In this first feature of a bimonthly format, we introduce a fun, visual method for exploring topics with scholars from across the field of HCI and beyond...
I am sitting at my desk (wearing my SIGCHI volunteers' t-shirt from CHI 2023!) and sketching out the bones of this comic when Elizabeth appears at the door. She is dressed for late summer, wearing a turquoise top and loose pink trousers.
"Miriam, what are you working on?" she asks.
I barely look up. I'm on a roll now, and inking in some of the text boxes of the comic: "It's an idea for a new Interactions feature," I say, "where we interview people, but in a visual way, sketching out contexts, projects…and people." I've illustrated these points with a cat looking at a screen (everyone knows cats built the Internet), a rather bizarre looking prototype that is all wires and cogs, and a person in a red top, arms outstretched to burst the confines of the box.
In my mind and on the page, I am standing thoughtfully, considering what else to say about this idea. The imagery I conjure shows a doctor, child, and a robot, as well as books flying like butterflies across a rose-tinged cloud of juxtaposed sketches.
"This method is already used in graphic medicine, and if you look, often in HCI!" I continue, pointing to a tablet computer and floating hand, then moving on to depict a woman and child using a wall screen.
"It resonates with scenarios in UX—helping us design and communicate…and explore what might be." I draw a globe and a satellite, adding an offline note ("viewpoints from around the world!") then considering "HCI in space!" as a concept. The image cloud is completed with a bar chart with tiny people on top of it, and an professor next to a blackboard that has "OLD ACADEMIA" written on it. In the foreground, I add a laptop which simply has "NEW" written on the screen. A polaroid photograph sits in the background, showing what might be a group of friends from times past.
"HCI and beyond!" A rallying cry for pushing some boundaries. Mikael appears in the frame, a tiny cat on his shoulder (it is advocating for animal-computer interaction, of course).
He says, "I can see how we might incorporate this into IX, but who would we feature in these visual narratives?"
Elizabeth chews the end of her spectacles thoughtfully. "We can speak to people from HCI and linked disciplines, people from academia and industry, at early or late stages in their careers—those with something new or exciting to say."
In between our editors, two small figures sneak into frame and whisper, "How about a little pictorial enquiry?" A reference to the pictorial format now used in many SIGCHI conferences.
The images of Mikael and Elizabeth dissolve into a dream-like world, Mikael's tie becoming a waterfall under a mountain sunset. "Welcome to HCI" is written on a sign on a grassy hillock in the foreground, "Population??". In the background, Lego TM bricks fall like rain, and a mechanical walker with giraffe-length legs gives tours to people in colorful clothing. Others sketch on a large floor canvas, or swoop in individual flying saucers. Cellphones sprout from small plants like flowers, and a WiFi-enabled brain-computer interface helps someone navigate the physical and digital world with ease—all witnessed by a drone.
Sitting on a blanket in HCI World, I consider the statements. "We could also spotlight other artists in HCI, with different styles…invite people of interest, and take recommendations from our peers, as well as interrogate ideas and sketch out future directions for our field."
Elizabeth, sitting large in the frame above calls down to me "There's a world of innovation out there we can showcase!" and it is true. I look forward to exploring this world in future issues, and together with likeminded contributors.
Fin! We wave goodbye and hope you join us next time.
1. Lewis, M., Sturdee, M., Miers, J., Davis, J.U., and Hoang, T. Exploring AltNarrative in HCI imagery and comics. CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Extended Abstracts . ACM, New York, 2022, 1–13.
Miriam Sturdee is a lecturer at the University of St Andrews working on intersections of art, design, and computer science. She is a practicing artist and designer and has an MFA in visual communication. Her publications explore areas of futuring, sketching and drawing, alternative research outputs, and psychology. [email protected]
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