The promiscuity of interaction”

This is a brief com­ment on a meet­ing Barry Brown and I hos­ted at Microsoft Research Cam­bridge, titled .

Inter­ac­tion as a a promis­cu­ous con­cept”: it’s Stu­art Reeves’ phras­ing that nicely cap­tures the sen­ti­ment of our small meeting’s dis­cus­sions. The col­lec­tion of short talks and the emphas­is given to talk­ing (and not just lec­tur­ing), gave rise to a lan­guage of crit­ic­al but pos­it­ive reflec­tion. Rather than delib­er­at­ing on an ‘after’ or ‘post’ inter­ac­tion turn or wave in HCI, inter­ac­tion was seen to still offer a great deal. The con­sensus (led by pos­i­tions from Dav­id Kirk, Abi Dur­rant , Bill Gaver and Stu­art) was it provides us with a device or machinery in com­mon, and, con­cep­tu­ally, there remains much to do with the word that keeps us open to new domains and indeed new (design) pos­sib­il­it­ies. Here, I’m reminded of Isa­belle Stengers use of the phrase a “tool for think­ing”. It cer­tainly appears inter­ac­tion (still) provides us with just such a tool.

And yet I felt there was a shared frus­tra­tion (more…)

See this post as one source for the dis­cus­sion.
Kindly atten­ded by, Andy Bouch­er, Barry Brown, Rob Comber, Anna Cox, Abi Dur­rant, Bill Gaver, Elisa Giac­cardi, Kat Jung­nick­el, Dave Kirk, Airi Lamp­inen, Eric Laur­i­er, Lucian Leahu, Chris­ti­an Licop­pe, Dave Mar­tin, Mike Michael, Mari­an­na Obrist, Stu­art Reeves, Yvon­ne Rogers, Frances­ca Sal­vadori, Anja Thieme, Tony Weiser and Alex Wilkie.
Stu­art has pos­ted the notes to his talk here. He has sug­ges­ted this as a com­pli­ment­ary read­ing: Ander­son, B. and Shar­rock, W. (2013). Post­Mod­ern­ism, Social Sci­ence & Tech­no­logy.
Abi ref­er­enced the piece “Edge Town” by Hook­er and Kit­chen (2004), in her short talk. She has also sug­ges­ted E. M. Foster’s ‘The Machine Stops’ for fur­ther read­ing. As she explains: [t]his is because this novel­la con­veys the ideas we dis­cussed about making-and-describing the mac­ro and micro fea­tures of a world (of com­plex medi­ated inter­ac­tions) and, dare I say, the ‘loc­al and glob­al’.  (With the 1:1 scale fea­tures of  inter­ac­tion being the stuff that design­ers can really work with. It man­ages to con­vey the com­plex­ity of a socio-technical sys­tem through depict­ing a few moments of rel­at­ively sim­ple inter­ac­tion with ‘the machine’.  The story also presents truly entangled human and non human bod­ies and their polit­ics, eth­ics, depend­en­cies, faith — and deals more spe­cific­ally with implic­a­tions around trans­par­ency with­in those medi­ated inter­ac­tions. This is des­pite being of it’s time and assum­ing cer­tain dif­fer­ences between people and the nat­ur­al world, and ‘man and machine’.
See, Stengers, I. (2013). Intro­duct­ory notes on an eco­logy of prac­tices. Cul­tur­al Stud­ies Review, 11(1), 183–196.

On “How Apple is Giving Design a Bad Name”

Thanks to Richard Banks for point­ing me towards this piece pub­lished on Fast Company’s site by Don Nor­man and Bruce Tognazzini (Tog):

The art­icle is a hard hit­ting cri­tique of Apple’s cur­rent design philo­sophy. More than this, though, the two long time inter­ac­tion design gurus set out a clear pro­ject for design, one that they see Apple hav­ing been instru­ment­al in but now devi­at­ing from. Their gen­er­al argu­ment is, on the face of it, pretty con­vin­cing. Yet dig­ging a little deep­er it’s one that I have prob­lems with. This post is really an effort to sort things out in my own mind. (more…)

Back to interaction (a reply to Barry)

I’m grate­ful to Barry Brown for his com­ments on my short Inter­ac­tions piece, “After Inter­ac­tion”.

Barry, as always, you’ve forced me to think more care­fully about my mean­der­ings. Indeed, my inten­tion was to append a short reply to your com­ment, but your ques­tions have deman­ded more and, pre­dict­ably, words have got the bet­ter of me. This post, then, is my long-winded respon­se. Thank you for giv­ing me the chance to expand on my thoughts.

First, let me respond to your cri­ti­cisms regard­ing the inter­ming­lings of humans and non­hu­mans. (more…)

Presenting “Data in place”

We’re present­ing a paper at CHI this year on Ten­ison Road.

Alex S. Taylor, Siân Lind­ley, Tim Regan, Dav­id Sweeney, Vasil­is Vlachokyriakos, Lil­lie Grainger, Jes­sa Lin­gel (2015), Data-in-Place: Think­ing through the Rela­tions Between Data and Com­munity, CHI 2015.

Here’s the abstract:

We present find­ings from a year-long engage­ment with a street and its com­munity. The work explores how the pro­duc­tion and use of data is bound up with place, both in terms of phys­ic­al and social geo­graphy. We detail three strands of the pro­ject. First, we con­sider how res­id­ents have sought to cur­ate exist­ing data about the street in the form of an archive with phys­ic­al and digit­al com­pon­ents. Second, we report endeav­ours to cap­ture data about the street’s envir­on­ment, espe­cially of vehicle traf­fic. Third, we draw on the pos­sib­il­it­ies afforded by tech­no­lo­gies for polling opin­ion. We reflect on how these engage­ments have: mater­i­al­ised dis­tinct­ive rela­tions between the com­munity and their data; sur­faced flows and con­tours of data, and spa­tial, tem­por­al and social bound­ar­ies; and enacted a mul­ti­pli­city of ‘small worlds’. We con­sider how such a con­cep­tu­al­isa­tion of data-in-place is rel­ev­ant to the design of tech­no­logy.

on “Leakiness and creepiness in app space”

I recently had an email exchange with Irina Shk­lovski in which she kindly sent me the paper she presen­ted at the CHI con­fer­ence this year. It’s a great paper, with some care­fully thought through insights into the data we pro­duce and (often inad­vert­ently) share when using smart phones. 

Irina Shk­lovski, Scott D. Main­war­ing, Hal­la Hrund Skúladót­tir, and Höskul­dur Bor­gthorsson. 2014. Leak­i­ness and creep­i­ness in app space: per­cep­tions of pri­vacy and mobile app use. In Pro­ceed­ings of the 32nd annu­al ACM con­fer­ence on Human factors in com­put­ing sys­tems (CHI ’14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2347–2356. 

The paper got me think­ing about some broad­er (and long-standing) issues I’ve been work­ing through myself related to the researcher’s agen­tial (and often inad­vert­ent) role in empir­ic­al research. What fol­lows are some slightly amended com­ments I’ve shared with Irina. (more…)

Announcing Tenison Road launch

Finally pos­ted some fly­ers to announce the launch of the big data pro­ject we’ll run for a year. We hope to work with the res­id­ents and pro­pri­et­ors on Ten­ison Road in Cam­bridge to bet­ter under­stand how big data mat­ters and what people on the street want it to be. This is a pro­ject that is aim­ing to get at the inter­ming­lings of data and loc­al­ity, and to inter­ve­ne in the entan­gle­ments in pro­duct­ive ways. That’s the hope! … Fin­gers crossed.

Short note on ‘Objects, Infrastructure and Vocation’


Infra­struc­ture and Voca­tion: Field, Call­ing and Com­pu­ta­tion in Eco­logy

A bril­liant CHI paper by Steven Jack­son and Sarah Bar­brow. How many papers presen­ted at CHI cite St. Augustine of Hip­po and, to boot, suc­ceed in draw­ing out rel­ev­ant reflec­tions on sci­en­ti­fic mod­el­ling tools in eco­logy. See­ing eco­logy through the lens of both infra­struc­ture and the ‘voca­tion­al call­ing’ provides a pro­duct­ive view onto what eco­lo­gists do and how their prac­tices are chan­ging. Jack­son and Bar­brow illus­trate this nicely by writ­ing of the chan­ging notion of ‘the field’ for eco­lo­gists. I see a strong par­al­lel here between eco­logy and bio­logy. Bio­logy is a field very much in trans­ition and the changes have much to do with the mater­i­al encoun­ters in bio­lo­gic­al work — with for example the chan­ging nature of bio­lo­gists’ work at ‘the bench’ and with exper­i­ment­al appar­at­us. The turn to machines, com­pu­ta­tion and algorithms is not only reshap­ing the prac­tices but also refig­ur­ing what bio­lo­gists know and how they see their phe­nom­ena (some­thing we also tried to get across in At the inter­face of bio­logy and com­pu­ta­tion at CHI). A sim­il­ar con­clu­sion is being drawn out in this papers as it cap­tures the entangled rela­tions between the tools, prac­tices and ways of know­ing in eco­logy.