CHI 2013 SIG Meeting
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There are many visions that touch on the future of human computer interaction from a trans-human future to a post-technological UI. However visions related to the progress of technology are not new. Creative and insightful visionaries from Denis Diderot to Vannevar Bush have been postulating visions of possible futures or technology for centuries. Some idealised views end up discredited with advances in knowledge, while others now appear remarkably prescient.
2 Our Question
The question is, do visions and the process of creating them have a place in CHI, or are they simply flights of fancy? Details of this CHI 2013 SIG's Objectives, Organisation, and Audience details can be found on the CHI 2013 Visions and Visioning SIG page.
This SIG meeting provides a forum for visionaries; researchers and practitioners looking to consider the place and importance of visions within CHI. Can visions, the process of visioning and forming new visions help us refine, advance or develop new research or forms of interaction. And if visions are important to us, then are they part of the regular academic process? If so, should CHI provide venues for publishing new visions?
This SIG aims to reflect on CHI’s stance towards visions as a means to advance research in human computer interaction. Are visions part of the regular academic process and should they be embraced in CHI as in the UbiComp conference? This SIG seeks to form a community of interest around reflecting on visions, the visioning process and considering if visions have a place beyond post-hoc justification of research.
This SIG aims at discussing the role of visions in CHI research and what role visions should have at the CHI conference. Committees do not create new visions nor do participants in a 90-minute SIG. Instead the goal here is to understand the place of visions and how they can aid in furthering research, development and indeed changing our perceptions of what CHI might be.
Visions allow us to consider what our preferred future for computing and interaction might be. Even before computing was conceived, visionary thinkers in art, science, the popular press and science fiction presented visions of a world underpinned by computing. Visions are typically not grounded in the problems or limitations of today’s computing environments. Instead, they provide us with a long-term view focused on a possible future. Published in papers, books, videos or other media visions can afford us a source of inspiration, the ability to spark the imagination and help communicate the thoughts and aspirations of many. Visions have successfully helped create communities of interest; where entire communities and conferences have been established based on visions.
There are many established visions we can draw on from Techno-dependency, Hyper-Connectivity, Ubiquitous Computing to Radical Atoms. Existing visions range from being ones which are explicitly defined, technologically defined by example, defined by interaction, implicitly defined or emerge naturally as a concept. Emergent visions such as the Paperless Office have formed through the popular press, only later to be questioned as myth by researchers. Visions based on technological examples have emerged from research or concepts such as the Phone Slave or Knowledge Navigator and offer a view of interaction that can inspire others to see them as visions. Visions based on views of interaction include Embodied Interaction and Instrumental interaction. Implicit visions emerge related to specific technologies such as Brain Computer Interfaces or VR and to concepts such as the Singularity , Internet of Things or Ambient Intelligence. Some visions present a more definitive view of how they would like to see the world and examples of such include Ubiquitous Computing (vanishing computer, embodied virtuality, context, pads, multi-display environments) , Memex (“WWW concepts”, brain computer interfaces, new forms of encyclopedia, speech recognition, association indexing), Tangible User Interfaces, Augmenting Human Intellect and Radical Atoms (dynamic materials, shape-memory clay) . Not all visions have come about from a single author or even a clearly defined vision statement. Some have caught the imagination or aligned naturally with emerging communities while others have languished in obscurity.
5 Use of Visions
For CHI what use are visions in practical terms?
Visions are “immortal thoughts” which endure, fly and inspire “precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.” said Emmerson. Visions have traits, problems, and functions and can be considered of different categories. Traits common to all visions are an aspirational future, san idealized past and a recognition that the technology or use of technology today is poor. Some visions are framed so far into the future that they often appear to the reader as science fiction or magic rather than a concept that can inspire or motivate research now. Other visions are much closer to our current world as they draw on established or expected developments in scenarios. As such, this category of vision is often easier to understand and embrace. In either category visions can function to communicate ideas, inspire or energise research, point out gaps in current technology, aid in community formation, act as a bridge to other fields and even improve funding. Visions do have problems, for example either being too radical or more often describing a perfect and hence unrealistic world. Despite these potential problems, visions have proven to have the power of shaping communities in Human- Computer-Interaction and guiding research efforts over many years, or even many decades. Consider for example Vannevar Bush’s vision of Memex that was published in 1945. This has inspired several generations of researchers working on hypertext interfaces – most remarkably this holds true even though Bush foresaw fundamentally different, analog technology as the basis of hypertext than the digital technology employed by Engelbart and his successors. The vision of Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp), was developed at Xerox PARC at the beginning of the 1990s. It defined their research for years, led to the creation of conferences and is still very influential on current HCI research and thinking even after 20 years. The emergent vision of the Paperless Office helped frame the thinking Xerox put into the development of PARC. While other authors presented this vision as a myth, it remains as a vision or counter-vision.
For more details, we refer to Reeves’ recent paper, which provides a thorough analysis of various roles that visions and envisioning can play.