Beki Grinter

HCI4D or HCID? Values

In discipline, empirical, HCI, ICT4D, research on June 27, 2011 at 8:38 am

In some of the Information and Communications Technologies for/and Development (ICT4D, ICTD) an important distinction is drawn between whether it is for or and. To paraphrase Tim Unwin, ICTD (i.e., and) has foci of what is, and what can be done. ICT4D asks critically, what should be done and how should we do it? While both entail a degree of social change (asking what can be done), ICT4D has a much stronger moral agenda of making change.

As HCI becomes increasingly interested in the “Global South” so we’ll be asking whether we’re going to do HCID or HCI4D. I think we’ve adopted the label HCI4D, but for some within the community that means as it does in ICT4D. See for example, Ho et al. in the special issue of ITID focused on HCI4D. I wonder whether the community at large has internalized the distinction, do we use HCI4D because it is the most popular term or does it reflect our stance?

There has long been a recognition that values matter in design. But recently, I am under the impression that there’s more attention to this, and to questioning whose values. It comes in a variety of forms. First there are efforts like HCI4D that for some are very intentional moral as well as scientific positions on the role of design. Second, there are critics of persuasive computing. For example, Purpura et al.’s Fit4Life paper that examines the principles of persuasive design applied to their logical conclusion on a technology for individual weight management. (link to the paper One of the things I very much like about this paper, and another piece by Maitland et. al. is that they both get at the important point that persuasive computing is taking a moral position (positing what change is right) and they both want to have a discussion about the consequences of that. And third, I just finished reading Shaowen and Jeff Bardzell’s CHI paper (well one of them, I think they could have had their own session) on Feminist design. One contribution of a feminist approach is to navigate a path between the distanced “truth” of science and an active agenda of social change.

As I write I think that values may not be the right term here, although I am at a loss for something better. I am struck I suppose in all of these by a tension between traditional notions of science, pursuit of knowledge, and the far more morally complex terrain that opens up when we come to design. HCID or HCI4D? Scholars in this area are asking us to take a position, but I walked away from CHI this year thinking that there are more voices in this arena than just those associated with the Global South.


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