About Ken Hinckley

Ken Hinckley is the Editor-in-Chief at ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), and a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research. He writes here about news and emerging research published in the TOCHI journal; you can follow his own research on sensors, pen (and touch) computing, and many other topics at kenhinckley.wordpress.com.

Final Reminder: Re-imagining Participatory Design special issue deadline soon (Jan 2017!)

Our special issue on Re-imagining Participatory Design deadline is coming up very soon (we recommend sending your abstract to the special issue editors by Jan. 5 — see details at the link below.)

In case this opportunity has not yet caught your attention, here’s a little blurb for the special issue:

 

In recent years it seems Participatory Design has become synonymous with a more neutral form of ‘user-centered’ design, often merely aimed at a sort of token involvement of users in design, but in its deep roots—and hopefully in its re-imagined future to come—Participatory Design empowered intervention upon situations of conflict through developing more democratic processes.

Rather than a sort of corporate memo that has lost its verve by being xerox-copied one time too many in service of bland and generalized “information technology” needs, this Re-imagining encourages a return to Participatory Design’s vibrant roots in giving voice to oft-marginalized and under-represented classes of users.

With this perspective in mind, TOCHI extends an invitation for the community to think boldly about the future of participatory design.

To get involved, check out:

http://tochi.acm.org/re-imagining-participatory-design/

And we hope to see your submission in January 2017.

 

By |December 13th, 2016|Categories: 2017, Call for Papers, Special Issues|Tags: |0 Comments

The Editor’s Spotlight, Part 1 — TOCHI Issue 23:4 — Rituals of Letting Go: An Embodiment Perspective on Disposal Practices Informed by Grief Therapy

TOCHI Issue 23:4 is now available on the ACM Digital Library.

This month’s TOCHI has an unusually rich and far-ranging set of contributions, some of which forced me to confront deep personal truths (more about that shortly, in this post).

And while there were several articles that piqued my curiosity, two in particular caught my editorial eye. The first of these is featured below, the second will appear shortly in a follow-up post.

 

IN THE SPOTLIGHT, Part 1:

Rituals of Letting Go: An Embodiment Perspective on Disposal Practices Informed by Grief Therapy

This article offers a great example of the rich insights that can be unpacked by a thorough qualitative analysis of an HCI design context—in this case, the challenges of loss and grief that we all must eventually confront, and which therefore may be the essence of the human condition itself.

This unique problem takes on some strange twists in this modern era, when many of the “possessions” representative of our loved ones who have passed on assume an online and digital, rather than physical, form. How can one confront such an overwhelming task—going through thousands of digital photos, or blog posts, or a Facebook timeline which may not even be under your direct control—in such circumstances?

Furthermore, one might naturally assume that one always wants to retain such digital possessions, whereas the reality is much more complicated. Indeed, to move on, what many people need is in fact a therapeutic way of letting go—an end-goal spectacularly ill-suited to the inflexible, binary, and non-embodied methods that computers and web services currently offer us for deleting digital objects (or massive collections thereof).

And I have to admit, this article really hit home because it represents a very deep, dark hole that I have fallen into myself: Kerrie, my first spouse, died at the tender age of 29, just as I was embarking on my career at Microsoft Research. As I tried to put my life back together, one problem I had to confront was what to do with my wife’s greeting, which may have been the only recording I had of Kerrie’s voice, on our voice mail. While I will leave the solution that I came up with to the reader’s imagination, I can assure you that hitting some Delete button is about as far as you can get from a satisfactory solution to such a dilemma, and indeed there are no easy answers.

Because people flattened by such events (which the authors astutely expand to encompass related circumstances such as stillbirth, separation and divorce, as well as death itself) are in no condition to participate in some focus group or contextual inquiry, the article takes the clever indirection of working with professional grief therapists, all of whom helped clients to prepare “rituals of letting go” so as to move on with their lives—a new life that by necessity could no longer could include their loved one.

And indeed, the problems faced and the type of rituals enacted depend strongly on such circumstances, leading to a vocabulary of action and intent that the authors characterize in a rich design space. The work also suggests many new design directions and possibilities for HCI and sustainable, full life-cycle design to help people divest themselves of emotionally charged digital possessions.

To riff on the novel direction of release-centric interactions suggested by the article, imagine, for example, a digital-photo locket explicitly designed for letting-go such that each time you choose to open it, it displays a photo (or a voice message…) of a loved one for the very last time; when you decide to close it, an embodied act, the echoes of the emotionally-charged digital artifact would drift away on a chill wind and be gone forever, allowing the survivor—if only symbolically, and in a small way—to move on.

The article is rich with provocative examples, situations, and design questions of this sort, and reading it may very well forever change how you think about the design of photo repositories, voice messages, texts, and other such digital possessions.

 

Corina Sas, Steve Whittaker, and John Zimmerman. 2016. Rituals of Letting Go: An Embodiment Perspective on Disposal Practices Informed by Grief Therapy. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 23, 4, Article 21  (August 2016), 37 pages.

DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2926714

 

Updated Call-for-Papers: Re-imagining Participatory Design

[This special issue call is now closed to new submissions.]

 Schedule and Submission Details

Pre-Submission Abstract Due: Sept 15, 2016  Jan 5, 2017 (email to reimaginingpd@gmail.com)
Full Manuscript Submission deadline: Oct 05, 2016  Jan 23, 2017 (must submit to: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/tochi).

Author Notification (first round): Jan 10, 2017  April 27, 2017
Revisions due: March 1, 2017  June 27, 2017
Author Notification (second round):  May 10, 2017  Sept 20, 2017
Final revisions due: Aug 10, 2017  Oct 15, 2017
Special Issue Published: Late 2017 (estimated)  January 2018 (Vol 25, Issue 1)

 

Please refer to the full text of the call for details on submitting to this special issue.

A Quick Update on the TOCHI Editorial Board

The TOCHI journal continues to strive for greater heights.

And in recent events, as an institution it has grown far wiser as well.

Because I am happy to report that four illustrious new members have graciously accepted my invitation to serve on the Editorial Board:

Pourang P. Irani (University of Manitoba);

http://www.cs.umanitoba.ca/~irani/

  — Per Ola Kristensson (University of Cambridge);

http://pokristensson.com/

  — Wendy E. Mackay (Université de Paris-Sud); and

http://insitu.lri.fr/~mackay/

  — Albrecht Schmidt (University of Stuttgart).

http://www.vis.uni-stuttgart.de/en/institute/people/prof-dr-albrecht-schmidt.html

Each of them are accomplished innovators, lecturers, and researchers—if not a force of nature in their own right—and I’m very excited for the vision and guidance they will all bring to the board. And these reinforcements arrive just in time, too, as TOCHI is on a record pace for new submissions this year, with manuscript #155 having just entered the queue as of mid-July.

And that doesn’t even count the revisions.

So needless to say, there’s plenty of editorial work to go around. Our average response time continues to hew to about 50 days, although admittedly this obscures a highly bimodal distribution: we decline many submissions within a few days, while those that go through full external reviews usually take longer. We strive to issue a decision letter within 90 days, but that isn’t always possible—especially during the summer, when almost all prospective reviewers (somehow having the gall to enjoy their sunny holidays) tend make themselves rather scarce!

And if your manuscript has been with us for more than 90 days, please do feel free to query tochi@acm.org so that we can check on its status. Such queries, when necessary, often constitute a useful prod to stir reviewers and editors (including myself!) to imminent action.

Perhaps now is also a good time to remind everyone, oh ye of the faithful TOCHI readership, that 2016 will herald the first annual TOCHI Best Paper Award. We expect to make our selection(s) in early 2017, with all papers published in Volume 23 being eligible. I would love to receive your nominations for our best papers published in 2016, to be sure they receive full due consideration for the award. Just drop us a line at tochi@acm.org. And please do include a brief statement as to why you think the paper is especially deserving—that may be just the thing necessary to push it over the top, given the consistent excellence of all the work that we publish.

TOCHI Article Alert: Diminished Control in Crowdsourcing: An Investigation of Crowdworker Multitasking Behavior

Diminished Control in Crowdsourcing: An Investigation of Crowdworker Multitasking Behavior

This sixth, and final, contribution in this jam-packed issue of TOCHI investigates the complexities of crowdworkers who (much like the rest of us, sadly enough) typically cannot spend even 5 minutes (and probably far less if they happen to be an Editor-in-Chief) on any task without getting distracted, or interrupted, by something else.

Yet, as the authors of this article point out, the presence of naturalistic interruptions in crowdwork, in completely uncontrolled settings outside of the laboratory environment, presents both challenges and opportunities.

The challenge, of course, is rather obvious: if crowdworkers are attending to other tasks, they are most pointedly not attending to their crowdsourced task, which may be a source of undesired variability (if not outright poor performance) in experimental results. The authors therefore set out to see if they can detect, and possibly mitigate, such interruptions.

The opportunity is less obvious, but arguably even more important. The effect of naturally occurring interruptions—as opposed to those artificially imposed by laboratory settings—has received surprisingly little attention in the literature, presumably because such naturally occurring interruptions are deviously difficult to elicit, and study.

The article makes great progress on both fronts, illustrating in detail how crowdworker inattention can be detected, and even limited through appropriate interventions, while also illustrating how the presence of interruptions and distractions in the real world allows for naturalistic study of these behaviors, turning a supposed “nuisance” into the object of study.

It’s a clever turnabout by the authors, and I learned a great deal about this space by reading the article.

But I must admit—

I do find it vaguely disturbing that such is the state of modernity, that it has proven necessary for the term crowdworker to creep into the English language in the first place … but then again, perhaps I am bit too familiar with science-fictional tropes for my own good (grin).

(http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2928269).

 

TOCHI Article Alert: Design and Usability of Interactive User Profiles for Online Health Communities

Design and Usability of Interactive User Profiles for Online Health Communities

This work takes an in-depth look at how people in on-line communities can tap the rich sources of expertise and compassion represented by other community members who are facing (or have surmounted) similar health challenges.

The effort is lent especially noteworthy resonance, and depth, and practical impact, by the authors’ partnership with CancerConnect.com, a web site that serves as a resource and social network for cancer patients (and their caregivers).

Such connections are vital for patients—who are rarely medical experts themselves—when they are suddenly forced to navigate challenging health issues where the mentoring and support of “someone like me” can have a major impact.

But first the patient must actually find, and engage with, precisely the right person in such a community, which is where the design of Health Interest Profiles come into play. The authors therefore consider, in depth, key considerations for the design of such profiles, which surface the topics and activity related to other members in such communities.

Along the way, the authors surface many great insights that lend a greater appreciation of the difficulties this poses, while also naturally leading one to envision interesting new hybrid designs that might pave the way for further progress on this important problem.

(http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2903718).

 

TOCHI Article Alert: Target Acquisition vs. Expressive Motion — Dynamic Pitch Warping for Intonation Correction

Target Acquisition vs. Expressive Motion: Dynamic Pitch Warping for Intonation Correction

This article concerns techniques for the dynamic correction of pitch during production of continuous sounds on digital musical instruments, driven by stylus input on a tablet in this particular case.

While at first blush this might sound very far from the issues typically of concern for input devices, the authors do an excellent job of relating this problem to issues typically encountered when pointing in graphical user interfaces, relating it to techniques such as Expanding Widgets (in visual space) and Sticky Icons (in the motor space), for example.

Through a series of algorithm explorations and studies, this contribution illustrates how a dynamic corrections influence both the accurate production of notes, which is one concern, as well as free-form expressivity (such as vibrato, ligato, and glissandro) in the manner in which the notes are produced, which is a second—and often competing—concern in musical performance (if not for input devices in general).

The results are convincing, and intriguing—such as the authors’ suggestion that their dynamic correction could be applied to the beautification of ink strokes, a thought that indeed had occurred to me, as well, as I read this article (perhaps unsurprisingly so, given my longstanding interesting in pen computing).

The authors also note that the technique is available under a freeware license, and has been implemented in the Cantor Digitalis—which won first place in a recent musical instrument competition.

(http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2897513).

 

 

TOCHI Article Alert: SlideSpace: Heuristic Design of a Hybrid Presentation Medium

SlideSpace: Heuristic Design of a Hybrid Presentation Medium

This article presents a systematic deconstruction, and reconstruction, of presentation authoring based on a scholarly and incisive analysis of the design space of presentation systems, leading up to the design of a presentation tool known as SlideSpace.

The SlideSpace system offers many strengths and complementary properties to existing presentation tools, whether derived from the prevalent metaphor of slides or that of the canvas, because indeed it offers an intriguing hybrid of the two (while also strongly supporting elements of a third, the stage metaphor, where visual elements enter and exit the screen, often with well-crafted animations).

User feedback made clear that SlideSpace is especially well suited to more formal, businesslike presentations where the clear big-picture and hierarchical structure imposed by an outline view brings significant value, but what I perhaps found the most thought-provoking was the way in which the work suggests a rich design space of hybrid presentation systems.

Indeed, I found myself wondering if one could go in a different direction from the same core analyses, and contemplate other styles of hybrid presentation tool that might (for instance) reverse the formal and structured nature of the presentations afforded by SlideSpace, to perhaps cater to more freeform and informal ‘talks’ or collaborative sessions.

Whether or not this is a good idea, the general principles and heuristics articulated by this TOCHI article could certainly go a long way in informing such a venture, if not even more intriguing visions for ‘The Presentation of the Future.’

(http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2898970).

 

The Editor’s Spotlight, Part 2 — TOCHI Issue 23:3 — Mobile Phones as Amplifiers of Social Inequality among Rural Kenyan Women

IN THE SPOTLIGHT, Part 2:

Mobile Phones as Amplifiers of Social Inequality among Rural Kenyan Women

This short but extremely incisive article offers a remarkable shot across the bow of (at times overly) optimistic technologists, such as myself, who typically operate under the worldview—(which if we are being charitable amounts to an unquestioned assumption; or if less so, then nothing but an unsupportable myth)—that the technologies we work so hard to create are always positive forces for change in the world.

Yet in this case, as the authors of this article so meticulously document, the mobile phone itself can in fact serve as a massive amplifier of injustice, and impoverishment, and other social inequalities that are prevalent in many (and especially in the more rural) corners of the globe.

Aspects of this perspective will perhaps come as no surprise to those working in the Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICTD) sub-discipline of our field. Such insights are presaged by some of Toyama’s work, for example, who pointedly noted that technology “tends to amplify existing social inequalities”—a law of amplification driven by the unequal motivations and capabilities (as forms the focus in this particular article) between rural Kenyan women and the powerful corporations that control the mobile networks in the country, and design the services (often in ways that glaringly elevate their own interests above those of their impoverished customers).

And it is in the unpacking, and illustration, and spelling-out of the insidious technological challenge of addressing these differential motivations and capabilities that this TOCHI paper shines.

The authors report in considerable depth on a series of field studies which were undertaken in rural Kenya—challenging studies which, by their very nature, are not ‘controlled’ or ‘repeatable’—yet are rich with ethnographic detail and design insights nonetheless.

This, in my view, is a must-read TOCHI article that can, and should, give us all pause as to the advisability of some (or perhaps many, or even most) of the interventions that our technological fancies would lead us to undertake.

What exactly to do about this is a very difficult problem, but without first surfacing such challenges and making them apparent, we cannot even take the first steps towards designing a better world for all persons—and particularly for the under-represented and the marginalized among us, as opposed to the highly profitable (and at times seemingly unscrupulous) corporations that would so readily take advantage of people through carrier lock-in and other such questionable practices.

 

Susan Wyche, Nightingale Simiyu, and Martha Othieno. 2016. Mobile Phones as Amplifiers of Social Inequality among Rural Kenyan Women. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 23, 3, Article 14  (June 2016), 19 pages.

DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2911982

 

The Editor’s Spotlight, Part 1 — TOCHI Issue 23:3 — Predicting Team Performance from Thin Slices of Conflict

TOCHI Issue 23:3 is now fully available on the ACM Digital Library.

And in my editorial remarks for this month, I felt compelled, once again, to Spotlight two key contributions in this latest and greatest issue, the first of which is as follows:

 

IN THE SPOTLIGHT, Part 1:

Predicting Team Performance From Thin Slices Of Conflict

The balance of positive to negative affect during episodes of marital conflict has been found to be highly indicative—even years in advance—of functional marriages (as opposed to dysfunctional ones). This is a well-established result.

Indeed, the finding has been extended to dyads engaged in negotiation, or in pair programming, for example.

But it has remained unclear if the significance of affect applies to groups more generally.

Or even under the reasonable presumption that it probably does, this has still left unresolved the tricky question of how to study it, and how to elicit ‘thin-slices’ of conflict (e.g. a frank, 15-minute discussion of difficulties plaguing a team project) in a practical manner that is amenable to further analysis, scientific and otherwise.

Thanks to the pioneering efforts of this TOCHI article—including a novel methodology for the elicitation of conflict from small groups—the predictive power of an overabundance of negative affect (contempt, criticism, defensiveness, etc.) relative to positive expressions (interest, humor, validation, and so forth) has been convincingly demonstrated, for the first time, as highly predictive in terms of the long-term success of teams (of up to 4 individuals) engaged in design activities.

While the slices of conflict are thin, the analysis (and insights thus derived) are deep, and indeed were highly predictive of the teams’ success up to 6 months in advance.

The author presents two in-depth studies, the first of which had the participants self-assess their affect by watching a recording of their own conflict session and setting a dial to indicate their real-time feelings (a continuous value from very negative, to neutral, to very positive).

The second study followed up the first with an objective measure of affect, derived from extremely thorough video analysis of each individual’s affect (including detailed capture of all utterances, and facial expressions, and body language). While a smaller sample, coupled with the first study the general pattern of findings is convincing.

The potential applications of this work, its methodology, and its findings are many.

To cite just one example, the author notes that, broadly speaking, the design of groupware and CSCW applications have tended to focus on the support of task-oriented processes—as opposed to the socio-emotional processes of the team.

This may be a critical mistake.

While some baseline of support for the group’s actual tasks and work is (of course) necessary (as articulated by the coordination theory of Malone & Crowston, for example), the findings of this new TOCHI study argue strongly that it is the coordination of affect, as opposed to that of the tasks, that is the key defining characteristic of success in team endeavors.

 

Malte Jung. 2016. Coupling Interactions and Performance: Predicting Team Performance from Thin Slices of Conflict. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 23, 3, Article 18 (June 2016), 36 pages.

DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2753767