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What comes after CHI? PSI (People, Systems, Information)

chci workshop

The Social Informatics Research Group of Virginia Tech’s Center for Human-Computer Interaction (CHCI) and Virginia Tech’s Human-Centered Design (HCD) program held a small workshop at Virginia Tech March 18 & 19. The purpose was to develop an agenda for next generation HCI research that would form the content of a book.. It was intended to be an exploration of the next direction for HCI and HCD.

Steve Harrison
Steve Harrison

HCI and HCD researchers have done a great job inventing and evaluating myriad ways to smoothly interact with information technology. Yet we have also made a mess of things: in a relatively short period of time, “computerization has moved from providing a counterpoint to life, with the potential to highlight and shade experience, to constituting a constant force, defining life as experienced.”[7] Computers have come to design human behavior and define the quality of life.  

Many researchers are making pragmatic and theoretical arguments for virtually untrammeled access by technology over every detail of our lives [4, 5, 6] in the same happy, “futuristic” way that Rheingold long ago declared that “the internet promotes democracy” [3]. Yet there is another point of view that deserves exploration.   The design of the internet has recently been characterized as “feudal” [1, 2], applications have been described as “bullying” [7], and there is widespread discussion in popular and scholarly press about quality-of-life and social justice issues attendant upon what we describe as the “separation of people from their data” via algorithmic capabilities in an atmosphere of low regulation.

We believe that, if computer systems are central to our interactions with other people and institutions, those systems must: (1) allow us to arrange them so that we are more likely to act as the selves we wish we were; (2) help us understand whether people and institutions are treating us as we ought to be treated; and (3) create and encourage reflective opportunity about these matters.

The ambitious goal of the workshop was to shift our fields’ thinking about design and research in order to encourage the creation of technologies that promote values and practices that respond to the challenges of the next ten years and beyond. 



We ended the workshop with a set of themes that pulled together topics that arose. Themes were not topics with a uniform point of view since one collective premise of the workshop is that the future of HCI will continue to be “polytheistic” as well as inter-, multi-, trans-disciplinary.


We turned to the various strategies that might bring about (encourage?) the various directions we identified. The pathways from here to there (see below) were then interpreted through opportunities for next steps.   The one common root of all the strategies is the need for a “manifesto” that explicates the themes; all agreed and are encouraged to contribute to that effort. (Which is available at ……)

Some strategic goals that got raised – but not necessarily with consensus -- were:

  • Re-align the rhetoric in HCI.
  • Shift (expand?) values with respect to knowledge creation.
  • Influence practice.


Edited Volume. Various models were proposed:

  • HCI Remixed was suggested as an example since it gets used as a textbook as well as providing a multi-layered narrative form that pushes both inward and outward, and is engaging. How to structure such a book around conveying the workshop themes might be problematic, however.
  • The future fiction genre would permit more freedom from the standard publication forms.
  • Some evocative titles were: HCI Ways of Knowing, Rising above the Gathering Storm, HCI 2020, The Future of Cool Work.

Manifesto.  There was general support for the production of a manifesto. This would be an evolving tool located off of the workshop website. Participants will be invited to contribute to and edit the document. Steve will put together a skeleton outline and announce it to the participants.   We agreed that while it is an evolving document, it should have a generally agreed common core that can be cited. (The process of managing that tension is TBD.)

Textbook. A textbook would bridge the research and practice gap and could re-frame methods to be more available outside the current dominant (male, engineering-based, Northern Hemisphere?) culture. While this seemed to address creating a next HCI rather directly, it was generally thought to be premature. 

Videos for classroom use. Using Scott Klemmer’s HCI design video series on Coursera as an example, there was wide and enthusiastic support for publication of videos for “classroom” use. These would be for both methodological instruction and examples of evaluative values that get at the issues in the themes.

Graphic novel and/or (adult) coloring book.  Alternative, accessible, and engaging forms of publication would get the word out very quickly – and subversively. There was general interest and support for this idea; but not as a central means of dissemination. Both of these particular forms require (a) a talented graphic artist and (b) ways of translating the themes into narrative and/or visual forms. Some themes, obviously, lend themselves to this better than others. . ‘s website has a number of basic articles by leading HCI authors. This site reaches educators, researchers, and practitioners. An article there would introduce the elements of the themes and some example pathways to them.

On-line documentation of efforts.  Using the workshop website as a distribution (or index), projects and publications that illustrate the themes and provide alternative forms of presentation should be used a resource.  The Tactical Technology Collective was suggested as an example.

Next Workshops and Other Gatherings:

Larger, General Call.  Through some additional support -- NSF was mentioned – a general call workshop would broaden the discussion, but some voiced some concern about dilution. However, this also raised the possibility of theme-specific workshops that feed the larger project. (That is, there might be a larger workshop on “Representation” as we have begun to re-conceptualize it.)

  1. Cockton, G. “Refuser (centered design): Moving on, moving out, moving up”. Interactions 19, 6 (2012), 8–9.
  2. Dourish, Paul  (2016) “Not The Internet, but This Internet: How Othernets Illuminate Our Feudal Internet”. Proceedings of Critical Alternatives 2015; 5th Decennial Aarhus Conference. Aug 17-21, 2015.
  3. Rheingold, H. (1994) Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. HarperTrade.
  4. Rifkin, J. (2014) “The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism” Palgrave Macmillan, 356 pp.
  5. Rose, D. (2013) Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things Scribner, 304 pp.
  6. Scoble, R. and Israel, S. (2012) Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy Patrick Brewster, 225 pp.
  7. Tatar, D.  (2014) “Reflecting Our Better Natures”. ACM Interactions, feature column, (May/June 2014)  ( p 64.