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Social scientist 2.0 in the domain of Human-Computer Interaction


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The proliferation of advanced technologies, social networks and digital media is radically touching upon many aspects of our daily life. Technology is everywhere; it is increasingly mediating our social activities and affecting the way we experience our lives, the world and each other. These evolutions have urged the need to revitalize the debate on the contribution social sciences may provide in shaping our digital future. Social sciences have always been characterized by a multiplicity of directions. Bieke Zaman's presentation is dedicated to exploring the relationship between social sciences and contemporary human-computer interaction.

In studying the complex interaction between technology and people, Bieke will argue that it is not only instructive to question how technology is shaping the way we behave, think, interact and socialize, but also how we are shaping technologies. Acknowledging that many properties of technologies and design choices are not value-free as they elicit certain benefits or harms for the stakeholders involved, Bieke will advocate to pursue value-sensitive design and explain how social sciences can play a major role in complementing the more traditional focus on instrumental rationality in our interaction with technologies with reflexive analyses and discussions of values, interests, experiences and context.

// Presentation at IMS Brown Bag Seminar (KU Leuven) :

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Social scientist 2.0 in the domain of Human-Computer Interaction

  4. 4. WHAT IS HCI? Human-Computer Interaction = interdisciplinary field concerned with: “design, evaluation and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use and with the study of major phenomena surrounding them” Hewett et al., 1992 ACM definition
  5. 5. PERIODIZATION OF HCI RESEARCH Three major intellectual virtues Never replaced one another Co-exist, sometimes overlap Good rhetoric to describe major shift from researching what is technically feasible, mitigating people’s shortcomings to a thorough consideration of what is desirable, empowering users in living a valuable life
  6. 6. • Early ’80s • Computers for computation and individual productivity • Cognitive science • Predictive and prescriptive knowledge • Towards a dominant interpretation for the interactive system FIRST WAVE
  7. 7. • Controlled lab experiments • Rigid guidelines • User requirements CUO & FIRST WAVE RESEARCH
  8. 8. • Late ’80s, early ’90s • Computers in a network, for communication and collaboration • Social sciences • Holistic, in-depth descriptive accounts of the situated action • Acknowledging that “computation is part of a richer fabric of relationships between people, institutions, and practices SECOND WAVE Picture Flickr Rob n Rae Cornelius Picture Flickr Oriol Salvador
  9. 9. • Studying work practices in context • Participant observations • Contextual inquiries • Understanding why & how CUO & SECOND WAVE RESEARCH
  10. 10. • Iterative prototyping • User-centered design CUO & SECOND WAVE RESEARCH
  11. 11. • Late nineties - present • Ubiquitous computing • Non-work, non-purposeful & non-rational settings, pursuing healthier, more meaningful lifestyles • Influences from various disciplines, incl. critical reflection insights from arts and humanities • Designers can no longer anticipate all future users and meanings THIRD WAVE Picture Flickr Rain Rabbit Picture Flickr Emmanuel Gadenne
  12. 12. • Focus on emotion-related phenomena, hedonics, motivational aspects • Critical reflection, accountability • Starting by understanding the human values that the technology will be designed to serve • Empowering users in and through design CUO & THIRD WAVE RESEARCH
  13. 13. THE SOCIAL SCIENTIST 2.0 IN HCI Social scientists can complement the first wave study of rule-based behaviours with reflexive analyses and discussions of values, interests, experiences and context. Link with the social and cultural virtues of resp. second and third wave HCI
  14. 14. HOW? Studying interactions between people and technology in a holistic, interpretative way, revealing aspects of intuitive decision-making and contextual practices Bottom-up, ethnography-inspired research practices
  15. 15. HOW? Consulting the voices of the various stakeholders, revealing tacit knowledge and empowering the users Participatory design, creative (visual and/or generative) techniques
  16. 16. HOW? Researching the subjective cultural qualities of interactions with technologies Artifact-centered techniques from the arts and humanities Figure source: Bardzell & Bardzell, 2008
  17. 17. WHY? Because… it is not only instructive to question how technology is shaping the way we behave, think, interact and socialize, but also how we are shaping technologies Many technologies and design choices are NOT VALUE FREE
  18. 18. THE SOCIAL SCIENTIST 2.0 AS VALUE-SENSITIVE DESIGN CRITIC Resonating with Web 2.0 … coming as a response to technological and social changes … sharing similar characteristics: participation, user empowerment, collaboration, rich user experiences Instrumental rationality remains vital, but it is time to complement Human-Computer Interaction 1.0 research with social science sensitivity.