CHI 2011: Terry Winograd: Reflections on HCI

I’m reflecting on draft posts and writings that were left unpublished, and improving them to the quality to post and share with you all. This post along with another one were notes I took at CHI 2011, one of the premiere HCI conferences. These notes came from Terry Winograd’s own reflections on HCI.

Lifetime Research Award Winner Talk: Terry Winograd

One of the shifts that Dr. Winograd has gone through is thinking about design in beyond just relevant aesthetics and values, but more as design as a mode of thinking

Computing started first in a room with a computer, and users would circle around the computers. The computer was meant to process information.

The mother of all demos really changed how humans thought about computers. Computers didn’t just output answers. The computer became a mediator for human-human communication.

Then, Mark Weiser’s work brought on various forms of computing. Computing by the inch, foot, and yard, brought  ubiquitous computing, and smart spaces.

Dr. Winograd himself contributed in the space with interactive workspaces & smart rooms. But he noted that it didn’t work out well, and was a good learning experience:

Lesson: Having a good conceptual background isn’t enough. Integration and having a good social context is essential.

What is a human? How do human qualities connect to disciplines?

  • Physical body: Human Factors.
  • Language understander: To use language. Psychology
  • Information processor: a problem solver, decision maker. Cognitive Psychology.

Lesson: people cannot refrain from projecting human qualities onto computers.

  • CSCW approach: a worker in an organization. A source of commitment. Management business

In his Stanford Digital Libraries Project, his team wanted to carefully organize and publish e-books and online information. But, the Google guys, Larry Page, noted that we didn’t need to organize information. Everything can be pulled together and searched with Google.

  • Information Seeker. “Informavore”.

Early online communities involved people meeting live, face to face, socially. People are social creatures.

  • Social beings: Sociology, anthropology

Why do people twitter? Why do people send so much time on Facebook, twitter, giving low-interest information like what you had for lunch?

He brings in insight from diapers. One of his students studied people, specifically parents and how to design better diapers. The concept of the “pull-ups” was a result.

Mechanically, pull-ups aren’t great, and may cause leaks. But design-wise, the pull-ups mean that the kid is growing up. The pull-ups are no longer a diaper, but underwear. The pull ups represent “growing up” and “I’m a big kid now”.

  • The source of meaning

Who am I? I add meaning. I don’t customize my own personal identity. I also add social meaning.

Who am I?

  • personal identity.
  • social identity. A blog is a form of social presence and reputation.
  • Fame and fortune. Reputation
  • Family and friends. The word “friend” is present much in the Facebook page.
  • We’re part of a larger community or society. In talking about this, ethics, social responsibility, politics, social issues, democracy are all involved in this aspect of identity.

Design

What is design? It’s creating an experience. His d.school is in an interdisciplinary setting with a focus on design.

What kind of research should be done?

Everything: technologies, sciences, mechanisms

What are the new possibilities?

How big has HCI grown then? HCI seems to cover a large variety of fields. Is variety still a good thing at this stage of the discipline, or should we organize?

For each major project, there are many, many projects that no one’s heard of. But, what’s more important is to frame your own research in the right way. The more important question is:

How do I design my research?

Be ontological. Consider shifts from processing, to mediator

Challenge your own assumptions and goals? This happened in his digital library project an Google challenged it, shifts in disciplines.

Be open to opportunities. Easy to say, hard to do. Sometimes technologies mature enough, or the world is ready, for certain opportunities. Most of the things mentioned came from collaboration.

Seek meaning. His advice to Larry Page is: “Do what you think is important.”

What are the meanings that matter to you and the CHI community?

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