Deborah Tatar

Deborah Tatar is a professor of computer science and, by courtesy, psychology, at Virginia Tech.

Posts By Deborah Tatar

The Receptionist

Posted: Wed, July 06, 2016 - 2:47:55

My mother is dying. She had a rare gastric cancer in her pyloric valve. The amazing doctors at UCSF took out 70% of her stomach and a bunch of lymph nodes, stitched her up, and gained her another 13 months of good life. Unhappily, she was not among the 50% who make it to five years without recurrence. A few…

Heartbreak House

Posted: Thu, January 07, 2016 - 11:30:53

Years ago, when I read Bernard Shaw’s play Heartbreak House, I didn’t like it and it made me angry. Written before WWI and (not surprisingly) set in England, it focused in two groups of people, the denizens of Heartbreak House and those of Horseback Hall. Those of Heartbreak House are sensitive, aware, artistic, and unable to act. Those of Horseback…


Posted: Wed, November 25, 2015 - 1:42:23

I started this series of posts with concerns about the allure of “going west” to my undergraduate students. My concern is about all the students and indeed my own sons, but especially the women. Sarah Fox, Rachel Rose Ulgado, and Daniela Rosner wrote a wonderful article about feminist hackerspaces [1] for the 2015 CSCW conference. The women they studied were…

Go West!

Posted: Tue, September 01, 2015 - 4:18:05

As a professor, I now get to witness young people aspiring to “go West.” They know the familiar trope “Go West, young man,” ascribed to the 19th-century publisher Horace Greeley. They inherit the idea of manifest destiny, even when the term itself was buried in a single paragraph in their high-school American History textbooks. They have heard of the excitement…

Critical waves

Posted: Mon, July 13, 2015 - 11:41:13

I have just been trying to figure out how to explain some of our design ideas inside the various ACM/CHI-ish communities in the upcoming paper-writing season. I have found that if I keep my head down and focus on the work of shaping ideas and things, enough comes along career-wise to keep body and soul together, but I’m not really…

The Facebook “emotion” study: A design perspective would change the conversation

Posted: Sun, April 19, 2015 - 12:58:05

Jeff Hancock from Cornell gave the opening plenary at the 2015 CSCW and Social Computing conference in Vancouver last month (3/16/15). Jeff was representing and discussing the now infamous “Facebook Emotion Study,” in which a classic social psychology study was conducted on over 600,000 unwitting Facebook members, to investigate the effects of increasing the percentage of positive or negative elements…

Ai Wei Wei on Alcatraz

Posted: Tue, March 03, 2015 - 1:07:35

When I saw that the Chinese dissident artist Ai Wei Wei was to have a show on Alcatraz, I knew that I had to attend. Not only had I written three prior blog posts about his work and its relationship to criticism and freedom through design, but there was something immediately compelling about the idea of art from an artist…

Lightning strikes!

Posted: Tue, December 02, 2014 - 1:15:05

Every once in a while, in the world of high technology, I encounter someone who is doing a perilous, marvelous thing: planting his/her feet on the ground, and, in grounding him/herself, becoming a conduit for far more. At the Participatory Design Conference in Namibia last month, Cristóbal Martínez did this both figuratively and literally. Cristóbal is a graduate student of…

Batman vs. Superman (well, actually, just PDC vs. DIS)

Posted: Tue, October 28, 2014 - 10:48:54

The Participatory Design Conference (PDC), which just had its 13th meeting in Windhoek, Namibia, is a close cousin to DIS, the Design of Interactive Systems conference. Both are small, exquisite conferences that lead with design and emphasize interaction over bare functionality; however, like all cousins (except on the ancient Patty Duke show in which Patty Duke played herself and her…

Report from DIS 2014 part 1: Moral status of technological artifacts

Posted: Fri, July 25, 2014 - 11:25:01

Peter-Paul Verbeek gave the opening keynote speech last month at the DIS (Designing Interactive Systems) conference in Vancouver. His topic was the moral status of technological artifacts. Do they have any? He argues that “yes, they do.” The argument runs that humans and objects are co-creations or, as he prefers, hybrids. Just as J. J. Gibson long ago argued for…