Behind the Scenes: A Brief Note on Curating the Speaker List.
Great talks make great conference experiences. Of course, the food, the conversations, networking, the energy, all these matter. But at the end of it, when you go back to your day-to-day work, what remains and what drives you is a spark of inspiration. A spark that has been ignited due to that one idea a speaker shared, and the passion behind it all.
Curating the right talks is one of the biggest challenge for any conference. And when the conference aims to address both, an emerging academic Human-Computer Interaction research community and a vast expanse of UI/ UX / IxD professionals, it becomes ever more challenging. Add to it our anticipation that the students of interaction design will be the biggest audience at the conference. The most important thing is that behind all the passion and the ideas is the actual work; finding speakers who can back their ideas with work is what we focused on.
Our curatorial intent behind the speakers was to offer the diverse audience an arc or a trajectory of inspiring ideas, views and perspectives, both Indian and International, along the conference theme: Behind & Beyond the Screen. The premise for the theme was:
The screen till now is the dominant paradigm of interacting with digital technology. But interacting with digital technology is becoming complex than ever. On one hand the screen is getting smaller, and on the other the underlying technology driving screen based interaction is getting larger and complex.
We have Geraldine Fitzpatrick, who is one of the senior-most researcher and academic in the field of HCI, and an ACM Distinguished Speaker. The best thing to do, when we have such senior person with an established body of work spanning decades, is to let them go on a reflective autobiographical journey. Aptly titled, “Being human: a lived experience of 30 years of Human Computer Interaction”, Geraldine will reflect on her body of work across the different ‘paradigms’ of HCI to provoke a discussion about what aspects of H (human), C (computer) and I (interaction) matter in the emerging situations of ‘beyond & behind the screen’.
To get an in-depth understanding of the historical evolution of HCI in India, we have Prof. Pradeep Yammiyavar, from IIT-Guwahati. His trajectory of work too spans 3 decades, across all related disciplines of Human-centered design, including HCI, and Usability and User Experience. We expect a reflective account of his work journey will offer a thought-arc that is somehow relatable to that of Geraldine’s, but yet diverse due to the fact of its socio-cultural and geographical location.
We then have three emerging researchers bring to us ideas about what it means to push the boundaries of Human, Computer, and Interaction.
Dr. Lilly Irani is an assistant Professor of Communication & Science Studies at University of California, San Diego, and a co-founder and maintainer of digital labor activism tool Turkopticon. Lilly’s career has moved from being a designer at Google, to now what I term as a ‘design-research-activist’. In particular Lilly unpacks through critical design-research engagement the often invisible implications of ‘Hi-Tech’ and ‘Innovation’. Lilly will trace her journey to provoke us to think of what is the role of a sensible and ethical designer in the world that is increasingly designed to perpetuate oppression through machines. This short talk of hers at the AI Now 2016 Experts Workshop gives a glimpse of what to expect.
Prof. Sriram Subramanian is a Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies at the University of Sussex (UK) where he leads a research group on novel interactive systems. He has built an extensive body of work exploring novel ways of interacting with digital systems that goes beyond the limitations of a screen. In his talk, he will share some of the most recent and exciting set of interactive technologies, such as Ultrahaptics (of which is a co-founder) from his lab that provoke us to rethink our notions of human-computer interaction.
Dr. Anne Galloway, all the way from New Zealand, brings with her a radical idea of what it means to do design research: Design research as a way to inquire into more-than-human relationships, and their implications for ecologies of living. Anne, an anthropologist by training and a speculative design researcher by practice, explores human-animal relationships as a way to nuance the climate change debate. And she is a sheep farmer.
In her talk, titled, Fellow-creatures, colleagues, dangerous equals”: Designing with, and for, the more-than-human, she will bring us stories from her work that highlight our inter-dependencies with multiple other “other animals, plants, materials, and forces of the earth.” Her talk will provoke us to think beyond our current obsession with ‘Human-centeredness’ and asks to re-imagine our design practices and values.
Oh, did I tell you she is a sheep farmer? Here, you can see it for yourself.
And finally, we have Anita Gurumurthy, from Namma Bengaluru. Anita Gurumurthy founded and manages IT for Change, an organization working at both research and policy level as well as grassroots change through a critical engagement with information technology. Anita’s practice is aimed at forming a framework for equitable social change, but rooted in the ‘Southern’ perspectives rather than borrowing from the ‘developed North’. In particular her and her organization’s work provokes us to rethink how we imagine and design internet based technologies for social development.
Leaving you all with this short video where Anita talks about the nuanced role that men need to play in gender equity.
With so much of inspiring thoughts and ideas to look-forward, we are all excited as we tick down the dates.
Oh yes, there are more exciting stuff too — research papers, industry case-studies, demos, student design and research work, late-break working, UX Cafe — more on these in subsequent posts.
Hoping to see you all there at the conference, and taking these ideas and ensuing conversations ahead beyond the conference too.