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From HCI to HCI-Amusement: Strategies for Engaging what New Technology Makes Old


Abstract and Figures

Notions of what counts as a contribution to HCI continue to be contested as our field expands to accommodate perspectives from the arts and humanities. This paper aims to advance the position of the arts and further contribute to these debates by actively exploring what a "non-contribution" would look like in HCI. We do this by taking inspiration from Fluxus, a collective of artists in the 1950's and 1960's who actively challenged and reworked practices of fine arts institutions by producing radically accessible, ephemeral, and modest works of "art-amusement." We use Fluxus to develop three analogous forms of "HCI-amusements," each of which shed light on dominant practices and values within HCI by resisting to fit into its logics.
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From HCI to HCI-Amusement: Strategies for
Engaging what New Technology Makes Old
Laura Devendorf
ATLAS Institute, Information Science
University of Colorado, Boulder
Kristina Andersen
Future Everyday, Industrial Design,
Eindhoven University of Technology
Daniela K. Rosner
Human Centered Design and Engr.
University of Washington
Ron Wakkary
Simon Fraser University
Eindhoven University of Technology
James Pierce
Design Division, California College of
the Arts
CITRIS, University of California
Notions of what counts as a contribution to HCI continue to
be contested as our eld expands to accommodate perspec-
tives from the arts and humanities. This paper aims to ad-
vance the position of the arts and further contribute to these
debates by actively exploring what a "non-contribution"
would look like in HCI. We do this by taking inspiration
from Fluxus, a collective of artists in the 1950’s and 1960’s
who actively challenged and reworked practices of ne arts
institutions by producing radically accessible, ephemeral,
and modest works of "art-amusement." We use Fluxus to
develop three analogous forms of "HCI-amusements," each
of which shed light on dominant practices and values within
HCI by resisting to t into its logics.
Design Research; Fluxus; HCI-Amusements; Contributions.
ACM Reference Format:
Laura Devendorf, Kristina Andersen, Daniela K. Rosner, Ron Wakkary,
and James Pierce. 2019. From HCI to HCI-Amusement: Strategies
for Engaging what New Technology Makes Old. In CHI Conference
on Human Factors in Computing Systems Proceedings (CHI 2019),
May 4–9, 2019, Glasgow, Scotland Uk. ACM, New York, NY, USA,
12 pages.
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Over last few decades, researchers have continued to chip
away at, rework, and expand what counts as a contribution
within the eld of HCI. Research programs such as criti-
cal technical practice (e.g. [
]), research through design
(e.g. [
]), feminist HCI (e.g. [
]), critical making
(e.g. [
]), speculative design (e.g. [
]), and post-colonial
computing (e.g. [
]) have been particularly eective in ush-
ering in the perspectives from the arts, philosophy, social
sciences, and humanities. These research programs expand
contributions from technical objects to ways of formulating
and demonstrating critical positions through the framing of
design or its modes of practice. For instance, when describing
the value critical technical practice, Phoebe Sengers writes,
"it is important that there be a critical voice within [engi-
neering practice] to make sure that engineers around the
world are building things that we want to have as a society
or that are making the world a better place and not just a
more high-tech place" [59]
Making room for perspectives from "outside" of engineer-
ing can (and has) allowed the HCI community to ask better
questions about technology and society and to take up our
designerly practices towards a more diverse range of criti-
cal positions [
]. Historically, one can see this
expansion represented in the three "waves" of HCI, each
supporting increasing levels of intellectual diversity [
]. Ex-
ploring the diering forms of accountability that accompany
diverse "ways of knowing" is necessary in order to support
engagements and conversations across disciplinary lines [
Additionally, expanded perspectives support calls for HCI
to depart from "business as usual"—to shake up our eld
such that we are able to speak to the complexity and entan-
gled nature of the technological, social, and environmental
problems that face us today [42, 44, 46].
Yet, the forms of accountability and proof that accom-
pany methods from arts and humanities challenge long-held
standards of scientic rigor, producing contestation about
the most productive ways to engage these methods for HCI.
For instance, some debates have tackled the limitations of
established forms of proof, such as implications for design
sections [
] or user evaluations [
]. Others express
competing values in how "research through design" is prac-
ticed and described [
]. Given all of these concerns
and perspectives about the challenges that face the world to-
day, and the worry that contributions in HCI, in their present
form, may not be able to adequately address them, we de-
cided to test the boundaries by asking what would happen if
we engaged in a practice that would not constitute a contri-
bution by traditional HCI metrics? Guided by our intuition
and prior practice—
what might happen when we seek to
create a non-contribution for and within HCI?"
In this paper, we describe how the technological new shapes
the practices and matters of concern for HCI. Specically,
how our practices of novel technology, linear progress, and
broad impacts often shapes the objects and situations we
study as well how we report that our interventions or obser-
vations "worked." These logics tend to shift research focus to
frictionless futures, leaving a present world of persistent and
unsettled challenges in the margins [
].Our non-
contributions attempt to address these left behind matters
of concern by drawing inspiration from Fluxus, a network
of artists working in the 1950’s and 1960’s who sought to
develop new forms of art that challenged the exclusivity,
commodication, detachment of "art" from the realities of
everyday life. Specically, we form an analogy between Art
and what Fluxus described as "Art-amusements" and HCI and
what we will present as HCI-amusements, which highlight
the boundaries and subjectivities of our eld by resisting to t
into its logics. We describe three forms of HCI-amusements—
a correspondence, copublication, and cookbook which direct
attention to the everyday and non-technological, embrace
uncertainty and non-linear outcomes, and allow for the ex-
change of highly personalized and subjective prompts for
action. We envision these amusements circulating as "para-
research" within the HCI community, creating a space for
sharing alternative or critical stances. Just as Fluxus eventu-
ally became folded into the cannon of ne art, we hope these
"amusements" may become woven into the mainstream of
HCI ushering in expanded forms of engagement, critique,
and multi-/inter-/anti-disciplinary practices that work to-
wards more livable, but not necessarily more "high-tech"
When Wobbrock and Kientz set out to map HCI’s forms
of knowledge production in 2016 they began by acknowl-
edging the distinct but "relatively few" forms of knowledge
production across disciplines. Distinguishing among types,
they oered seven categories relevant to the eld: empiri-
cal, methodological, theoretical, dataset, survey, and opinion
[12]. Each of these forms shared a common goal of produc-
ing "a research contribution by oering a new knowledge,"
dierentiating such knowledge from "everyday know-how"
as a result. Within the HCI design community, debates on
"designerly ways of knowing" have oered an expanded
perspective, outlining the various forms of rigor and rele-
vance positioned through material development, authorship,
and intervention. In its various incarnations, arguments for
producing understandings through design practice spear-
head a broader recognition of abductive reasoning comprised
mainly of empirically-driven explanations and inferences.
Gathered together within the edited volume Ways of Know-
ing in HCI [
], this range of epistemic values has recently
highlighted the contours of positivistic, interpretivist, and
critical expression.
Our work takes up a frequent kinship between "new knowl-
edge" and "novel technology," which we use the term "tech-
nological new" to encapsulate. We focus on the specic ways
that the technological new produces the old, irrelevant, or
simply "everyday." Thus, the technological new is not formed
by necessity, or some demand imposed by mythical HCI
overlords, but comes about as a result of a set of entangled
practices required to communicate that one’s research oers
a contribution.
Cli Lampe describes a contribution as that which allows
someone to "imagine new stories" [
], which addresses the
open-mindedness of HCI to make space for multiple ways
of knowing and doing design work—a quality of this com-
munity that the authors’ have beneted from and appreciate.
At the same time, it still hinges on the word "new," which,
implicitly brings in notions of departure or progress as well
as politics—who gets to say what is new and what isn’t?
As Kavita Philip et al. write in their analysis of the role of
the new in perpetuating colonialism in design, "the assign-
ment of novelty lies at the heart of how we value technical
work" [
]. In this sense, judgments of what is "new" and
worthy technological pursuits are mutually constructed.
Judgments of what is worthwhile or relevant for technolo-
gists are informed by a range of inuences and play out most
concretely in peer-review. Because the "new" is contested,
one often is obliged in writing HCI papers to tell review-
ers and the audience how their project is new or dierent.
This work is much easier when one can appeal to novel or
emergent domains of technology and the futures in which
they thrive. While focusing on a concrete piece of technol-
ogy and the new functions or possibilities it illuminates, it
sidelines attention to what was remade or connections to
historic modes of practice. In some cases, it may also direct
researchers towards obviously new and under-researched
technologies of rather than seeking subtle, but potentially
meaningful revisions or reexaminations of technologies or
topics that are no longer fashionable. It is not that one can’t
do work that attends to the "old", but that one assumes risk
in doing such work. As HCI researchers who have security
in academic positions, we acknowledge that we feel freedom
to take these risks in ways that others may not. Our goal,
then, is to acknowledge our privilege while encouraging our
eld to reect on how these kinds of "risks" are entangled
with the specic forms and practices maintained by our eld.
Thus, we look beyond, after Duguid, "the apparent choice
between leaping to the new or drowning with the old" [
to surface other kinds of relationship and insights that can
inform design.
Our call for exploring what a non-contribution would take
is made explicit somewhat independently of the wider worlds
in which that contribution takes hold. In this universalizing,
we congure the stakes of our endeavor as veering on, if not
outright embracing, the self-indulgent. In this speculation,
our strategies of non-contribution arguably rest on the im-
plication that the people who may eventually participate in
their design have, like us, the capability to do so—the time,
the space, the will, the freedom. They rest on the assumption
that the technological new and technological necessary are
not the same. For example, sites of disease management or
disaster response already focus on what they have in the
present, independent of the form they take (playful, amus-
ing, non-deterministic, or simply vital). These ways of fore-
grounding the present and unsettled come at the expense of
future planning and necessarily set apart the present from
the possible futures that may never take place. Rather than
trivialize or exoticize the new, we oer this musing as a
chance to complicate the whole. That is, with our provoca-
tion we mean to grapple with the range of lines drawn in
the sand that set expectations for what is possible ahead, but
also what is expected today.
Fluxus describes a collective of artists whose practices en-
gaged with, but also resisted, the structures of avant-garde
art in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In much the same way that we
aim to rework the limiting practices of the technological
new, Fluxus sought to rework the limiting practices of the
mid-century avant-garde. Their radical tactics oer us in-
sights as to how our non-contributions could be productively
structured to engage HCI while working against its logics of
the technological new.
In a recent discussion of cultural probes, Boehner, Gaver
and their colleagues also described work from Fluxus artists
serving as a specic inspiration: "More concrete inspiration
[as compared to detoumement and derive associated with
the Situationist International] came from Fluxus boxes, pack-
ages of diverse games, cards suggestions produced as part
of the avant-garde movement, which suggest that research
materials might also be produced as similarly diverse loosely
organized collections" [
]. The cultural probes drew from
Fluxus an attention to multisensory engagement that led
to forms of conversation through provocation and material
exploration. Since their introduction, probes have informed
a range of traditions within and beyond HCI in ways that
inspire a widening of knowledge contributions, particularly
around the value of humanistic insights. In this project, we
are creating a set of probes of an autobiographical sort [
in the sense that they probe our research practices in order
gain insight about our eld and to generate possibilities for
communications and exchange about HCI that emerge apart
from traditional ideas of a contribution. In the paragraphs
that follow, we’ll introduce Fluxus as well as the forms and
tactics they used to rework the logics of the avant-garde
which directly inuenced the forms we present for HCI.
Art Amusement is to Art as HCI-amusement is to HCI
Our project nds its roots in one of Fluxus’ many manifestos,
written by Fluxus artist and writer George Maciunas in 1965
entitled Fluxmanifesto on Fluxus Art Amusement [
]. Printed
with black oset ink on a small (6cm x 17cm) sheet of paper,
the manifesto oers a distinction between the avant-garde
and Fluxus art-amusement. We have preserved the incorrect
grammar to give the reader a stronger sense of the style of
this particular Fluxus text:
Fluxmanifesto on uxamusement-vaudeville-art? To estab-
lish artists nonprofessional, nonparasitic, nonelite status in so-
ciety, he must demonstrate own dispensibility, he must demon-
strate selfsuciency of the audience, he must demonstrate that
anything can substitute art and anyone can do it. Therefore this
substitute art-amusement must be simple, amusing, concerned
with insignicancies, have no commodity or institutional value.
It must be unlimited, obtainable by all and eventually produced
by all. The artist doing art meanwhile, to justify his income,
must demonstrate that only he can do art. Art therefore must
appear to be complex, intellectual, exclusive, indispensable,
inspired. To raise its commodity value it is made to be rare,
limited in quantity and therefore accessible not to the masses
but the social elite.
This manifesto outlines the dominant logics used to justify
labeling a particular practice "art"—art practice must be ex-
clusive (made by professional and establishment artists), rare
(the works must be singular and precious), and skillful (it
must demonstrate the unique capacity of an artist to produce
work that cannot be performed by the lay public). Fluxus art-
amusement, visible in the works of Yoko Ono, Nam Jun Paik,
or Trisha Brown, proposed something dierent: reworking
the institutions of art to make space for the mass produced,
nonprofessional, and quotidian. Furthermore, Fluxus did not
seek to oppose art (though it is often mischaracterized as
anti-art), instead, it engaged art to the extent required to
rework and expose its logics, creating space for new forms
of art practice and social engagement. In the years following
Maciunas’ essay, Fluxus art-amusement often took the form
of endlessly reproducible publications with no particular au-
thors, instructions that posed prompts for others to perform
in everyday life, or ux-box kits full of everyday trinkets and
assemblies that holders were invited to touch, rework and
manipulate [33, 34, 38].
The rst Fluxus tactic that we engage is the event score—
vague instructions oered for others to execute in daily life.
Event scores form anities with music scores; only they
provide notation that a person can interpret to perform spe-
cic actions in daily life. For example, George Brecht’s Two
Exercises is composed as a personal letter, complete with
handwritten address, signature, and stamp, sent to Albert
M. Fine [
]. The letter describes a short series of steps for
deliberately moving and categorizing objects in two steps. It
begins by asking its reader to "Consider an object, call what
is not the object ’other.’" It follows with instructions to "Add
to the object, from the ’other,’ another object, to form a new
object and a new ’other.’ Repeat until there is no more ’other.’"
Yoko Ono’s self-published collection, Grapefuit, contains sev-
eral poetic gestures that hint towards the absurd, asking its
readers to do things like "imagine one thousand suns in the
sky" and then "Make one tunash sandwich and eat." [
These prompts place very loose specications on who, how,
or when they would be performed. They simply function
as gestures, oerings of modest form exchanged between
artists or crafted for broader audiences. In cases where they
were sent between artists, event scores created space for per-
sonal and intimate forms of exchange. Collections of event
scores with associated texts, manifestos, and artworks were
distributed through low-cost publications released through
the independent Fluxus publishing outt "Something Else
Press" [37, 43].
The second Fluxus tactic is the construction of "Fluxk-
its," collections of objects oered as prompts for engagement.
Designed to provoke personal exploration of commodity
"low-brow" culture and to be endlessly reproducible [
Fluxkits were originally envelopes and boxes that held an ar-
ray of cheap, often mundane materials: mixed-media musical
scores, evocative photos and poems, and everyday objects
like a napkin or medical examination glove. The kits would
be displayed, and people would open, read, and manipulate
the items. Later versions included cards with instructions,
food such as beans, and instruments for performance. In one
example, Finger Boxes, a person could stick a nger inside
one of many identical boxes to discover unique tactile sensa-
tions, literally probing the materials within. The box might
prick, it might squeeze, or it might wrap around the nger.
As Fluxus artist Hannah Higgins explained, "merely to look
at them is to experience them only partially" [38].
While Fluxus attempted to create friction with the avant-
garde of its time, its logics and forms opened pathways for
broader engagements for performative methods in ne art.
As art historian Natilee Harren describes, "Today, with the
eorescence in contemporary art of experimental forms of
publishing, performance, social practice, sound, and myr-
iad forms of new media, the impact of the international,
neo-avant-garde Fluxus collective seems to register every-
where" [
]. They are what sociologist Howard Becker would
refer to as a collective of "maverick" artists, whose work is
"useful in producing the variation required to rescue art from
ritual" [
]. In the following sections, we draw from Fluxus–
its radical activism and inversions of the new—to make a
similar move in HCI, reworking our rituals of research and
contribution to broaden its subjects of inquiry.
As a manner of investigating these concerns in a structured
manner we took up Fluxus’ methods of personal exchanges,
collections, and alternative publications as a starting point
for our HCI-amusements. By using Fluxus as a compass to
navigate inquiry into the boundaries and subjectvities of the
technological new we ask:
What kinds of forms and practices emerge when we
turn away from the new to, instead, attend to the per-
sistent, unsettled and non-digital?
What tensions might these forms and practices create
with our typical practices of attribution and impact?
How does sidelining the technological new allow us
to pay attention to things in a dierent manner?
The HCI-amusements that emerged are: a correspondence;
a co-publication, and a cookbook. In the following sections,
we describe these forms in detail, charting their capacity to
sensitize researchers and let them sit with themes of persis-
tence, non-linearity, rigidity, sameness, and emergence apart
from a specic design trajectory or concern.
1: "So I made this thing" - a correspondence
The rst form that emerged in this inquiry was structured en-
gagement in a designerly form of personal correspondence.
The correspondence borrows the logics of exchange illus-
trated in Brecht’s Two Exercises and took place between An-
dersen in Europe and Devendorf in the US. The exchange
was initiated by collaboratively and quickly drafting a set of
size: matchboxes
Figure 1: "So I made this thing" was a correspondence between Devendorf and Andersen that involved the sending and receiving
of matchboxes lled with objects and the production of "things" composed those items.
simple padded envelope
timing: return in 10 days
no pressure
theme: so I made this thing
The quickness and eortlessness of composing the rules,
with little consideration of "research" impact or discussions
of success was the rst step towards resisting our best re-
search impulses. Implicit in this rule structure was the Fluxus
attention to the personal. The rules reected our existing
knowledge of each other’s lifestyles and perpetual hang-
ups with over-thinking. The constraints are set up to scope
simplicity—"it" must t in a box, the box will be exchanged,
and it will result in a thing.
Devendorf and Andersen exchanged ve boxes between
Summer 2016 and Winter 2017 (Fig. 1). There was an inten-
tional choice by the parties involved to resist rationalization
by avoiding any correspondence about the exchange. Specif-
ically, we did not discuss our correspondence apart from
logistical coordination (e.g. I sent mine on this date, I’ll send
one soon when things calm down).
The rst box sent from Andersen to Devendorf implicitly
set up an additional set of "rules" and structures in the form
of objects: a pile of loose cotton bers, a rubberband, a glow
in the dark star with adhesive backing, and a safety pin ap-
peared as a disjoint collection of things to be composed into
a new kind of thing. Each form could be examined dier-
ently now that it had been separated from its original context
and placed in juxtaposition with the others in the box. De-
vendorf approached these objects as though they were a
kind of thing-grammar, each one representing or fullling
multiple qualities of objects: pointy, soft, brous, childlike,
glowing, and so on. Placed in juxtaposition with another
"thing" made them into something new: a character, sculp-
ture, or "agentic assemblage" [
] with a unique capacity to
aect our thoughts an action. Once assembled, Devendorf
made the choice to rell the box with a new collection of
objects that fullled a similar set of object qualities as those
in the original box (e.g. a pointy thing, a form of currency,
Rules bred rules throughout the exchange: some dened
by actions Devendorf and Andersen explicitly did or did
not perform; some created by livelihoods of the materials
involved; and some imposed by the infrastructures involved
by the activity. Specically, human choice inuenced and was
inuenced by the way the person creating a box imagined
that their materials would be able "strike" the other. It was
important that the box felt like a gift, a gesture, an exciting
parcel to unwrap and explore. The form of the box focused
attention to small materials and the quality of the box being
shipped across an ocean and not to return had the aect of
focusing attention on the readily available; junk; or everyday
discard of Devendorf and Andersen’s lives. The structure of
the mail system between countries imposed rules on what
kinds of materials would be permissible through customs
and considerations of what a customs agents might suspect
from particular collections. The rigidity of any given rule,
or the degree to which we felt motivated to comply, was
individually negotiated in relationship to what we felt would
allow the exchange to persist. The matchbox persisted; the
rule to exchange in 10 days did not.
For Devendorf, the amalgamation of rules had the aect
of starting an ongoing thread in her brain that considered
materials in a new way—moments cleaning up the house
would often reveal an interesting object to consider for the
exchange. In other cases, it inspired trips through fab-labs
to collect interesting small material waste: neon green 3D
misprints that resembled fabrics or tiny stacks of paper dis-
carded from a paper plotter. The task of populating a box
became an adventure in looking through abandoned drawers
and neglected oce shelves. It prompted consideration of
materials before they entered the trash—such as the silica gel
freshness packs included in snack food. When placed in the
gift exchange boxes, objects began new itineraries [
becoming objects of attention rather than discard. When sent
to someone across an ocean, they had the unique quality of
being at once universal and personal: things like sticks, pen-
cil stubs, coins, string, the fasteners that one nds on bags
of bread are immediately recognized as items that seem to
be universally pervasive, yet they also speak to the specic
environments of the sender, allowing us to recreate some
idea of life by way of the things they had at hand to discard.
At the same time, these universal objects became objects of
admiration when re-contextualized within the activity. We
began to consider the bag fastener as a sculptural element,
an interesting shape, and an object for holding together.
Within our correspondence, actively resisting our im-
pulses to consider a goal, a research contribution, a mark
of success or failure, or the development of a technological
thing created a space for reection on the persistence of
things that populate the peripheries of our daily lives. Fur-
thermore, the decision to exchange through the mail brought
forward elements of more personalized craft, gifts that passed
through many hands in order to arrive at their destinations.
The exchange was delightful and amusing as it cultivated an
active kind of "looking" and exploration that Devendorf and
Andersen felt beneted their work as designers while not
tting into one activity in particular.
2: Disruptive improvisation - a copublication
The second form that emerged through our collective engage-
ments with Fluxus was a co-publication. Much like "zines"
(e.g. [
]) the copublication was composed by 23 people,
compiled into a pamphlet, photocopied at a print shop and
informally distributed by its authors.
The co-publication emerged out of a CHI 2018 workshop
on "Disruptive Improvisations" which was devoted to ques-
tioning how practitioners in HCI engage the kind of non-
deterministic activities characterized by Fluxus in their daily
design practices [
]. The workshop was an exercise in ex-
ploring what forums within our community might be best
suited for sharing such practices. We solicited entries to the
workshop on methods researchers used to make the familiar
seem strange, consider alternative possibilities, and meditate
on design in everyday life. We asked participants to submit
tactics in the form of a written "recipe for making" as well
as texts that reect on themes that contrast the technologi-
cal new: uselessness, no-technology, failure, modesty, and
Members of the CHI community responded enthusiasti-
cally to the call, suggesting a desire for a broader community
to contribute to and participate in the kinds of exchanges our
Fluxus inspired actions proposed. Participants came from
established design, human-computer interaction, anthropol-
ogy, and art programs and each submission presented tactics
that the author had found productive in their practice or
had developed to engage non-determinism within their de-
sign process. Each tactic was informed by the practitioner’s
eld of study and utilized methods from sketching, to perfor-
mance, to craft. For instance, one tactic involved: conceptual-
izing new kinds of wearables by writing a body part, adverb,
and a verb based on movement on separate cards; randomly
drawing from those cards; and sketching the ideas they in-
spired. The result in one case were concepts for "steadily
eating little ngernail." Another asked participants to iden-
tify metaphors for interaction and for themselves (Fig. 2),
which resulted in participants engaging in "unlicensed ther-
apy" sessions.
During the workshop we performed the proposed tac-
tics in three groups of roughly nine participants each. Each
group member presented their tactic to the group and then
Figure 2: The "Disruptive Improvisation" copublication, a collection of tactics for making and non-linear outcomes. The com-
plete pamphlet and set of tactic are available online at
the entire group would take 15 minutes to perform the tactic.
The groups began to take on very strong personalities, with
one group becoming so rowdy with laughter as to warrant
a scolding from the workshop organizers. In this sense, the
dynamics of the collective of people performing, in the par-
ticular context of an academic workshop, shaped how the
tactics were engaged—often trading private reection with
social performance. Social rules emerged in addition to the
human-thing-infrastructure rules mentioned previously. Fur-
thermore, the situating of the activities within CHI brought
a kind of utility and set of metrics to the activities that we
avoided in our personal correspondence. Specically, the
tactics often functioned as non-deterministic brainstorming
techniques or ways to "discover" design scenarios that a piece
of software ought to support. While this orientation towards
progress is part of what we began by trying to resist, the
location of a sterile conference, the time constraints of 15
minutes per tactic, the participants being "researchers" with
nametags, and the presence of generous and open-minded
corporate sponsors sired an adaption that translated to brain-
storming for design groups, workshops, or classrooms.
After the tactics were performed, we instructed groups to
create spreads for a copublication/zine based on their expe-
riences. We supplied very few rules for what this might look
like and again the group dynamics took over, as dierent
groups strategized as to how they might parlay their experi-
ences in a publishable format. One group simply delegated
one page to each group participant to document their tactic,
another collectively produced "postcards" depicting "avocado
radish ice-cream" or a drawing of the workshop participant’s
table. Devendorf, Andersen, and Rosner met the day after
the workshop to turn the spreads produced at the workshop
into a pamphlet that could be photocopied en-mass. We met
at a café, spread out the material we had collected and be-
gan putting a "master" copy together (Fig. 2). Devendorf and
Rosner hand-transcribed each tactic with the name of its
associated author for a cover page; Andersen printed out
the workshop call onto a small portable Sprocket printer
and axed it to the back cover; and we used a saved stack
of torn construction paper, that we found to be particularly
beautiful at the workshop, to create the cover.
We view the copublication as an artifact that oers itself
up for reference in a way that a series of performed events
cannot. We included the names of each participant as a form
of care and recognition of their participation—something
that they may need to bring back to their institution for pur-
poses of support or funding. At the same time, while we had
originally envisioned them going "viral", traveling beyond
the people to which we distributed, we have not heard much
back. Our feeling is that the format is too incomprehensible
(and also oered in more digestible form on the workshop
web page). Its acceptance of any and all points of view or
areas of interest made it of little appeal to any person in
particular. While we learned that there is a broader commu-
nity of researchers interested in engaging Fluxus-like tactics
in their practices, and the possibility of transitioning these
techniques into course activities and brainstorming tech-
niques, the copublication left us wanting forms that were
more strongly positioned and subjective.
Figure 3: Cookbook: TACTICS FOR ATTENDING TO THE OLD AND THE ALREADY THERE, each strategy takes the form of
a recipe and an example of an outcome from the authors.
3: A cookbook of HCI-amusements
The third form we present is a cookbook that draws from the
lessons of our correspondence and copublication. Whereas
the copublication exists as a stand-in or reference point for a
series of actions performed, cookbooks oer a collection of
prompts and manifestos that call for action ahead. Their form
takes inspiration from Fluxus as well as broader collections
of "chance operations" and artful instructions have been
compiled over several decades [17, 41, 51, 61].
To more concretely envision this form, we developed a
cookbook entitled, Tactics for Attending to the Old and Al-
ready There. The content was generated by an exchange
between the authors in which we drafted tactics for each
other to perform; performed them in our daily lives; and
shared outcomes. The resulting cookbook oers these tactics
to a broader audience, beginning with a short introduction
of the activities oered inside and a series of rules including,
"Deprioritize language and analysis (until later)" and "Allow
there to be no reason." The following pages of the cookbook
contain instructions for things like "paying attention", "al-
lowing dierence" and "suspending judgment." For instance,
the instruction for paying attention consists of the follow-
ing steps: Go for a 10 minute walk; Document objects that
are connected to each other by string-like objects; What are
the objects, what does the connector allow to ow through?
Narrate what you saw. It is followed by a short description
of what we noticed when we performed the task:"Dog on
chain, allowing for the ow of kinship and connection. String
holding up hollyhock, through it owed care and control."
Our cookbook is a form of publication that allows sub-
jective and specic oerings for others to take up in their
own practices: accounts of strategies, methods of madness,
examples galore. Sewn together as a book, cookbooks oer
themselves for someone to take up or leave behind and thus
elide traditional metrics and politics of quality and contribu-
tion. As such, it presents a space for voicing strong positions
or visions of technopolitics, and for illustrating actions that
may shed light on our eld by resisting operationalization
within it (e.g. the turning of readership in to citational counts
and "h-indexes"). At the same time, such cookbooks could
prompt gestures from others—activities intended for readers
to perform in order to bring about embodied experiences in
addition to intellectual ones. Within the realm of cookbooks
and their exchange, we might be able to envision emergent
discussions about an HCI of the not-new, ways of attending
to persistent challenges, and problems apart from possible
(or "preferable") solutions [3].
Much like a collection of recipes for cooking, an HCI-
amusement cookbook contains recipes for action—reecting
the personal tastes, ideas, and practices of its author(s). As
a genre, it serves to illustrate an intermingling of aective,
practical, and cultural sensibilities. Yet, unlike other com-
pendia, we nd the cookbook additionally illustrates the his-
torically political and contingent nature of collection work.
Nearly six decades back, Herbert Simon dismissed the "cook-
booky" and "intellectually soft" knowledge of a design of
the articial [
]. In our current exploration, we see the
cookbook as a political inversion: elevating the gendered
labor typically dismissed as lesser or other. The cookbook-as
a reference to the "soft" sensibility that escapes the stud-
ied, arguably male, scientic eye-takes up the language of
cookery to invert this dominant gaze, the forms of canonical
contribution that continue to harden the technological new.
Rather than oering another novelty or upholding the idea
of the technological new once again, the cookbook plays
with the old, traversed, and already done (if still unseen or
We envision the cooks, in this sense, as HCI researchers,
performers, and activists selecting books or recipes based
on their relationship with that author and/or their interest
in the recipes and ingredients inside. These books may be
exchanged at conferences, handed from one person to an-
other or left on tables for others to serendipitously acquire.
We see this subjective selection as meaningful, even if it fails
to generalize. The content may serve an unnamed public or
it may invite a public to borrow from the activities crafted
for a particular person.
We began this project by taking a strong position to explore
the non-contribution as a means of attending to what HCI’s
focus on the technological new might leave out. In the end,
we engaged in three forms of practice: a fun designerly per-
sonal exchange that changed the way we related to everyday
objects and each other; a group exchange of techniques ori-
ented towards individual interests and tactics which became
encapsulated in a DIY publication; and a concept for an-
other kind of publication to be circulated that oers strongly
subjective exercises for others to perform. By turning away
from the new, we developed a fascination with the banal,
most specically, the artful form and specicity of fasteners
found on plastic bags containing bread. As such, our activi-
ties started threads of attention to things often overlooked,
from fab-lab trash to international customs agreements, to a
fascination with concepts for augmented ngernails. In each
case, determining if the HCI-Amusement "worked" requires
a more modest form of evaluation. Success becomes more
complicated to assign because it can take multiple forms and
resides in multiple locations. For example, we would con-
sider a cookbook to be a success if it were to cultivate new
perspectives within a single reader, if it were to inspire large
communities to take up new forms of practice and thought
(say, as part of teaching materials or generative brainstorm-
ing techniques), or if the person who engaged the practice
considered it to be a success in a more personal sense. Success
is more personal, felt, and modest than what we typically
consider in evaluating contributions in HCI.
Will our HCI-amusements solve the most pressing issues
facing the world?—probably not. But could they lay the foun-
dation for some practices of more reectively seeing, think-
ing, relating to, and engaging in the world that eventually
become enacted into more actionable projects towards more
livable futures?—to this end we are hopeful. With this hope-
fulness in mind, we use the following sections to: oer a
vision of new forms of circulations that bring HCI and HCI-
amusement into a deeper conversation; the various align-
ments this project forms with other initiatives to broaden
the purview of HCI; and a reection on the contribution of
our exploration of non-contributions.
HCI-Amusements as Para-Research in HCI
Our original re-engagement with Fluxus was aimed at unset-
tling the progressivist nature of the technological new. To do
this, we have been taking a decidedly non-progressivist posi-
tion that advocates for non-contributions in the form of the
ordinary and the non-technological. However, as stated ear-
lier, we take this position for and within HCI. We desire to see
our interventions folded into HCI as a way to expand forms
of engagements and to foster an HCI that is multi-/inter-/anti-
disciplinary in what feminist scholar Rosi Braidotti calls a
"joyful armation of counter-subjects" [
]. Hewing to our
Fluxus commitments, we suggest these activities take on the
form of para-research. By this we mean, working alongside
dominant practices in ways that that eventually lead to a
reworking of HCI into a collective of dierences and logics
of para-research and research practices alike.
Arguably, the critique of avant-gardism by Fluxus is a
non-progressivist reframing of cultural production that is
achieved through engagement rather than opposition. The
embracing of the "all and everything" as art by Fluxus, the joy-
ful armation of what makes culture, avoids the avant-garde
dilemma of being the harbinger of the next new dominant
practices and institutional standards. The progressivist nar-
rative of avant-gardism, an antecedent to our neo-liberal era,
is progress by ongoing creative destructions and continuous
innovations. A process in which the past cultural achieve-
ments are logical fodder for new cultural achievements in an
endless cycle forward. Harren observes in Macuinas’ writ-
ings and many drawings that "Fluxus art history is depicted
as a history of asynchronous anities snaking in multiple
directions across an emphatically two-dimensional matrix,
attesting to the artists’ thoroughgoing anti-modernist view
that cultural history is cumulative, additive, and extensive
rather than linear and mono-directional" [33].
Similarly, the para-research of HCI-amusements sidesteps
the problematics of progressivist narratives by evolving in
non-linear accumulations in which we look back for ani-
ties like Fluxus, and in this paper, position ourselves to look
forward for future anities within HCI. HCI-amusements as
para-research can now serve to identify and name what has
been left behind by the technological new, the mundane and
inconsequential (what Fluxus saw as the value of the detritus
left on the streets), and the activities that form across infor-
mal engagements with non-researchers, mentors, family, and
friends through conversations, social outings, sharing drinks,
to the "goings on" of everyday life as a matter of knowing
in HCI. Lastly, this stepping aside of progressivist narratives
through para-research, opens HCI to a greater concurrency
of ways of knowing, of which HCI-amusements is only one.
In this way, we hope to see other forms of para-research in
which the prevailing practice can give way and make space,
for alternative contributions to HCI.
Ainities with Other Research in HCI
Engaging in our study of the non-contribution has also led
us to reect on how our work situates itself among practices
like speculative [
], critical [
], reective [
], adversarial
design [
], and cultural probes [
]. While we share values
for critical reection and playfulness that motivate these
approaches, we make a conscious choice to refer to these
as HCI-Amusements as opposed to "Amusing Design." We
make this choice to emphasize design practice over outcomes
and to identify a community (HCI) to which the activities
are oriented and exchanged. Perhaps most closely aligned
with cultural probes, HCI-amusements turn probes back to
the HCI community, creating space to reect on our own
practices, share gestures, and inspire new visions for the
eld and its core concerns. Furthermore, we envision HCI-
amusements and their modes of exchange as being radically
open-ended, oering collections and recipes for action with
no expectations of response or "next steps." More like gifts
than research products or methods, HCI-Amusements create
a space for sharing ideas and activities apart from any specic
logic of evaluation.
The specic HCI-amusements we suggest, particularly the
collections which take the form of a copublication and cook-
book share much in common with "zines" and card decks for
designerly action. For instance, Garnet Hertz’ collection of in-
dependent publications on Critical Making [
] and Disobedi-
ent Electronics [
] compile and share submissions from nu-
merous authors across the arts, humanities and engineering.
Fox et al describes how zines can circulate in and out of HCI,
fostering broader engagement [
]. Zines conjure the
aesthetics of punk and activism, making space for marginal-
ized opinions to ourish outside of standardizing bodies.
Card decks such as IDEO’s "method cards" [
] or Logler et
al’s Metaphor Cards [
] prompt their performer or player
to undertake specic actions in forms that elicit designerly
disruptions and reection. While the HCI-amusements we
describe envision similar modes of circulation and disruptive
practices, they are more specic in the kinds of content they
suggest: focusing specically on the inclusion of activities
for embodied and focused engagement while outside any
particular research application.
The Contribution of our Non-Contributions
Our exploration of the non-contribution and the forms it gen-
erated has ultimately relied on the same metrics for approval
that our work aims to broaden—highlighting that dierent
forms of publication and exchange carry dierent modes
of respect, attention, and consideration. While we aim to
introduce new channels of exchange, CHI papers are still
the dominant form of communication in HCI and currently
oer the best potential for engaging broad audiences in dis-
cussing and reecting on the issues we address. We see this
paper as serving the missions of the HCI-amusements/para-
research by drawing attention to our project by way of a
peer-reviewed citable publication and a conference presen-
tation. This format brings with it a sense of credibility by
the community and can perform work within contexts of
promotion and professionalization that the para-research
forms we suggest do not hold at present. As such, the paper
format allows us to introduce HCI-amusements and their
motivation, encourage creation and exchange of such for-
mats, and may eventually lead to broader adoption and recog-
nition as we have seen with new publication formats like
pictorials. Furthermore, dierent formats allow for dierent
modes of rationalization and discourse. A "traditional" CHI
paper allows us to provide this rationalization, the story of
how our amusements emerged, while leaving particular HCI-
amusements, like cookbooks, to be more focused on action
and strong positions apart from narratives of why or how.
Through the production of a series of HCI-amusements, we
have argued that certain practices of design may be more
impactful (in a personal and subjective sense) if questions
of evaluation, analysis, and contribution are sidelined. We
describe forms of exchange, publication, and circulation
that could make space for these kinds of highly personal-
ized and subjective gestures and exercises among HCI re-
searchers. Using art history as a guide, we argue that our
"HCI-amusements" should circulate independently of, but in
direct with relationship to HCI, in order to maintain a critical
correspondence produced through dierence. We hope that
the ongoing expansion and acceptance for diverse kinds of
research at HCI will eventually nd ways to weave in the
practices we suggest.
The authors would like to thank the participants of the Dis-
ruptive Improvisation workshop and HP for their generous
support of the workshop. This work is supported by the Na-
tional Science Foundation under Grant Nos: 1755587,
1453329, 1423074, 1523579 and by a NSERC Discovery Grant
and a SSHRC Research-Creation Grant.
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Conference Paper
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This one-day workshop invites designers, researchers and practitioners whose work might involve design, to collectively speculate about designed artefacts and technologies through the creation of drawing conversations: visual dialogues resulting from the merging of drawings created by different people. The workshop aims to use drawing as an activity for collaborative engagement with ambiguity, interpretation and mutual learning. Through drawing activities, we aim to join in Venice's rich creative traditions, and develop speculative visualisations in order to find common grounds between the diverse research interests of our organisers and participants.
... Given these pressing disruptions to the earth's "polyphonic assemblages" [64], a growing community of researchers in HCI have argued that existential issues, those that deal with the fundamental relationships between humans and the planet, require the development of alternative approaches that aim to decenter the human within the design process. These strategies foreground nonhumans as stakeholders and require new tactics such as somatic practices of noticing [8,17,44,47] or engagement with nonhuman beings or 'things' more broadly [18,66] in order to develop "successful" outcomes. Permission to make digital or hard copies of part or all of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for proft or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the frst page. ...
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Given the ongoing environmental crisis and recent calls within HCI to engage with its cascading efects on the more-than-human world, this paper introduces the concept of the eco-technical interface as a critical zone at which designers can surface and subvert issues of multispecies relations such as nonhuman instrumentalization. The eco-technical interface represents the sites at which human, nonhuman, and technological interfaces overlap, ranging from remote sensing for conservation to smart devices for precision agriculture to community science platforms for species identifcation. Here, we highlight the pervasiveness of the eco-technical interface as a set of sites for further HCI inquiry, engage with the politics and instrumentalizing tendencies at three particular sites, and demonstrate tactics for cultivating attunement to, refexively accounting for, and subverting instrumentalization in multispecies encounter.
... Drawing Conversations is an exercise developed for speculating about artefacts through drawing in partnership with others. The exercise was partly inspired by the 'so I made this thing' correspondence between Devendorf and Andersen [11], exquisite corpse surrealist games and by ideational drawing exercises. As a trial, the first exercise was with industrial designer Jon Marshall [57], who regularly uses drawing in his work. ...
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This pictorial paper presents design experimentations using drawing, watercolour and storytelling as forms of speculation about artefacts and technologies. The use of watercolour, a medium that bleeds and has leaky boundaries, allowed ambiguity, defamiliarization and critical reflection to enter the research space, encouraging new understandings of artefacts and their latent possibilities. Watercolour was also valuable for speculating about designs that deal with bodily fluids, and for Drawing Conversations that facilitated reinterpretations of artefacts through drawings created by two different people. Intersecting themes about cognition, creativity and technology, this pictorial presents examples that illustrate how watercolour drawing can impact on the representation of speculative concepts, including the creation of visual conversations. The drawings shown here are presented as representations embodying families of ideas and themes related to the objects they symbolize, together with the design spaces they suggest and the stories they invite us to imagine.
... We draw inspiration from these expressions while respectfully leaving their deeper meanings untouched. Drawing from event scores of Fluxus, HCI-Amusements, and Oliveros [21,37,38,41,42,67,68], this perspective presents simple text instructions to prompt embodied reflection. 4. Go to a corner, turn your back away from the room, and wear the cone as a dunce cap 5 . ...
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In this pictorial paper, we present a series of drawing conversations held between two humans, mediated by computational GAN models. We consider how this creative collaboration is affected by the hybrid inclusion of more-than-human participants in the form of watercolour and artificial intelligence. Our drawing experiments were an extension of our search for new ways of seeing and telling, which includes a reflection of the extent to which more-than-human elements took part in our creative process. We discuss our tendencies to form strange interpretations and assign meaning to the unpredictable and ambiguous spaces we created with them. We further speculate on the characteristic material agencies they revealed in our interactions with them. Finally, we contend how such collaborations are already and always embedded and embodied in our ways of seeing and knowing in design and creativity research.
This article investigates new relations with things that are expansive and inclusive of the pluralities and differences within our entanglements with technologies. We do this by extending our commitments to the methodological approaches of material speculation and co-speculation that led us to engage in multi-year conversations between ourselves as design researchers, philosophers, and a counterfactual artifact we designed, known as a Tilting Bowl. The philosophers lived with the Tilting Bowl during this period. We call these conversations, polylogues, of which the aim is to co-speculate on a range of new possible relations by which to consider living with technological things. The contributions of our article are two-fold. Firstly, through our polylogues, we offer descriptions of three relations with things. These include 1) non-anthropocentric care: care that is non-anthropocentric and existential; 2) non-presumptive relations: not-knowing in relating to and engaging with things; and 3) ideologized relations: ideologies that frame relations with technologies. Secondly, the article elaborates and critically reflects on co-speculation as a method for relational and situated knowing that can be of benefit to HCI researchers.
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The goal of this one-day workshop is to open space for disruptive techniques and strategies to be used in the making, prototyping, and conceptualizations of the artifacts and systems developed and imagined within HCI. Specifically, this workshop draws on strategies from art, speculative design, and activism, as we aim to productively "trouble" the design processes behind HCI. We frame these explorations as "disruptive improvisations" - tactics artists and designers use to make the familiar strange or creatively problematize in order to foster new insights. The workshop invites participants to inquire through making and take up key themes as starting points to develop disruptive improvisations for design. These include modesty, scarcity, uselessness, no-technology, and failure. The workshop will produce a zine workbook or pamphlet to be distributed during the conference to bring visibility to the role these tactics of making in a creative design practices.
Conference Paper
Generative metaphorical design while rich is possibility, is not easy to do. In response, we have developed Metaphor Cards, a toolkit for supporting metaphorical design thinking. In this pictorial, we introduce Metaphor Cards and provide a how-to-guide for design researchers to make and use their own sets. To demonstrate this process, we provide a case study documenting our development of a set of Metaphor Cards for designing information systems for international justice. We conclude with reflections on the benefits and limitations of the Metaphor Card toolkit and suggestions for how to adapt Metaphor Cards to other domains and technologies.
Community + Culture features practitioner perspectives on designing technologies for and with communities. We highlight compelling projects and provocative points of view that speak to both community technology practice and the interaction design field as a whole. --- Christopher A. Le Dantec, Editor