Elizabeth Churchill, Mikael Wiberg
Welcome to the November—December issue of Interactions! In this issue, we want to continue to build on both the established foundations and the legacy of the past few years, bringing critical perspectives and design and engineering together in a collection of features, forums, columns, and more.
We are in the final few weeks of 2023—it feels like this year has flown by. It has been a year of ups and downs across the global stage, with a few too many downs in these closing months. That said, even in times of hardship and crisis, people around the world continue to carve out moments during this season for celebrations and holiday observances. During this season, many people celebrate faith and invite hope, rejoicing in that which is good in the world—and they do so with family and friends. Our focus this issue is life, living, and sustenance with and through technology. While digital technologies are increasingly described as ubiquitous to underscore how they are fundamentally intertwined with our everyday lives, we have been thinking about how food is so important in our coming together. Food is also fundamentally entangled with our cultural practices, our rituals, and our daily activities—and, of course, our celebrations.
Our focus this issue is life, living, and sustenance with and through technology.
Before diving into the content, let's recognize just a few of the festivals celebrated at this time of year: Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. Honoring the triumph of good over evil, Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs celebrate Diwali, the Festival of Lights. The biggest holiday of the year in India, it is also a major holiday in Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. In the U.S., Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia, November brings the fall harvest celebration in the form of Thanksgiving. Hanukkah, which means "dedication" in Hebrew, also falls at this time of the year. Another Festival of Lights, this eight-day Jewish holiday is known for the lighting of the menorah. The winter solstice is typically on or around December 21, which marks the longest night of the year. Called Toji in Japan, it is traditional to take a hot bath with citrus fruit. In China, it is called the Dongzhi Festival, when people eat tang yuan (湯圓), which is similar to mochi, with family. This time is also referred to as the pagan holiday Yule, which includes the winter solstice and the 11 days following. Many ancient Yule traditions have been incorporated into modern Christmas celebrations. In the Christian tradition, people commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Eve (December 24) and Christmas Day (December 25). While Christmas is a Christian holiday, it is also a cultural holiday globally, with traditions that span both religious and secular aspects of the season. A more recent holiday is Kwanzaa, started in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, chair of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach. This holiday honors African-American culture and its purpose is to bring the African-American community together.
As noted above, one of the things these celebrations have in common is the focus on food and eating and the communal spirit of sharing. In this issue, we have two feature articles focused on the delights of eating and drinking. In our cover story, "Memory Bites: From Earth to Space and Back," Marianna Obrist and Carlos Velasco invite us to imagine we are on a NASA one-year mission to the International Space Station. We are not alone—we are with a few crewmates, and we are literally and metaphorically hungry for the tastes of home. The article explores how to use VR and other multisensory technologies and experiences to evoke memories and the familiar tastes of home, spurring feelings of being connected to our personal slice of Earth, friendship, family, and communal celebration.
Our second food and communal sharing feature discusses changes in the production of wine. In "Enjoying Wine—Opportunities and Challenges for Interaction Design," Jeni Paay celebrates the ceremonial, spiritual, physical, and emotional properties of wine. She shares some of the threats to the wine production industry from the irreversible environmental changes of global warming. And she asks: What are the opportunities and challenges for interaction design to help the wine industry ensure a future for drinking and making wine?
Another key feature of this season is spending on communal and family events, and on gifts! In "Money as an Interface," Belén Barros Pena reminds us that money and its exchange is also a design concern, and that we as HCI, UX, and IxD scholars and practitioners have a contribution to make in designing financial flows, technological communications around financial issues, and applications that support the management of shared and personal finances.
We also have a number of other delights for you in this issue. In some parts of the world it is cold this time of year—other places not so much, as we wish no more extreme heat waves for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere. Tessa Lau and colleagues share an experience around how robots fare in the cold, illustrating just how complex hardware systems can be to debug, and reminding us that even sophisticated and complex machines are at the mercy of the environment for their functioning. Too few of us are aware of the enormous engineering and climate control efforts, and the sheer cost of running all the servers that keep us connected and productive with computation. The story of the recalcitrant robots is a timely reminder as we see increasing investment in hardware—and in climate control for data centers—to make our interconnected software world function effectively and efficiently.
One of our forum articles, "Unleashing Immersive Experiences: The Power of Gesture-Based VR Interaction" by Nour Halabi, Evan Jones, and Pejman Mirza-Babaei introduces both opportunities for improving gesture-based VR interaction and the benefits of collaboration between game development studios and academic HCI research labs to drive advancements in the gaming industry.
Keeping with the theme of virtual reality, our Exit image for this issue is by Singaporean artist Jennifer Teo: a VR installation artwork addressing the saving of the Bukit Brown cemetery and nature space in Singapore, which has been under the threat of destruction to make way for modern development for years. Jennifer's artwork shares many viewpoints on why and how to save this honored and historic space. This work, should you wish to see it in person, is currently at Perilous Playground at the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco.
Finally, we would like to welcome two new contributors! Jon Kolko is returning to the Interactions team after many years, this time as a columnist. In Design as Practice, he will be focusing on the pragmatics of designing and codesigning great experiences, flows, and services. And Pejman Mirza-Babaei, mentioned above, has taken on a role as forum editor with a focus on platforms and infrastructures for games and gaming. His forum, Play Time, will bring together discussions around HCI, UX, and IxD with a lens on how the technology itself, from platform to product, shapes our experiences of games and immersive experiences.
As we close out this Welcome and 2023 comes to an end, we'd like to wish all our contributors and readers a peaceful holiday season. Thank you for coming on these journeys of human-centered computing with us. And, as before, we invite submissions in all categories across the magazine. Please get in touch if you have energy, time, and great ideas to contribute.
Elizabeth Churchill and Mikael Wiberg
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The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2023 ACM, Inc.