Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Invitation

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made the decision to rethink the content for our upcoming July–August issue. For this forthcoming issue, we want to hold open an invitation to makers, designers, and writers to share content that responds to the pressing matters we are all facing, and that seeks to address the concerns that are no doubt weighing on all of us. Thus, the content and the magazine we’re envisioning will look very different from what our readers are familiar with; there is likely to be less content, and the format of the articles will be more varied. We will also be more experimental in how we stage the work, using the online channels we have to share provisional ideas and then the printed magazine to publish works that have had the time to be developed. This emphasis on a slower and more careful practice and scholarship will also mean that the magazine will take longer to go to press.

Originally, our intention for the July–August issue was to center on the challenges of translating design research and practice between different realms, and for discussions around this topic to be presented alongside some of our regular forum and column contributions. We are excited about the content we have ready for this. The COVID-19 pandemic has, however, transformed and disrupted virtually everyone’s lives and we feel it would be inappropriate, if not insensitive, to push on with our plans as if nothing had changed. What’s abundantly clear is that the demands and rhythms that guide our routines have been upturned. Living in the time of a pandemic alters how we are all able to live, and what and who we have the time and energy to care for.

The content we are seeking and hope to share will respond to the pandemic in various ways. HCI and design have emerging areas of research examining the use of technology in crises, and more broadly, crisis informatics. Also, long-established programs of research have introduced and refined methods for remote research, when we must interact at a distance. Tied to ethical or theoretical issues, HCI and design have a number of strands that connect to the personal, social, and structural changes we are living with (e.g., post-colonial computing, critical infrastructure studies). It’s this variety of thinking and undoubtedly other works that we believe will reflect a responsiveness to the issues around COVID-19 and how those of us concerned with design have a worthwhile contribution to make.

The temporary changes we are putting in place for the magazine are then an attempt to be responsive and responsible, as COVID-19 comes to impact all parts of our lives. Our hope is to demonstrate that design research and practice can be responsive and show a care for those it engages with and reaches out to in such difficult times. These ideas of a responsible design practice that continually grapples with matters of care are, as we shared in the last issue’s Welcome, critical to us as an editorial team. The decision to change plans and to slow down is for us, and we hope for our audience, an ethical act. It is to make the space for us all to acknowledge the troubles we are living with, to absorb and reflect on them, and to consider how things could just be different.

For proposals or content submissions for the Interactions blog and print version of the magazine, please use this online form.

Mikael Wiberg,
Alex Taylor,
Daniela Rosner

Editors-in-Chief of Interactions
eic@interactions.acm.org