Conducting HCI Research in the Wild: Distributed Cognition and Situational Awareness in Human Centered Design

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited academic talk


We are seeing a dramatic shift in the nature of computing in our everyday lives, increasingly entering people’s homes, bodies, and public spaces, while transforming lifestyle choices and the critical ways in which we act in the world. How do we conduct participatory research and human-centered design to better engage the complex interactions situated in naturalistic settings and the new kinds of socio-technical practices emerging? In the mid 1990’s Edwin Hutchins posited Distributed Cognition as an integrated framework to reorient how we make sense of the embodied, socially-distributed, and cultural contexts of interactions between people and technologies in the wild (i.e. in environments beyond the lab or workplace). His field research, while initially conducted on the decks of ships and in airplane cockpits, is just as relevant for Human Computer Interaction (HCI) research today.

In this presentation, I will describe the opportunities and challenges of leveraging Distributed Cognition for HCI research, using several illustrative projects using digital augmented tools to support everyday note-taking practices, wearable audio computing and interactive community portals for situational awareness, and civic media and mobility data in urban contexts. Through this work I consider the role of cognitive, sensory and networked ethnography in HCI research, while examining the tensions between undertaking computational, machine learning, and human-centered inquiry to critically interrogate seemingly intractable problems in the wild.
Period27 May 2019
Held atDepartment of Computer Science
Degree of RecognitionLocal