What type of HCI are you?

Even though I have a MA in Interaction Design, it feels like a big step into studying a Phd at the school of computer science. Even though it is still all around HCI, the focus, the methods and the topics are different. Not all, not everywhere, but often.

While most people I talk to either have a computer science or philosophy background, I am a designer. With a strong interest in the way design, people and technology interact. But I did not write a commputer program, I did not run a lab study to gain my MA, I made a thing. And I reflected on making a thing.

Maybe it is therefore that I still stumble to find my feet. And my place in HCI. I still have a look from the outside, wondering how I fit in. How does my work relate to those who develop new types of interaction and to those who run lab studies to infer error types and give suggestions on how they can be avoided. I was therefore very interested to follow the discussion around the three “waves” or “paradigms” of HCI. Following slightly the technological development, distinctions are made between what topics HCI addresses and which methods its members choose. So far I felt quite comfortable in the ‘third wave’, which I understood to be interested in reflexive, exploratory work, not only accepting, but rather focussing on the questions of how users make sense of interaction. Slightly postmodern, this strand of HCI as I understood it, went beyond the classical user and looked at individual experiences, maybe even disrupt rather than support.

Within a discussion about the different strands I also found reflections on design fiction and speculative designs, which made meIn  relate even more. I therefore emphasised the sense-making aspect of my work in my last write-up. I put the emphasis on the understanding how potential users make sense of new technologies and how that might influence their design. Creative methods such as design fiction would be used as a tool to enhance designs before they exist, with my special focus on values, particularly privacy and autonomy which are closed linked in the area I am researching.

Recently I came across another interesting take on HCI, that resonated with my work and what I aim to achieve. In ‘Humanistic HCI‘ the authors also address design fiction as a method but put a slightly different emphasis on it. They outline the three key items of humanistic HCI are a focus on critique, a contribution to knowledge not by extending what we know, but how we look at the knowledge we have and understand it as well as an element of speculation to trigger this understanding. While I have to go back and reframe, refocus how I define my research project, I can find all those items in the studies I have undertaken so far as well in those I planned out. In this new apporach I can find a subtle shift in regard to my aim, which may be more about changing focus than understanding focus. I will reflect further on this in the following post in which I look again at all the studies planned so far to find their common goals and methods.


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