HCI in the Belly of the Beast


ECSCW 2017 proved to be a real boost. It is a small and welcoming community, and for whatever reason I felt really at home there. Perhaps it was that extra edge to the theoretical discussions, perhaps it was the engagement-perhaps it was just all the inspirational people; either way it was a great experience. The conference was held in the city of Sheffield, hosted by the Sheffield Hallam University in the Charles Street Building, strategically located near Tamper Coffee. (Quite sure I was their best customer over these few days.)

During the master classes David Randall shared his rich experiences and insights on qualitative methods and writing for publication and Kjeld Schmidt explored some central concepts literally starting with the old greeks. The main event for me and nine fellow PhD students was of course the full day Doctoral Colloquium, wonderfully chaired by Geraldine Fitzpatrick and her on-site colleagues Jacki O’Neill, Michael Muller and Nervo Verdezoto. Jesper Kjeldskov provided av real life example of CSCW as he had to join via Skype–a virtual tour de force.
I enjoyed the keynote by famous philosopher Gloria Origgi on reputation and reputation management. On this followed a number of presentations of which I will only hilight the ones that more directly touched upon my interests (see the conference site for a full debrief).

Manisha Patel presented a paper on deference to smart devices in hospitals and how it relates to authority–something I think could be relevant to our Disa Project. Michael Muller and Yuko Okubo each presented exploratory papers that related to office work and automation. Minha Lee introduced a moral perspective in her talk on bots as intermediaries in online communication.

The first panel session was a real treat. The topic was Changing Workplaces and Technology and had the discussion continued any longer, I would have had my thesis finished there and then. Now, I got a lot of valuable input instead, for which I’m really grateful.

I had to leave on the second day but managed to catch the second panel, on designer’ intentions. This of course struck a chord with by background in aesthetics, where intention in a central concept. Noteworthy was of course Michael Mullers insights directly from the belly of the beast, as he so nicely put it.

There were also presentations related to local development on various levels (which struck a chord with the human geographer in me). Jakita Thomas’ talk on African-American middle school girls designing games for social change made me think this might perhaps be something for my department to look into. Sebastian Weise applied institutional theory with some interesting results and Gaia Mosconi gave an great introduction to the Social Street and hybrid community engagement. I’ll just have to read up on all the interesting stuff I missed out on.

One thing I learnt though, is that there are ethnos walking the earth here and now, and if you can’t beat them you might as well join them. Hopefully I’ll see them again in Nancy next year – although I just missed the first deadline.

Leave a Reply