Recently I thought I would try to compose a list of journals that publishes HCI research. I engaged in a search. I was overwhelmed. I never finished a list. The reason is that I found several lists of journals, many journals, many of which I have never heard off and even more that I have never read.
The HCI bibliography
web site of Panayiotis Koutsabasis
and there are many more.
Some of these journals are supported by large academic organizations, some are independent. It is important to remember that ACM is not the only large academic organization that has a special focus on HCI (so are AIS, IEEE, etc). Who reads all these journals? Add to this all the conferences where an even larger number of papers are published every year. Overwhelming.
This little search made it very clear that as researchers we are not really doing research in a discipline or field but in some sub-sub field or maybe in a corner of an area covering only a tiny portion of what goes on in the world of HCI research. Of course I have always known this, so it is not a surprise really. But going through these lists makes you more humble about your role in the world (in case that is needed) and you can see how small your own role is.
So, what does this mean? I do not know. Should we stop publishing? I have for many years entertained the idea that as a researcher you should only be allowed to publish 1 paper per year or maybe 1 per every other year or every 5th year. This would drastically change the academic publishing landscape. But of course, it is easy to see issues with such a model too. Maybe modern research is just an industry like any other, with many actors doing more or less the same thing. And as in any industry, here and there someone is lucky to break through the noise with an idea or finding that will influence the field, but more as a consequence of luck than anything else. Too pessimistic? The real reason why we are engaged in research is of course that, despite all the publishing pressure, doing research is a drug. Being involved in the world of ideas and learning is exciting and fun. That is it!