CHI and DIS. We all love an acronym, right?

I’ve had a busy and exciting couple of months travelling to Austin, Texas in May for CHI and Newcastle in June for DIS. I presented at both conferences as I was lucky enough to have a paper accepted to alt.CHI and a short paper accepted to a workshop at DIS on fashion in sustainable HCI. Presenting was nerve-racking to say the least, but worth the effort. Special thanks to my supervisor Nadia Berthouze who coached and calmed me. 

CHI was especially interesting as I had never been to an academic conference before and in HCI, it is the biggest and most prestigious. The days were long and jam-packed, for every one talk you saw, you missed about five others. The evenings were full of networking, thunder storms and good food, (highlights being Second Bar and Kitchen and Torchy’s Tacos).

Of the talks I saw, here are some highlights:

  • What should we expect from research through design? William Gaver. I was drawn to this as a fan of Gaver’s work and because I had tried my hand at design research for my MSc thesis project and also used his ideas about ambiguity in design in my project. I liked his suggestion of thinking about design theories as annotations to design research and his assertion that design is not a science and shouldn’t be treated as such. Quite the call to arms at a conference like CHI.
  • Uncomfortable Interactions. Benford et al.  This caught my attention as a disruptive way to design. He gave examples of using discomfort for  entertainment, via thrills and suspense; enlightenment via empathy and sociality via rites of passage. He described discomfort as being visceral,  intimate, cultural and tied to control. 
  • Designing social translucence over social networks. Eric Gilbert. This talk introduced a topic that was new to me, social translucence. This is a concept which I have since repeatedly referred to in my work as a UX designer, unlike much academic HCI theory. Gilbert explained that translucence increases visibility, awareness and accountability. He also discussed the ‘invisible audience’ on Twitter, where a follows c, c follows a, b follows both a and and so b gets to read what a and c discuss. This is usually interesting where you can read discussions between two friends, but this week I noticed it between two of my friends who were from completely different social circles. It turns out they are cousins. This wouldn’t normally have come up in conversation and I never would have guessed they were cousins so it was a nice serendipity, something that I only became aware of due to social translucence over a social network. Small world.