Thursday, November 26, 2009

Best Thread Ever for Interactive Interface (Systems) Designers: James Landay's "I Give Up on CHI/UIST" post + 63 comments

I'm considering resuming my graduate studies in the near future, and came across this incredibly insightful discussion surrounding James Landay's November 7th post on his DUB For the Future (Thoughts on Human Computer Interaction, User Interface, Design) blog.

James focuses his work on user interaction and user interface systems. I found that his comments reflect some of my personal concerns, because I know that if I continue my studies, I will have to submit my research to CHI or UIST in the future.

At any rate, I Give Up on CHI/UIST will take some time to read, but I encourage you to do so, especially the comments section, where you'll find the opinions of Bill Buxton, Mary Czerwinski, Merrie Ringel Morris, and other important people in the land of Human-Computer Interaction. 

Here are a couple of quotes from people who commented on Landay's post:

"Recent debate over how we, as the CHI community, assess the use of novel system work that tries to contribute to our understanding of how people _will_ interact with technology in the future, rather than understanding the past -that is how people are currently using or have used existing technology- has emerged, e.g. [Greenberg & Buxton. Usability evaluation considered harmful (some of the time). CHI’08], [Kaye & Sengers. The Evolution of Evaluation. CHI’07] and most recently [] "  -Floyd

"I too am sitting on the cusp of deciding between transitioning from a M.S. to a PhD or going into industry. One of the biggest problems I see is that CHI/UIST publications are taken into heavy consideration in the process of evaluating your PhD work. Your credentials and the criteria for hiring come down to "counting" the number of solid publications you have. This means that a student becomes restricted to a handful of conferences (CHI/UIST) that forces them to work inside a system. When I am planning my next project, as a graduate student, I am forced to think strategically. What work has the best chance of getting into CHI? This means, that from the outset, before I even have thoroughly thought through my ideas, I have constricted myself to doing work that is based on expectations set forth by the CHI community. These are the expectations that lead me to pick projects that are 6-10 weeks in length, and are based around studying interaction techniques, asking interesting research questions and validating it with a “pile of t-tests, chi-squares, and ANOVAs”, or interviewing 15-20 domain specific subjects for retrieving qualitative data (that often results in “self-evident” design implications). I am not trying to de-value this type of work or methodology, but am simply emphasizing that we are placing ourselves inside a box that is less about creative output and more about working a system." -Anonymous

More about James Landay:
James Landay is an Associate Professor in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington.  He specializes in human-computer interaction, and is a founding member of the University of WashingtonDesign:Use:Build (DUB) Center, a cross-campus interdisciplinary group of HCI and Design researchers.

I came across this topic via Kevin Arthur's Touch Usability blog. Kevin Arthur is a usability analyst working with touch interfaces at Synaptics in Santa Clara, CA. 

1 comment:

James A. Landay said...

I appreciate you linking to my post. I encourage you to still consider graduate school in HCI/D and I'd be glad to chat with you in email about some of the issues you raise. I have been impressed by the strong support since my post. There are many in the HCI/D community trying to change things and I think we will over the long run. It just takes time.