Beki Grinter


In discipline, HCI, ICT4D, research on May 24, 2012 at 11:05 am

One of the many things I’ve learnt as I have learnt more about ICTD is that there is an intentionality to the presence of the 4 in some of the formulations of the name. In other words, Information and Communications Technologies and Development is different from Information and Communications for Development. And its not just difference in words, the choice means something.

Information and Communications Technologies and Development concerns the relationship between technologies (whether in use, or being built) and development. By contrast, Information and Communications Technologies for Development is the study of what should be done and how it should be done. It ties research to the practice and takes a stronger moral stand about the outcome, that something should actually happen.

I like this because of the degree of intentionality it gives to the process of doing research and its outcomes for the people who participate in that work. Of course you can see the same type of intentionally in participatory design, action research and in some of the recent discussions about Value Sensitive Design. But the intentionality is tied to the methods used, its about the discipline itself, the corpus of knowledge and the common shared values of the community.

In HCI the term HCI4D has been gaining increasing traction—I have not seen the term HCID in use—but perhaps its time to have the same type of discussion about whether we are for or and. And this discussion would happen at an interesting time in HCI, as I have heard other discussions about whether there is a common core in the field, and if so what it is that unites the collection of very diverse activities in HCI.

  1. You’ve probably seen this, but Jonathan Donner had a post on this in the ICTD space late last year: More recently, we’ve had a long discussion on HCI4D related to setting up a SIGCHI community. Interestingly, there most of the discussion was more about the “D” than the “4.” There were *many* different concerns voiced, ranging from the colonial overtones to concerns that the term itself is marginalizing of the research (you know, *that* kind of HCI,stuff that isn’t really relevant to the rest of HCI discourse). In the end I think most people felt like the HCI4D brand had stuck for better or worse and we might as well just make the best of it.

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