Fata Morgana (chimerically) wrote,
Fata Morgana

CHI summary (mainly alt.chi and my own presentation)

My favorite presentations at CHI this year were in the alt.chi track. While I've always liked alt.chi (or "CHI Fringe" as it used to be called), my particular fondness for the more critical papers this year probably suggests some larger shifts in my theoretical outlook -- a change that I welcome, certainly, though I don't know exactly where I'll end up with it yet. Anyway, here are a few of the papers I found most provocative:

The Three Paradigms of HCI
- Steve Harrison, Virginia Tech, USA
- Deborah Tatar, Virginia Tech, USA
- Phoebe Sengers, Cornell University, USA
Informal histories of HCI commonly document two major intellectual waves that have formed the field: the first orienting from engineering/human factors with its focus on optimizing man-machine fit, and the second stemming from cognitive science, with an increased emphasis on theory and on what is happening not only in the computer but, simultaneously, in the human mind. In this paper, we document underlying forces that constitute a third wave in HCI and suggest systemic consequences for the CHI community.

Questioning the Technological Panacea: Three Reflective Questions for Designers
- Eric Baumer, University of California, Irvine, USA
- Bill Tomlinson, University of California, Irvine, USA
This paper argues that asking whether or not a technological solution is appropriate should be an explicit and exposed part of the design process. It raises three questions that should be addressed during the design process: Are there other, possibly non-technological, solutions that could address the problem equally well, if not better? Are designers creating solutions to problems that users themselves do not need to have? Are these technological solutions treating a problem rather than its cause?

Uptake of Situationism Considered Harmful
- Lucian Leahu, Cornell University, USA
- Claudia Pederson , Cornell University, USA
- Jennifer Thom-Santelli, Cornell University, USA
- Pavel Dmitriev, Cornell University, USA
- Phoebe Sengers, Cornell University, USA
We examine Situationist art practice as an inspiration for HCI design. We argue that methods from Situationist art practice have often been picked up without regard for their underlying sensibility. We describe an experiment in incorporating Situationist sensibility in design and use it to elucidate the challenges that face HCI in truly integrating the arts.

From Mice to Men – 24 years of Evaluation in CHI
- Louise Barkhuus, University of Glasgow, UK
- Jennifer A. Rode, Donald Bren School of Information, USA
This paper analyzes trends in the approach to evaluation taken by CHI papers in the last 24 years. A set of papers was analyzed according to our schema for classifying type of evaluation. Our analysis traces papers' trend in type and scope of evaluation. Findings include an increase in the proportion of papers that include evaluation, and a decrease in the median number of subjects in quantitative studies.

The Evolution of Evaluation
- Joseph "Jofish" Kaye, Cornell University, USA
- Phoebe Sengers, Cornell University, USA
We provide a historical context for assessing evaluation methods by explicating the history of evaluation in HCI. We trace the history of evaluation in the field from electrical engineering and computer science, to experimental approaches drawn from cognitive science, to usability's emphasis on in-situ studies and expertise.

All of the alt.chi papers are listed here: http://www.viktoria.se/altchi

My own talk (on "why we tag" -- paper here) went very well, though it felt prosaic in comparison with some of the alt.chi talks I mentioned above. The rather large room I presented in was full (!), and though there were lots of questions, they seemed to be of the interested and respectful "I'd like more information" variety, rather than of the "this work is crap and here's why" variety. There was the inevitable question about "why was your N so small?," but other than that, it seemed to be very well-received. And not many people left during the talk or even during the questions, which I take to be a good sign. I must say it was all a bit of a blur to me.

I should work on figuring out how to be more funny in my talks, though. It seems like I can be engaging enough and have a good sense of general audience mood, and feel much more excited than nervous about speaking generally, which is likely due to those years presenting planetarium shows and teaching dance classes. However, I am painfully aware of how bad my sense of how to be funny to large(r) crowds is. Maybe I should take some acting classes or something.

Next year, I may not be able to attend for the first time in five years. It's in Italy and right at the beginning of spring quarter (meaning it'd be a bad time to be away, and the trip couldn't be a quick one), I'll probably have used up all of my conference money for the year already and don't relish paying out-of-pocket, and it overlaps with USA Dance Nationals. (Well, the last point probably wouldn't prevent me from going, especially since I could attend the relevant parts of the first and most of the second without a problem. But all of these points combined make me think that I probably won't be going next year, for the first time since I started going in 2003.) I guess if Nokia Research wanted to partially fund me or something, I'd reconsider, though I also wouldn't mind joining my dozens of colleagues protesting the exorbitant student fees ($400 student registration, where most other conferences I attend charge $60-$80!). The only reason I went this year was because I was student volunteering and it was right here, so it was practically free for me. And I had the added incentive of presenting encouraging me to go.

One last note: while having the conference so close (just down in San Jose) was nice in that I didn't have to pay travel fees and could stay at home, it was actually frustrating to not be able to put my "normal" life on hold during the conference like one usually has to when it's farther away. I found myself running back to campus for my favorite seminar and other events. Living two lives like this is hard, and I don't want to even think about the work I have to do to catch up. I guess I'll have to do it again in a few weeks for ICA, which is in San Francisco this year (though it's over a weekend -- Memorial Day weekend -- instead of in the middle of the week like ACM conferences always seem to be. ACM is weird that way).
Tags: chi, conference, summary

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