Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Design Thinking in 10 to 20 years

In my class yesterday we discussed the future of design, interaction design and HCI. I asked the students about their view about the future for the discipline, profession and for research in the field of interaction design. Then they asked me about my predictions. Of course, I had predictions but here I will only mention one.

For quite some years I have predicted that the growing interest in design, design thinking, and design research and education will have a profound influence on the fundamental structure and organization of disciplines, schools, and universities. I think it is already possible to see this. When we bring in design thinking as a major component in a field, suddenly it is possible to see simlarities with disciplines that was not there before. We have already seen some new d-schools, for instance at Stanford. Even though these initiatives have not been successful yet, my prediction is that they will.

We might in some years see new academic constellations where we have design oriented "disciplines" from all parts of the traditional university structure coming together. We might as a first step see "old" units change their profile and become more designerly, like Ryerson Business School in Toronto who, as a school, has decided to transform the whole school into a design oriented school. Traditional art and design schools are also changing and opening up and inviting new disciplines, there are traditional technical disciplines that join forces with other design oriented disciplines in new unseen designerly "technical" schools.

Within 10 to 20 years we will see some universities changing their structure based on the notions of natural sciences, social sciences and humanities as the major components. As a part of that structure there will also be a design component (maybe design sciences even though I do not like that name). I am looking forward to this radical change of university organization.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grand Challenge for HCI: Growing Ecologies of Interactive Artifacts

In a study from the Pew Institute we get numbers on things we all have suspected: people have problems setting up their new technological artifacts. The study shows that:

"Some 48% of technology users usually need help from others to set up new devices or to show them how they function. Many tech users encounter problems with their cell phones, internet connections, and other gadgets. This, in turn, often leads to impatience and frustration as they try to get them fixed."

There are other interesting numbers in this report, numbers that should make all interaction designers around the world embarrassed. Numbers that show that there are a lot of angry and tired “users” out there. This is a sign of something we could label as a Grand Challenge for HCI and interaction design.

There are of course several explanations to this growing problem. One is that technological things are getting more complex. There is a desire from producers to cover many and diverse contexts, therefore they make the artifacts possible to adapt and tailor to specific and particular contextual and user needs and constraints. Even if this is made in an attempt to make artifacts more user oriented, it seems to lead to long and complex set up procedures that cause a lot a problems for users. Another explanation is that we are entering the age of artifacts networks. An individual user lives today with a large number of artifacts that all can or need to be coordinated and to communicate.

I am leading a research group where we study how people create, organize, strategize and think about their own personal interactive artifact networks. We are doing this by approaching the networks as “ecologies of artifacts” which gives a lot of metaphorical ideas around how artifacts are part of an ecology, how they compete for attention and survival. It is an environment of such complexity that it can (has to) be seen and understood as a “living” environment. We have lately published some papers on this and also designed and built an ecology of artifacts mapping tool.

This is fascinating research, not dealt with in traditional HCI. We are moving into a world where a growing number of things around us are becoming interactive. When all these things communicate and collaborate the complexity grows infinitely. We need new theories and approaches on how to udnerstand these environments and how to design artifacts that "fit" into these ecologies. If we could do that better, we would reduce the "set up" time and effort which would make people less stressed. My prediction is however that we are at the moment moving in the opposite direction. Interactive artifacts are not designed for the ecology of artifacts and hense causing enormous problems for people who try to create their own ecology of artifacts in their own personal way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Design Research Map

In the latest issue of ACM Interactions there is an interesting article by Liz Sanders called "An Evolving Map of Design Practice and Design Research". Sanders exmines the status of design research, which I think she sees as the research done by design practitioners as a way to support the design process (even though I am not sure if that is a correct understanding). Sanders has created a "map" where she places design research approaches in relation to each other around two major dimensions: "design-led" versus "research-led" and "expert mindset" versus participatory mindset". I always find maps that lay out a conceptual or intellectual landscape intriguing and useful as tools for reflection. That is also the case here. Sanders map is useful and challenging. It is useful in the sense that it does work as an intellectual tool for reflection, both on an individual level and on a discipline level.

Any map becomes makes us think about definitions, both about what constitutes the landscape but also the "locations" on the map. Since eveything on amap is placed in relation to what is defined as foundational dimensions that make up the space, these dimension become crucial and of course vulnerable for criticism.

The dimensions that Sanders build on work quite well, and do establish an exciting landscape, but they are also possible to further analyze and critique. For instance, I am not sure what is meant by a "resarch-led" perspective. I think Sanders means that this perspective is something that is inherited from "real" research. Maybe this can be seen as how "scientific" the approaches are, for instance "ethnography" is on the map the most "research-led" approach, while the least "scientific" is the "generative". This is an interesting dimension, but is at the same time problematic. What is it that determines something as a "research-led" approach. I could for instance argue that "critical design" with its roots in critical theory is quite "scientific" or research based (however, from the humanities and not the sciences). So, where to place things is a quite difficult and delicate task.

One of the obvious problems, which is not in the map, is the difference between (i) the theoretical foundations of an approach or method, (ii) what the intended purpose of it is by those who created it, (iii) how it is commonly understood by those who use it, and (iv) how it is actually used in practice (this list can be made longer of course). These questions address especially the dimension "expert" versus "participatory" on the map. For instance, I think it is possible to use an approach that is defined as "expert mindset" in a participatory way and vice versa (I have seen participatory approaches being used without any real understading of, or will to create, participation :-)

Another aspect is to what extent the use of approaches are based on their use in practice or if they are based on what is done and written about by academic researchers in the field. There is a unfortunate confusion in our field between what practictitioners do and what is done by researchers. There is often a distinct difference in the way an approach is used in practice and when it is used by researchers. The same approach can therefore, depending on how it is understood and used, end up almost anywhere on the map.

I am not arguing that the map is not useful or necessary wrong, on the contrary, I think my discussion above shows the value of a map like this. It does force us to think about our definitions and our way of describing what is done in practice and in research. I am looking forward to more "maps" since I see this as level of theorizing that concerns our understanding of the whole field. This is what constitutes an academic field, makes i visible and an entity, and therefore also possible to approach, debate, and critique.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The broader responsibility of HCI research

Lately my mind has been occupied with the question of the purpose and responsibility of HCI research. Why do we reserch, for whom do we do it, what do we expect to ackomplish, and is it important? These are not new questions for me, I have dealt with them all through my career. And I am of course not the only one challenged by these issues. Today, I decided to write something about this topic on my blog and then realized that I have, together with my colleague Anna Croon Fors, already written about this in an article called "Critical HCI Research – A Research Position Proposal" (link to a pdf version). I think we make a quite good case in the first parts of the paper where we discuss the "big" question and its ramifications. In the second part of the paper we try to fomulate a position that would lead to research that we see important. I think the first part can (and should) be read by anyone doing HCI research (!), while the second part might be more difficult and challenging. I am quite happy to link to this paper since I find the first part to be crucial and highly important to our field.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

What is a legitimate argument in HCI research?

In these times of CHI reviews (something that many HCI researchers are involved in) I have to point to a post by my colleague Jeff Bardzell. Quite often in these reviews, reviewers use different arguments to make their case. Not seldom using different types of arguments. In his post Jeff explores what is seen as accepted or not-accepted arguments in HCI research. The post is based on one of his recent review expriences of a CHI paper where different views on "rigor" clashed. This post is highly informative and interesting. HCI researchers around the world: read and reflect....

Monday, November 03, 2008

Theory Informing Design

As I am preparing class for tomorrow I am once again reading Yvonne Rogers chapter on "New Theoretical Approaches for Human-Computer Interaction". And as usual when I read this text I realize how well it serves the purpose of initiating and establishing a discussion on the role of theory in interaction design practice. Rogers manages both to analyze existing theoretical attempts and to present some empirical material on how much, if at all, these theories are used by practicing designers. She also comes up with some ideas on why this is the case and also presents some suggestions on how to improve the situation.

In the same class I also use my own paper "The Nature of Design Practice and Implications for Interaction Design Practice" in International Journal of Design. This paper is to a large extent based on the chapter by Rogers. The main argument is that design research aimed at improving design practice has to be grounded in a deep understanding of the nature of design practice. Underlying this is a critique of most theory development as being not enough interested in practice. Instead these attempts are based on intellectual developments grounded in an idealized understanding of design.

I find this to be an intriguing topic that is not enough recognized in HCI research. There is a need for a more developed understanding of the role of theory, different forms of theories, theories for different purposes, practical theories, etc.

More theorizing!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Design Judgment

Since I have not been very productive here lately I can at least link to others who are. My colleague Jeff Bardzell has written a great post on his class blog on the distinctions between "opinion" and "judgment". I really like this post.

The notion of judgment is crucial to anyone who tries to understand design. What I am seeing in interaction design is a growing interest in the activity and meaning of "criticism". Hopefully this will also lead to a deeper appreciation and examination of "judgment".

I truly believe that an intellectual and reflective understanding of the two notions criticism and judgment is at the very core of being a good design thinker and design practitioner.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Back on Twitter

OK, after a few weeks without Twitter I decided to sign on again. It was in so many ways an interesting experience. It was fascinating how my thoughts changed over time, especially for the first week or two. I thought this would be an interesting experiment, now I know it was. I learned things about Twitter, about being in touch, and about myself. Maybe later I will write about it. If you have the courage to do the same thing :-) you should!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Donald Schön

Again I am going to teach about the work of Donald Schön and this time I found a transcript of one of his talks from 1987. It is a great text and here Schön presents his core ideas in a short, clear, and enjoyable way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"The Craftsman"

I just got the new book by Richard Sennett called "The Craftsman" today. I have only read a few pages but I am already convinced that this is an essential book for anyone who thinks about the role and place for skilled practices and craftsmanship. I will continue to read and maybe write a review later on.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Criticism and Design (again)

Again my colleague Jeff Bardzell has written a great piece on the relationship between critique and design. There is no way to talk about design without talking about criticism. Design is about the creation of particulars and particulars have to be evaluated (critiqued) for their own sake, in relation to its qualities and how those qualities relate to context, use, and intention. Anyhow, I am sure this interest in criticism in HCI and interaction design (still in its infancy) will not only foster a new understanding of the role of criticism but also strengthen the understanding of design and its fundamental ontological and epistemological status. Looking forward to an exciting development of the field....

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Concept designs and real designs

The argument in a recent blog post by Kontra is that real designers don't focus on concept designs (in the meaning of future possible designs, like concept cars). He also discusses why many large companies, such as Microsoft and Motorola, are great at producing amazing concepts designs but less good at producing innovative real designs, while Apple is the opposite -- that is, they do not focus on (public) concept designs but produce many innovative real designs. Without having thought much about this, I am willing to agree with Kontra. He makes a good argument. But, there might be other examples that would make me disagree, anyone?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Leaving FaceBook

OK, since I just stopped using Twitter, I have also deactivated my FaceBook account :-) I will basically only use LinkedIn now. Is this a bad move?

No more Twitter

That's it. I just deleted my Twitter account. No more Twittering. It has been a great experience and I have learned a lot, and I have at several occasions realized new aspects of what this type of application can do and provide. But, for now, it is time to leave, maybe I will rejoin later, who knows.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Software Commodification & Zoho

It seems as if we are entering the time when everyday basic applications (email, wordprocessing, spreadsheet, presentation tools, conference tools, wikis, etc) are rapidly becoming commodities. Not just in the sense that they are ubiquitous and commonly usd, but in the way they are produced and sold. Zoho is company who is apparently doing this. They don't strive for uniqueness or innovativeness necessarily, instead they focus on the production process, the time to market of new features, and all as cheap as possible. Maybe they are the Wal-Mart of everyday applications. Here is an interesting article comparing Zoho with Microsoft and Google. At the same time the open source movement is also producing the same commodities even "cheaper", like OpenOffice. Maybe we will soon not care who made our applications except for the connoisseurs! Regular people will just buy the cheapest application or service out there, since they basically all do the same thing in bascially the same way. My concern is that maybe everyday applications are becoming commodities too early. Maybe this leaves us with no new radical designs when it comes to the applications we use the most and depend on the most..or...?

The Anatomy of Prototypes

Protoyping is something that is nowadays an everyday activity in our field. Interaction designers do it all the time. But even if this is the case, prototypes are not well understood, except for the quite crude low-fidelity versus high-fidelity dimension. Together with two colleagues I have just published a paper with the title "The Anatomy of Prototypes: Prototypes as Filters, Prototypes as Manifestations of Design Ideas" in the ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interation. (You can dowload a pdf-version here.)

In this article we develop a thorough understanding of prototypes, how they can be described and how a designer should/could think about prototypes in rational way. For instance, we present (i) the fundamental prototyping principle, (ii) the economic principle of prototyping, and (iii) an anatomy of prototypes.

Hope you like it!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

More on interaction criticism..

My colleague Jeff Bardzell has a new post where he continues to examine the role of criticism in HCI. Again, this is highly important for our field.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Looking back..and forward..

In the latest issue of the magazine The Atlantic there is a nice article on the "Road to the Information Age". The author discusses some of the accurate predictions made about a world with internet (as we all know there are numerous extremely bad and funny predictions too). It is always useful to read these older texts and to get some perspective on where we are and where we came from. And, of course, if you have not read Vannevar Bush's text from 1945 "As we may think" (pubished in the Atlantic) you should definitely do that.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Design Criticism

Just a link to my colleague Jeff Bardzell's blog with a new great post on design criticism and its status in HCI. Jeff is pushing the idea of the need for professional criticism done by people who know what and how to do it, and most importantly why they do it. Interaction studies will not become a respected field unless we develop such "intellectually rigorous approaches to design criticism".

Transforming non-designers and Procter & Gamble

One of the most fascinating changes today (in my mind) is the growing appreciation of design thinking and design action as a valid and useful practical approach to complex issues in our world. Here is a recent example where Procter & Gamble is pushing design thinking as a major "tool" for action in their company. Of course, the challenge becomes an educational one. How do you transform large numbers of non-designers into design thinkers? In a recent paper, my colleague Marty Siegel and I have explored that issue. The paper is titled "Metamorphosis: Transforming Non-designers into Designers" and it was presented a couple of weeks ago at the Design Research Society conference in England. The paper explores the issues arising when you are trying to transform students with a non-design background into designerly thinkers and doers, and the methods and tools we have developed to support the transformation. It is obvious that Procter & Gamble is struggling with the same problem!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Slow Interaction

Among the different "slow" movements (slow food, slow cities, etc) there is the notion of "slow reading". A quite good introduction by John Miedema can be found here. I have always been fascinated by the notion of "slow", which I guess is has to do with my ability and habit to be fast when I do things, so maybe being slow is more a wish than something I do.

Anyhow, there is something fascinating with doing things slowly and with full attention. It creates a completely different experience. So, what would "slow interaction" be? Is it possible to achive some similar experience in our interactions with digital artifacts? A kind of interaction that focuses our attention and our mind -- that leads to reflective interactions?

I truly believe we need to foster ideas like this. It has been discussed before, for instance with notions such as "calm technology" and others. Any ideas?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Too many social networks?

Well, I have to keep my Linkedin, Facebook, ResearchGate, Plaxo, etc, networks updated and fresh. It is not working. I am not taking good care of any of them. They deterioate over time and finally I leave them. The addition of new forms of social networks for general and specific purposes is still growing fast. Where should I put my time and for what? Or is it time to leave them all and just stay in touch with friends and colleagues via email?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Today I stumbled upon They claim to be the YouTube for the thinking mind. I found some really interesting presentations. What was difficult to find was some kind of vision statement or purpose declaration, who they are and how they pick their material. I also had some problems with the "search", I entered some names but could not understand why I got the links that Fora listed. Anyhow, an interesting place to find high quality talks by thinking people.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vanishing Bloggers and Sunstein's ""

There is an ongoing debate about the status of the web, especially the status and health of social networks in all its manifestations, but maybe even more particular the health of bloggning. Here is one page that references some of the debate. To me there are many interesting questions in this debate, one in particular is the notion of community size and community streamlining. When people refer to social networks it is often with a view that networks are huge and people communicate and relate in that network. I have not seen any recent studies on what is the number of people that people actually are in a communicative relationship with. To read twitter and blogs in not necessarily communication, it easily becomes consumation. I have recently been thinking more about the book "" by Cass Sunstein from a few years back. I think his ideas in that book are more relevant and true today than they were when he wrote it. It takes a different view on networks and group communication. It is a short book and great read.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

DRS 08 Conference

I am just back from the Design Research Society Conference 08 in Sheffield, England. I am quite pleased with the conference. Good organization, good location and generally a good quality of papers. It is obvious that the DRS conference is becoming a high quality conference with a focus on general design research. A new addition to the society is the idea of SIGs (special interest groups), already three have been developed. The SIGs will also start arranging workshops and more specialized conferences, which is good for the DRS main conference, which will can focus on being the general design research conference. I like the development! It is also good to see the presence of interaction design and HCI design researchers!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Interaction Criticism

In a wonderful series of posts, my colleague Jeff Bardzell, discusses the notion of "interaction criticism". Interaction design is a field contributing to the imidiate and concrete reality by the creative design of new digital artifacts--as such, it is a field desperately in need of criticism. There is a need to critically examine all these artifacts that in a never-ending stream are the results of the field's design efforts. Since there is basically no (serious) criticism around, which means that there is no learning. Criticism can help us to learn from mistakes, but without it we do not understand what matters in the complexity and richness that make up interaction artifacts, and maybe most important of all, withiout criticism we are not developing a language suitable for an indepth examination and evaluation of interaction. Well, Jeff has in his posts taken on the challenge to tell us what is required and what makes up "useful" criticism. And not only that, he also gives us directions on how to actually do it! Read Jeff's insightful texts and start to explore interaction criticism!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

(Not) Richard Dawkins and unusual Twitter use..

OK, I was fooled by the name. After I wrote about a twitter text from what appeared to be Richard Dawkins, I learned that it was not the "real" Dawkins :-) Here is a great blog about that. So, I decided to remove my post since it does not make sense any more!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Nicholas Carr "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" and Sven Birkerts

In a recent article in the Atlantic, with the title "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", Nicholas Carr explores the idea that new technology and especially web technology is "destroying" peoples ability to read longer and more dense texts. The exploration starts with his reflection on his own reading ability and how it has changed. This is an idea that has been around over time which is something that Carr also notes, even Plato was worried about the impact that the technology of "writing" would have on peoples ability to think for themselves.

Carr makes a good job bringing together some of the thinkers that has addressed the issue over time. But he does not mention the book that in my mind makes the strongest argument for Carr's observation, and that is Sven Birkerts "The Gutenburg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age". The book was first published in 1997 and was heavily criticized for being too anti-technology and not based on a deep understanding of the potential of technology. I really liked the book at the time even though I was not fully convinced by his arguments, but I found it difficult to argue against his main message. Maybe now is the time to re-read his book.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Interaction, Outcome, and Experience

There is an interesting relationship between interaction and outcome. It is possible to think about interaction as the activity a person is involved in when "using" a digital artifact, that is, 'doing interaction' with an artifact or system. It is also possible to think about the result from the activity of interaction, for instance, when you interact with a word processor, the outcome is the final text (digital or printed on paper) that you use for a purpose.

There are a complex relationship between these two: interaction and outcome. The interaction can consist of simple or compex activities, and the outcome can be simple or complex when it comes to structure and content. Usually we need to perform complex interactions to produce complex results, or simple interactions to produce simple results. But, this is not always true. Sometimes the opposite might be the case.

When we talk about the experience of interaction it does not necessarily have to do with the outcome, except when it is the outcome. The experience of using a word processor leads to the outcome in the form of a text, but it also 'produces' experiences that have to do with the quality of the interaction itself and not at all with the qality of the outcome. As a user we might love or hate the interaction exeprience while being indifferent, satisfied, or unhappy with the outcome, or vice versa.

Sometimes there is no outcome except the experience, for instance, when it come to games. There is no outcome that matters except for the experience of interacting.

Ok, nothing of this is new, I am just trying to analyze these concepts since I find them often used and understood in quite confusing ways, and I think it is crucial for any interaction designer to know the difference. When it comes to design, you have to decide what is the 'real' outcome of your design, what the experience should be realted to (outcome or interaction), etc. At the end it all becomes extremely practical and concret, and that is when your design with its qualities are measured and evaluated. And, of course, in the new world we are entering, as a designer you also have to be able to argue for your design. You have to know why you have devoted your time to the design of respectively interaction and outcome qualities.

I guess will come back to this. This needs more reflection. If anyone has some good recommendations fore readings, since I expect that I am not alone playing with these concepts.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Gartner Challenges Again...

Ok, I got a very good comment from Phoebe Sengers on my post about the seven grand challenges for IT research and development. I claimed that the Gartner report was based on some obvious assumptions that was not spelled out. She wrote and asked if I could say what these assumptions are. Good question, but difficult :-) I gave a bad answer, so it has since then been on my mind. So, here are some new ideas.

In the Gartner report I believe there is an underlying assumption about "direction". It seems as it is obvious where we are going, and the challenges are only about how to get there. This means that some other implicit assumptions (that I saw), such as "ease of use" and "development process performance", can be seen as "measure of success" for the whole enterprise. When challenges are stated in this way, they become well defined problems that has to be solved, all within the overall assumption of the given but not discussed "direction".

I would like "grand challenges" not to be about problem solving. I think the IT field is still in a position where other forms of Challenges would be more interesting. I would like to see Grand Challenges that are more explorative, focused on new innovative use, with an ambition of finding new directions. To me this also means that developing Grand Challenges is all about critical thinking, which has to do with breaking the onedimensional thinking as described by Marcuse in his wonderful book "The One-dimensional Man".

I am not sure I am making any progress here :-) If anyone else want to join this discussion, please do so.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Gartner: Seven Grand Challenges for IT

Gartner has formulated seven Grand Challenges for the development of IT in the next five to twenty years. These kind of studies are always interesting and gives you a possibility to compare with your own reflections about the always present future. It is intersting the the seven challenges are mostly based on well defined technical problems, such as, recharging batteries, persistent and reliable storage, speech translation. Some of them are based on a hope of better production effeciency, such as incresing programmers productivity.

There is one Challenge that relates to interaction and that is "Non Tactile, Natural Computing Interfaces". The idea is that we really need to get away from any "mechanical interfaces". Interesting since so much in interaction research today is about making the experience with computers more physical and tangible. Personally I think we will enter the age when interaction becomes more physical and embodied in artifacts.

Anyhow, amybe the most interesting observation is that the challenges are almost all about ways of doing things, but they have no relation to the purpose, or maybe the purpose is "obvious". Reading the list with the question "why do we need this" is an interesting experiment. Do it, and you will notice that there some deep underlying assumptions about what kind of usage of IT we "need" or "desire" in the future.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Universal Remote

I wrote earlier on this blog about one of the most difficult interaction design challenges -- the design of a simple and useful remote control. Well, here is a new attempt. It looks good, but some comments noticed that why not use the iPhone as a universal remote? With an increasing interactive environment, we do need to find ways to interact with it. There are of course many different appraoches possible. Remote controls is only one way. Another is to use remote sensors and gestures, or maybe speech control, or... Any and every new interactive device becomes a part of a larger interactive enrivonment and we need to find ways for all of us to comfortably live and control these environments.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


In the March-April issue of ACM Interactions there is a great article on sketching that I hope all hci and interaction design students will read! It is titled "Pencils before Pixels" and is written by Mark Baskinger, CMU. You can also download worksheets from the author! Read and enjoy!!

"When users 'do' the ubicomp"

In the March-April issue of ACM Interactions I found a short text that I really liked. The title was "When Users 'Do' the Ubicomp" by Antti Oulasvirta. I liked it because it was one of the first ubicomp papers I have read that has a perspective based on how the everyday life is experienced by people when they try to handle all their artifacts. Of course, one reason that I liked it is that it really fits with research we are doing in a research group I am heading, focused on the "Ecology of Interactive Artifacts". It is all about the same questions, how do people handle their growing number of digital interactive artifacts, what strategies do they use, and how is it possible to describe these ecologies in ways that make sense, and how is it possible to support designers who are expected to design artifacts that fit these ecologies, and is it possible to design on the level of ecologies? These is still an unexplored and almost invisible questions in contemporary interaction research, but they will become more important in the coming years!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Human Computer Interaction (HCI): towards a critical research position

Together with Anna Croon Fors, one of my colleagues, I have worked on a paper with the title "Human Computer Interaction (HCI): towards a critical research position". The paper has today been published in the Design Philosophy Papers journal.

In the paper we argue that HCI researchers have a choice when it comes to whom and what they will "serve" with their research. We also make the case that if they make the choice to serve the common good and to investigate the implications of interactive technology there are some methodological considerations that need to be observed and recognized. We also give some guidance on how such critical research can be conducted. The overall argument is that there is a need for a critical research position in the area of HCI research. Well, if you are interested, the paper is possible to read here.

This is not a paper for the easy minded :-) It is quite condensed and full of philosophical considerations and references... but some people like that :-)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Being Human -- HCI in the year of 2020"

Recently a report has been presented by Microsoft Research that outlines the future of HCI. The report is built on a workshop with a group of highly respected HCI researchers, and is edited by Richard Harper, Tom Rodden, Yvonne Rogers, and Abigail Sellen. The report can be downloaded here.

The report is divided into four parts (i) Our Changing World, (ii) Transformations in Interaction, (iii) HCI: Looking Forward and (iv) Recommendations.

I found the first two parts interesting and thoughtful. The first part nicely describes the evolving complexity and richness of the contemporary society as it relates to digital technology.

I found part (ii) Transformations in Interaction to be the most interesting and important. Even though we all know what is happening with interactive technology and its applications and how it is all developing and changing, it seems as if it has to be stated and reformulated over and over again. If these changes are taken seriously, the field of HCI has to drastically change to be able to take on these challenges. I really liked the questions that ended each section. They are simple, to the point, easy to understand, but really difficult to solve or answer!

The first two parts are excellent reading for anyone entering HCI as a student or as a professional (or researcher).

Part (iii), which is about looking forward was maybe a bit disappointing to me. It was not as forward looking as I hoped it to be. I got the impression that most of what is presented in this section is already being explored by many researchers in the field, of course it can and will be further developed, but I did not really find any real challenges or any new directions that opened up for new research or design ideas.

The last part, the "Recommendations", again was great and contains a number of fascinating formulations, some quite expected, but also some intriguing and unexpected.

Overall, the report is well worth a read by anyone who has an interest in future of interactive artifacts and systems and the future or our society and our individual lives. I recommend it and has already asked all our students to read it :-)

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Nature of Design Practice and Implications for Interaction Design Research

For a long time I have been working on a paper about the need for interaction design research to be grounded in a better understanding of design practice. This paper has finally been published in the International Journal of Design and if your are interested the paper can be downloaded here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Good interaction makes a difference..

Apple has increased their sales of Macs the last quarter and it is clear that more people are realizing that there is an alternative to the Windows Vista solution. New York Times believe that this is a sign that people are starting to appreciate a good OS. Maybe it is the case that good interaction design actually makes a difference.....

Widgets for everything....

I am sitting at my kitchen table in the morning working. The weather outside is sunny and beautiful. Right behind me is a window with an outdoor thermometer. Instead of turning and reading the thermometer outside my window, I pull up my widgets and get the correct temperature.

There are of course several reasons for this. I think I trust the widget better than my own instrument. It also, at the same time, gives me the temperature in other places around the world that I am interested in. And, I get some other things too, typical widget info.

Anyhow, it is strange to observe this kind of behavior, especially if it is myself....

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Finding your desktop after three years...

A few days ago I came back to my "old" office that I left three years ago and in the office was my Mac I used before I left. I started the computer and the desktop appeared, exactly as I left it three years ago! It was a strange experience. I was thrown back in time, and suddenly remembered what I was doing the last days in my old office. It was like looking at a photo in an album and it is of course similar, the desktop was frozen at a particular time. Anyhow, nothing extraordinary, but quite an experience...Who take pictures of the virtual world in a similar way as we take pictures of the real world? To remember when we get old :-)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Missing CHI 2008

This year I can't got to CHI in Florence due to family issues. When I am thinking about what I miss, it is obvious that the value of being at any conference is not so much in individual papers or presentations, but the sense of direction of the field that you can "feel in the air". This kind of experience depends on being there, it is extremely situated. So, what will the sense of direction for the future of HCI research be this year (which I will not be able to experience). I hope someone who is there will let me know!!!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Outsourcing my digital life

These last days I have experimented with the idea of making myself more or less independent of my own digital artifacts. I have increased my use of Google, and other online possibilities. This also means that I am increasing the opportunity to use my iPhone to do more of the digital aspects of my life. This "experimentation" is related to a research project I am currently conducting with a colleague and four PhD students, called "Ecologies of Interactive Artifacts". This is a highly interesting project and it is exciting to see how the research closely relates to my everyday life. In my "outsourcing" approach, there is of course a danger in the increasing dependency -- what if Google, Box, and others disappear? Maybe I just have to let go, to trust the "net" as an everlasting entity, as an environment to trust, that will take care of me (sounds familiar...). I don't know, we'll see....

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


If you have not tried PicLens yet, download it and try it! It is quite an experience!Link

Interaction Paradigm Breaking Down...

In a recent article in New York Times the reporter John Markoff writes about the changing world of interaction. Unusually insightful for a text in a major newspaper.

Friday, March 07, 2008


We had a seminar around Twitter last week and three of our phd students are doing a great study of Twitter. As usual I learned a lot and has since discussed Twitter with a lot of people, and I think increased the interest and number of people signing up for it. The study developed and run by Kevin, Richie, and Will is interesting and I am excited to see what their findings will be. It is amazing how we all (again!) are surprised by a new form of communication, and we are (again) realizing that our explanatory models from other forms (such as email or chat) no longer is really useful! Fascinating!!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

I am surprised...

that no one has commented on the post below "Visualization is easy...". I thought that would raise some comments :-)

Cell Phone Design and High Fashion

Here is an interesting article from NY Times. It is about the struggle phone companies are facing today when it comes to the design of new cell phones. The approach that seems to be popular is some kind of a customer centric approach, that is, the companies are developing methods that can tell them in detail what the customer desires and want, now and tomorrow. They believe that good design is all about understanding the customer. It is obvious that the design of this particular type of digital interactive artifact (the cell phone) and others is becoming more and more similar to fashion design. When a design field becomes so closely interrelated with and dependent on the minds of the customer, the whole notion of what it means to be a designer changes. From other high fashion industries we know that there is no possible way in finding out what will be the favored future design by asking potential customers. Instead, in these fields the design frontier is pushed by extremely sensitive and highly skilled professional designers, who have the ability to "sense" the zeitgeist and small but highly significant changes in culture, and transform all this into a design that will be appreciated by future customers. The design frontier is in fashion design driven by a need and desire of constant change and variation, and now it seems as if cell phone design is moving into that area too. At the same time, cell phone design has another distinct character, and that is that the underlying technology (the material used in the design) is constantly changing and developing, which means that what is desired one day can be obsolete the next due to new technology. To be a designer of these artifacts is therefore extremely difficult since it is a combination of high fashion, cultural sensibility, and high tech. This is the complex and fascinating world of design!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Visualization is easy - Interactivity is difficult

After having seen a lot of amazing commercials and trailers of TV, and after having seen amazing visualizations on the web of complex information and data, I think it is fair to say that designing interactivity is difficult in relation to visualization. In a way it is the shift from the producer-consumer model to the interactivity model that makes the difficulty. I am constantly impressed by highly advanced visualizations developed and made possible with computer technology. At the same time, the interactivity in our daily lives with simple artifacts like remote controls, electronic products, cell phones, etc, still make many of us unhappy. Everybody complains about the design of the TV remote control. Why is it so difficult to design a remote that is easy to use, beautiful to look at, and that fits into our home environments. The answer can not be that no one is trying to design them right, or that we do not have the right technology. The answer is that interactivity is extremely difficult. It is much easier to develop an amazing CG environment for a Sci-Fi movie...than to develop a simple and elegant remote control...or....

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Interaction Criticism and Judgment

In a recent blog post, my colleague Jeff Bardzell writes about the need for a more developed understanding of interaction criticism. He writes the post in reply to someone who reviewed one of his paper recently who did not understand the notion of "judgment" and questioned its nature and role in our field. Jeff makes a great case for judgment and for criticism as valid expressions of highly developed personally internalized knowledge. There is definitely a need to develop interaction criticism. There is also a need for a better understanding of criticism as a process and activity and there is a need of theories that can serve as tools in that activity. I am looking forward to the work by Jeff and Shaowen (his co-author on the paper that was reviewed).

Design research -- paradigm shift

Today I was made aware of a position paper on the state of art of design research by Kees Dorst (I reviewed his book a couple of days ago, see below). The paper is published in Design Studies and the title is "Design research - a revolution-waiting-to-happen". It is an insightful text. Dorst manages to present the state of design research and make it clear what is missing and what has gone wrong. I fully agree with his analysis and interpretation of the situation. Anyone doing design research should read the paper and reflect on his or hers own role in making design research valid and a successful adventure.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"Understanding Design"

In my last post I recommended a book that consists of many small truths about architecture and design. Another book with a similar format is "Understanding Design -- 175 Reflections of Being a Designer" by Kees Dorst. This is a great book! Each page consists of a very short reflections on what it means to be a designer. Many of these reflections contain insights that, on one level, are easy to understand, but at the same time, if taken seriously, has serious consequences on who your are and how you think and act as a designer. Read one reflection per day -- it keeps your intellectual understanding about design "updated"! I strongly recommend this book!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

101 Things I Learned in Architecture School

I have just read the book "101 Things I Learned in Architecture School" by Matthew Fredrick. It is a lovely little book. As someone who teaches design and design thinking I found the book highly insightful, beautiful, and relevant, even though I am not in architecture. Almost all the 101 condensed truths about design and architecture in the book is applicable to interaction design. It is a small book, with little text, wonderful small drawings, and bits of knowledge that every designer should know. I highly recommend this book!!

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