Call for Papers: Special Issue on Rural Computing and HCI

Deadline for abstract submissions: Friday January 10th, 2020

45 percent of the world’s population—over 3 billion people—live in rural areas. Scholarship has begun to amplify the already innovative practices and opportunities of rural communities for HCI, while drawing out the uniqueness that defines rural spaces. For example, research on the role of social technologies for LGBTQ people living in rural towns, the Kenyan “camera men” who work in rural villages, agricultural experimentation and sociotechnical interventions in rural Taiwan, and hunters and small farmers in the Midwest reveal alternative relationships between people and technology. The urban bias of user-generated content on sites like Wikipedia, the creation of digital community boards in the rural UK, and the deployment of interactive voice forums for farmers in rural India demonstrate the need for unique technological interventions in rural communities. Overall, this research highlights characteristics of rural areas that make them ill-suited for technologies designed with the city in mind—sparse populations, limited internet bandwidth, practices in primary production environments (e.g., agriculture, forestry, fishing), and different modes of knowledge production/sharing.

Rural areas thus offer us novel insights on privacy, location, values, and space for imagining more diverse forms of information infrastructures and technologies. HCI can and is offering an important counter to popular media that often emphasizes the apparent helplessness of rural people in the face of complex sociopolitical and economic crises—whether it be about outmoded infrastructure, lack of jobs, and health crises. Such a counter aligns with the “cultural turn” in rural sociology, geography, and public health research that speak to “multiple” ruralities, the interconnectedness of urban and rural spaces, and the active enactment of rural identities.

Information for Contributors

The time is ripe for a special issue at ToCHI on rural computing that seeks to build and grow a computing research community interested in celebrating rurality. Such an issue will contribute to deeper discussions from ICTD, emboldened by postcolonial, social justice, and feminist perspectives, questioning the dominance of cities in design. We seek scholarship dedicated to understanding, designing, and building computing technologies that are particular to the needs, aspirations, and practices of rural areas around the world. We welcome narratives on how research can avoid parachuting, dehistoricizing, and imposing upon rural communities sometimes wary of past research and efforts that have promised technological change. In parallel, we also seek contributions that help legitimate rural computing not as “niche area” but rather a space offering exciting opportunities to benefit design for all of us. HCI has an opportunity to work with the rural as a legitimate voice of expertise in design.

We welcome articles that contribute to this special issue in the following ways:

  • Theoretical work that explores, problematizes, or locates rurality in HCI, especially work that tackles issues of multiple ruralities (e.g., developed VS. developing rurals, queer and other identity-based understandings of rurality, etc.)
  • Work identifying and offering potential solutions to methodological challenges of the rural, including the challenge of bridging rural and non-rural populations or researcher fatigue
  • Articles that introduce concepts outside HCI that can help us better understand the complexities of geography and rurality
  • Work that considers popular discourse around the rural
  • Empirical studies of the design and use of technologies in rural places, particularly studies within the unique context of local rural culture and values (e.g., novel insights on privacy, location, values, information infrastructures)
  • Design methods that engage with rurality in equitable and inclusive ways, or that propose new ways of thinking about and doing design methods in rural places

We will use a standard journal review process for this special issue, with two rounds of reviews and revisions. Authors are required to submit a short abstract (300-500 words) and a tentative title prior to the full paper submission to be reviewed by the special issue editors. Please submit the materials (abstract and title) to by Friday January 10th, 2020.

Authors should address the following in their abstracts:

  • Description and motivation for the work, methodology, and primary contribution
  • Definitions of rural: How rural is being defined or conceptualized in their proposed paper and whether that definition is truly representative of the data and experiences of participants (if applicable)

More details on the call and its motivations can be found at:

We welcome any inquiries about possible contributions. Please contact the special issue editors at

Details on ToCHI submission formatting and procedures can be found at:

Manuscripts should be submitted via:

Special Issue Editors

Norman Makoto Su (Indiana University Bloomington)
Jean Hardy (University of Michigan)
Morgan Vigil-Hayes (Northern Arizona University)
Tiffany Veinot (University of Michigan)

Schedule for Special Issue

We will use a standard journal review process for this special issue, with two rounds of reviews and revisions. Authors are encouraged to submit a short abstract (300-500 words) and a tentative title prior to the full paper submission to be reviewed by the special issue editors. In consultation with the journal managing editor, we will select a list of qualified reviewers for the special issue.

The tentative reviewing timeline is as follows:

Abstract submission (300-500 words) deadline: Friday January 10th, 2020

Feedback on abstract to authors (incl. Quick Reject): Friday January 31st, 2020

For papers that pass the abstract review will be invited to submit a full paper, with the following tentative schedule:

Full paper submission deadline: Friday March 20th, 2020
First-round reviews to authors: Friday May 15th, 2020
First-round revision deadline: Friday July 17th, 2020

2nd-round reviews to authors: Friday August 21st, 2020
2nd-round revision deadline: Friday October 2nd, 2020

Notification of acceptance/rejection: Friday October 16th, 2020
Authors work on camera-ready copies and prepare for final submissions: Friday October 30th, 2020

Publication is currently scheduled for December 2020