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.