Interact 2011

In September, Paul and Larissa from the research studio attended the Interact 2011 conference held in Lisbon. Larissa took part in the Doctoral Consortium and a full paper was presented by Paul as part of the user experience track titled Structuring the Collaboration of Multiple Novice Design Ethnographers: Towards a New User Research Approach. The presentation itself went well with some great follow-up questions highlighting things to address with the next iteration of  the approach.

Other stand out talks from the conference were:

Helmes, J. et al., 2011. Meerkat and Tuba: Design Alternatives for Randomness, Surprise and Serendipity in Reminiscing.

Presented by John Helmes, Microsoft Research Cambridge. Meerkat is a semi-autonomous robot that has 3 LCD screens on a robotic arm that pops up and shows combinations of photos from the user’s computer. Its behaviour appears agitated if it is ignored and conversely gets bored when it is used too much. Tuba is a flip up device that changes to random content each time it is rotated. This could be playing music, showing photos, Facebook statuses or just simple fun facts. A scraper sits on the user’s computer and gathers the content from a specified set of sources. Both projects provoked interesting questions around the relationships people have with devices in the home and types of content people are willing to have on semi-public display.

Smyth, M., Speed, C. & Brynskov, M., 2011. Critical Design :: Is It Just Designers Doing Ethnography or Does It Offer Something More for Interaction Design?

The panel was a little poorly attended due to bad location and lack of promotion from the organisers but the discussion that ensued was thought provoking nonetheless. Some interesting tensions arose between the approaches of critical design and participatory design for engaging the public in decision-making in relation to new planning projects. Many of the concepts critical design proposes are frequently inaccessible to anyone not literate in this highbrow language of understanding design. Also, participatory design seeks to involve people in the design process but this then somtimes leads to an obligation to pursue the ideas people have helped to generate.

Norman, D, 2011. Industrial Programme Secret Keynote

Don Norman gave an informal stand-up keynote without any slides in the alternative conference location at the Hotel Marquês de Sá. He spoke about the research-practice gap in relation to research groups within companies and their need to align themselves better with the product groups. He also spoke about the need for more HCI people with MBAs so that they have a much more powerful voice within companies in comparison to the marketing or engineers who can always justify their reasoning by focusing on cost.

Aliakseyeu, D., Du, J., et al., 2011. Exploring Interaction Strategies in the Context of Sleep.

Admittedly, this talk from Dzmitry of Philips Research did have a few people yawning but not due to a poor presentation. It was because the content dealt with the relatively unexplored area of sleep. This first covered the social, psychological and physiological aspects of sleep then went on to propose opportunities for interaction design in this space.

Greenberg, S., 2011. Opportunities for Proxemic Interactions in Ubicomp (Keynote).

The keynote from Saul Greenberg provided the most depth out of all the keynote speakers at the conference. He discussed a proxemic ecology (a term originally coined by Edward Hall) in relation to ubiquitous computing. This is a way of thinking about all of the devices people interact with and how their proximity to them should change the way those devices behave. Such ecology includes non-digital physical artifacts, portable media devices, people, large-display surfaces and information appliances. He closed his talk by discussing challenges including the HCI field’s ever-utopian ideals and lack of engagement with ethical issues. He used the example of looking back on the literature on hypertext and how it includes no references to porn, gambling, e-commerce or advertising.

Dalsgaard, P., Dindler, C. & Halskov, K., 2011. Understanding the Dynamics of Engaging Interaction in Public Spaces.

One of the best talks of the conference discussing 3 case studies – a Lego augmented reality app in a retail store, a ‘hydroscope’ interactive installation based in an aquarium and a media façade called Aarhus by Light. These studies were used to develop a framework for aspects of engagement for in public spaces, which were content, physical, social and cultural. More info available at

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