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CHI 2014, highlights part 2

And, we’re back for another six-pack of things I found interesting [1] in CHI 2014 papers, continuing my last post.

I really enjoyed Jina Huh‘s talk about her paper with Wanda Pratt about “Weaving clinical expertise in online health communities” . Asking practitioners how they interpret peer-to-peer health conversations and how they might go about improving them was a good idea and although the answers were often “well, I’d do the things I’d do if I were working with them”, knowing what clinicians might need to know and thinking about mechanisms to learn them is smart [2].

The next four all came from a session on critical design, which is not normally in my wheelhouse but I had prior interests in Will Odom‘s paper because of the connections to Pensieve, so I took a chance that went well [3].

Melanie Feinberg‘s talk about her paper with Daniel Carter and Julia Bullard called “Always somewhere, never there: using critical design to understand database interactions”  [4] was a fun look at designing subversive navigation structures for a document collection to make commentary on both collections and taxonomies in general [5]. She’s a classification scholar and so expressed deep skepticism about folksonomies, but thinking about how to “read” subsets of a user-generated tag collection might be interesting design research along the lines she’s already on.

Jeff Bardzell presented a paper with Shaowen Bardzell and Erik Stolterman called “Reading critical designs: supporting reasoned interpretations of critical design” that might help those of us who are not steeped in critical design better-process critical analyses [6]. My outsider takeaway is their taxonomy of six high-level design featurs (topic, goal, form, etc.) crossed with four main flavors of critique (changing perspectives, reflectiveness, etc.) felt like a useful, relatively accessible tool for engaging (students) with critique [7].

Will Odom then talked about his ongoing work with memory, photographs, and slow technology from his (and several others’) paper “Designing for slowness, anticipation and re-visitation: a long term field study of the photobox“. Here some of the major effects about people’s move from frustration with lack of control to acceptance took several months to appear, and the idea that a slow technology like this might make things “special” is very cool. It would be interesting to probe both at the role of long deployments in CHI [8] and the design spaces in which slow/imperturbable technology might be most interesting [9].

Steve Whittaker gave the last talk on behalf of Corina Sas and co-authors of their paper “Generating Implications for Design through Design Research“. Unpacking the ways people think about design implications [10]–what they are, how they get made, whether they’re good–made me want to run off and look at all the design implications I’ve written [11] in the past. Maybe design implications are the personas of fieldwork and user studies: they should help you think about the rich awesomeness that went into generating them but in practice often feel a little two-dimensional.

Finally for today, an upstate New York shout out to Yang Wang from Syracuse talking about “A field trial of privacy nudges for Facebook” with folks from CMU. Although one, a post delay [12], is more about mitigating regret than privacy per se, the general plan of interfaces that help people reason about audiences, disclosure, and consequences feels solid [13]. Some people liked the interfaces and others didn’t, also fine–a feature that half the people can turn off and half of people benefit from is pretty awesome. And I found it generative, as their nudge of showing some audience members has a bunch of variations: chosen by user or computer, strong or weak ties, present or possible future contacts, etc.

And that’s all for now. Hope these were useful pointers and thoughts, and also that I finish the job later because my very favorite talk is still not listed. As before, feel free to share your own favorites; I always like hearing about good things.

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[1] This was originally “liked most”, but I’m trying to give up on the superlative. There’s some cognitive difference between “Think of your fondest childhood memory” and “Think of a fond childhood memory”. One is a search task, and one is an invitation.

[2] Their goal of semi-automated moderation/support for conversation also directly ties to things the Cornell eRulemaking Initiative  is looking to do to support public discourse more generally.

[3] Going back to the Ron Burt story from last time, one of his suggestions was to regularly go to unfamiliar conferences. The nice thing about CHI is that you can get the same effect by just going to unfamiliar sessions.

[4] I also was amused that searching for “Melanie Texas Databases” while writing this got me directly to her homepage. Yay, Google.

[5] In post-talk conversation with Melanie, Danyel Fisher pointed out the “Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge” as a cool counterpoint to the idea of taxonomies of any kind being universal, which I will in turn pass on to you.

[6] One of the frustrations of not having a design background but teaching some design courses is that I’ve had trouble finding materials to support doing critique and peer review. This paper from a critical side and some of Scott Klemmer’s stuff for peer evaluation of design both seem useful.

[7] It felt so much like a design space that I wondered if with small changes it could be used as a framework for critiquing designs more generally.

[8] We don’t do enough longitudinal studies. Just sayin’.

[9] I vote for email. I’ve already turned off notifications, but I’ve regularly pondered using/writing a tool that adds delays to mail that I both send and receive (what would the world be like if email were the pace of postal mail?).

[10] Snarkily, “the things you have to add to make CHI reviewers happy”, as eloquently critiqued by Paul Dourish in his Implications for Design paper.

[11] Badly.

[12] And, we’re back to slow technologies.

[13] Some of which I hope to be doing soon with Natalie Bazarova and Janis Whitlock if our grant proposal goes through. They say the third time is a charm…

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  1. I really enjoy reading your blogposts about conferences. Thanks!
    The paper on “designing for slowness, anticipation and re-visitation: a long term field study of the photobox” is really cool! It makes me think about how slowing down other technologies would change how you interact with them. For instance if your Facebook took a while to load, would it change from fast scrolling down content (as a form of procrastination) to actually taking time to look into what others are up to? How would it change what people post? Would anyone even use it?