but hard to sustain before the final results are evident to everyone Often the decisions are not the ones that the “experts” (or one kind of experts) would take: this can cause tensions Also, we demand a lot of our co-designers, but when funding runs out at the end of a project, we leave (often we have little choice on the matter) “Historical” Participatory Design is morphing into something else, often putting its legacy behind: “Do design teams ‘compromise’ PD by loosening its egalitarian politics? Or do they impose their own values onto these participants, as methodological and ideological colonialists?” (Bannon, Bardzell and Bødker 2019) The Challenges of Co-Design
  22. 22. There is no universal, one-size-fits-all, way of going about human-centred research in HCI Importance of partnership, of dialogue, with stakeholders Never assume that because you have approached a similar group/person before that their priorities and goals are the same Because something is fashionable in research circles it does not mean is the right fit, or will work anytime Leave a legacy (even small) of the work you do with people. It might just be a relationship legacy, but it matters (Some) Things I Learned
  23. 23. What’s Next?
  24. 24. The rise of platform computing …leveraging established interaction models (.e. the like and share model) that make new systems easier to learn… …leading to usage and user-generated data on a massive scale… …but is this making individuals, bodies, and their micro, local and localised practices disappear? Resurgent “promise” of AI and algorithmic knowledge (machine learning) …but where is the focus on people, communities, and groups, which still very much exist? Where is the human? What’s Next?
  25. 25. Where Are The Pesky Humans?
  26. 26. Where Are The Pesky Humans?
  27. 27. A concern for human beings is more important than ever - Not only from the point of view of how people use and customise systems, but also of how they enable them to work “Visible” and “Invisible” Work (Star and Strauss 1998) “We are dealing with work that can not be seen, because it is purposely made invisible by the creators of the platforms (…) It is work that is not recognized as such, because workers are considered consumers. In addition, there are workers who do tasks so small that they are not considered work, but microwork. These false consumers and microtaskers perform a very important task, which is to train artificial intelligences.” (Antonio Casilli) Humans Still Matter
  28. 28. Interaction might be more seamless, less demanding on the surface, but it can still be a bad fit for those who engage in it, or lead to ways of working and doing that ignore other important things that human beings value Humans Still Matter
  29. 29. Humans Still Matter
  30. 30. Joy Buolamwini and The Algorithmic Justice League (MIT Media Lab) Humans Still Matter
  31. 31. ● Thinking about the social consequences of pervasive digital systems ● Questioning the rhetoric of ever-growing progress and of innovation as sole driver (acknowledge pitfalls, failures, and (political) crises – Hakken, Teli and Andrews 2016) ● Not letting the human in current technological discourse become a bodiless, genderless construct (Bardzell (2010) arguing for a feminist HCI… “The interaction design process takes place independent of gender considerations, and even today the central concept of the whole field—the user—remains genderless”) ● Develop HCI knowledge and expertise with awareness of the importance of social action, and of our own bias and ideologies (also in HCI reporting and publication, see Light 2018) ● Critiquing and proposing alternatives to a resurgent view of AI as human- less (algorithms are made by people and are about people) ● Bridging research and practice, and industry and academia The Challenges Ahead
  32. 32. With thanks also to:

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