Ron Wakkary, Erik Stolterman
Over the past few decades, some of the most visible and radical changes within HCI and interaction design have involved a broadening of scope and a change of focus. In the early days, the individual professional working on a clearly defined task in a work environment was the unit of analysis. We all know what has happened since then. The fields are, of course, still focused on the activities of professionals, but they are also engaged with other units of analysis. Interaction design is about families, communities, and friends. It is about pleasure, gaming, and socializing. Lately we have also seen a lot of interest in the cultural aspects of interaction, as well as IxD for developing countries, sustainability, healthcare, and other areas. So, are there any limits to what falls within the scope of interaction design? And what is the largest unit of analysis that our field could engage with?
Brenda Laurel proposes one answer to that question when she advocates for a new perspective of grand proportions in her cover story, “Gaian IxD.” The unit of analysis is human interaction with planet Earth itself. Laurel writes in her introduction, “We need to find better ways to look at the Earth and understand our relationships with it. We need to change our notions of human agency within this larger context. I think these changes can be manifested through interaction designits intents, objects, processes, and methods. This article is a first attempt to describe the opportunity space ... and some design principles inherent in it.”
The perspective that Laurel presents to us is daunting, provocative, and stimulating. Is this the future of IxD? Is this what we as a field can contribute to society? The proposal from Laurel raises many questions and may even make us feel insufficiently equipped to take on this grand vision. But, as she states at the end of her article in relation to the overwhelming and rapid changes happening on our planet, “Many of us grow dispirited and fatalistic; others succumb to denialism fueled by the media Spectacle. Some, like me, believe that hope is the best working hypothesis. Bearing down on Gaian IxD requires hope and courage.”
We hope that Laurel’s cover story, together with the other articles in this issue, will both provoke and inspire your thoughts. However, if you find that your own perspective is not represented in the magazine, please write to us and suggest a topic, suggest an author, or submit your own text.
Ron Wakkary and Erik Stolterman
©2011 ACM 1072-5220/11/0900 $10.00
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