This fellowship will investigate and bridge the gaps between Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) theory and the practical realities of designing and building interactive technologies. It will produce new ways to weave HCI theory into practice, feed experiences from practice back to theory, and enhance methods of working together across disciplines and sectors.
Innovating, designing and studying interactions with digital technologies across a diverse and ever-widening range of activities and settings is a signature challenge of the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Much HCI seeks to address how best to design interactivity for a range of purposes and technologies, from improving usability, productivity and efficiency in user interface components, to developing collaborative systems for workplaces, to creating new art, cultural and leisure experiences with mobile devices, interactive displays and novel tangible user interfaces.
However, HCI has an uneasy relationship between this strong practical focus on the applied aspects of designing and building interactive technologies, and its theoretical innovations. Ill-defined, the wealth of HCI 'theory' that has developed since HCI's inception assumes a wide range of different forms: from 'big-T' theories such as Activity Theory, and models such as Fitt's Law, to frameworks and taxonomies, to broad 'sensitising concepts', recommendations, guidelines, principles, heuristics and rules-of-thumb. And yet, in spite of this proliferation of theoretical work, little is known about how such theoretical knowledge is practically manifest 'in the wild'; i.e., how it is actually applied in practice both within HCI research (beyond limited terms such as citation), as well as across industries developing interactive digital technologies which encounter HCI-related issues.
Of this theoretical HCI knowledge, it is frameworks-a way of packaging up HCI theory into disseminable and reusable parcels in order to inform subsequent design and application-which have arguably been most successful, at least within the HCI research community. However, like the wider problem affecting theory and its relation to practice, little is known about how these frameworks are actually applied in practice even within research communities. This fellowship will develop ways to bring this wealth of knowledge into practice and application more readily, easily, and accessibly for those working within HCI research, and in areas outside research that are impacted by HCI issues. Through exploring HCI frameworks in this way, the fellowship will address the wider issue of theory-practice connection.
This fellowship seeks to perform three key duties:
1. Deliver, via ethnographic work, detailed empirical understandings of the current role that HCI frameworks play in the design, development and evaluation of interactive experiences within research and industry. As part of this it will cross a range of domains in which interactive technology design work takes place, including digital technologies in culture and media (e.g., digital arts); the home (e.g., smart homes, energy monitoring); and workplaces (e.g., interaction / user experience design consultancy work).
2. Develop tools and techniques to support the practical application of HCI's theoretical products such that they can be operationalised for research and industry domains which increasingly encounter HCI-related issues, as well as within HCI research itself.
3. Support and strengthen a nascent interdisciplinary community concerned with the broader issue of bridging theory and practice. This will deliver long-term impact maintaining future research to study and refine the tools and techniques for applying HCI frameworks to a range of practices.