Beki Grinter

CHI cultures

In academia, academic management, computer science, discipline, HCI, research on May 14, 2012 at 10:41 am

I attended CHI 2012 in Austin Texas and very much enjoyed the conference. Some years are definitely better than others, and this one was a good one for me. I felt I learnt a lot and there was much to reflect on.

One theme of the conference for me was very much about the different “cultures” of CHI. I am not sure whether this is the right word, please bear with me. I was really struck by a repeating theme about how the conventions of conference publication ranging from format all the way to argument construction fits better with some versions of knowledge production than others.

The conference publication genre is very much a reflection of CHI’s history as part of Computer Science. Computer Science is pretty distinctive in having an emphasis on publishing archival results in conference publications. Some fields use conferences as opportunities to provide pre-archival feedback on projects in progress, at least others that I have been too. Its also clear that some research in HCI does not draw its intellectual origins from Computer Science but is being required to make its contribution inside a system that is shaped by the disciplinary influences of Computing.

I kept wondering if we did something(s) different what would we do to develop forums that are more accommodating of these alternate modes of working. I also wondered whether the reason that CHI persisted in the conference publication format, and whether that in turn drove HCI, was to do with power-imbalances among the disciplines represented within HCI. The latter made me think about the way in which we have been writing up the history of our field. I’ve read several pieces that account for the evolution of HCI over the years, but I am not sure that I have seen so much about what it means to be interdisciplinary from the perspective of the control over the genres of production and the resources required to do the research and how that has shaped the way that HCI is done.

Well, its just a thought.

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