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Hopefully this is a bit more coherent than my last post, though my brain is a bit hazy right now. That is, I know at some point prior to now I’ve had a better conception of the topic, but I wanted to get some of it down now in order to start the process, get some feedback, and at least get some of it in order.

So generally, I want my topic to focus on the body acceptance movement – the radical notion that fat people are, well, people (That quote doesn’t work as well here) – It’s something that I’ve been introduced to through my wife, and has really opened my eyes to many forms of discrimination, and yet often seems downplayed even in feminist contexts. I also think there’s a really neat connection in what we discussed today, and that perhaps the dualistic disconnect from mind and body contributes to this stigma, and perhaps a way of thought which holizes self in both mind and body would be beneficial (or at least is crucial for design (Well, anywhere. But here where bodies are the focus, there’s no way around it)). Regardless, I want to avoid any medical issue, and approach it from social and ethical direction.

I’m not entirely sure how I want to focus the HCI-side of it however. I’d considered focusing on one of these body data fitness devices that have come up in class a few times, like the FitBit, question what values it’s promoting (and since I’m going to disagree with them, posit values that I feel it should be promoting). However, this seems like a bit of a low hanging fruit. Of course the fitness industry is going to produce devices which devalue people while promoting a social image of beauty. That’s the entire point. More importantly, I’m not personally interested in these sorts of devices, or this industry, and find the issue more important from a social or personal position.

Reference wise, I think I’m pretty well off. I have good resources for body acceptance writings from my wife, and I think tons of the readings that we’ve done across many classes apply. I’d be especially looking at the 3rd wave foundations papers (esp. Feminist HCI and Critical/Cultural Design), and many of our IC readings (perhaps Folkmann to get at the social/ethical dimension, Dunne and Raby’s ideas of design as a way of looking for alternate/possible futures, and what do you know, this accultured body idea (The Film Theory paper in general) seems pretty damn important. Shusterman and Somaesthetics will be crucial as well. Basically, I believe I have a bunch of good material (Though more would be great) – but not a solid direction/lens/example to examine through.

I forgot to post mines, but mines was on gendered items. I decided to do 10 things that shouldn’t be gendered in the first place. What do you think? (all pictures came from:

Men's and women's tea.

Women's toolset.

Yogurt for men.

Men's and women's face masks.

Boys' and girls' M&M's.

Girl and boy gift cards.

Girls' clear tape.

Beer for women.

Men's tissues.

Along with all my classmates’ posts/questions/confusions/concerns about the final paper, here I’m contributing more…

I was working on my final paper for a while. For the pre-writing assignment, I have got a pile of materials, and at that moment, I though I had enough to write. But as the class moves on, I got more and more new ideas. So now I’m not sure where I should go 😦

For example, in my pre-writing assignment, my framework is: Jeff’s interaction criticism (especially interface and user), collaboration and intimacy, and an example game. While reading class readings, I have added semiotics and feminism to this pile. I like Shaowen’s use of “cues of interaction” in one of her papers, so I’m thinking about “cues of intimacy”, and small group collaboration (e.g., in-game marriage) can be a type of such cues. Of course there are other cues too, for example, “cues of reveal”, because gamers like posting their love stories to the game’s online forum. I also think the perspective of feministic HCI can be useful, since the example game is very girlish, and more than half of players are girls (which are different from results of other game studies).

So, now I have many more theories and have some difficulties to incorporate them perfectly in a single paper. Especially, I already have got the comments that this topic (collaboration and in-game marriage) may be too broad for a single paper, not to mention if I want to use interaction criticism, semiotics and feminism…

I know I may need to narrow it down, or just pick up one theory. But I like them all (and all of them can be applied to my research) so I don’t how to make decision.


From today’s reading:

“Mirrors, necklaces, feathers, flowers, and – most important – cats proliferate in this veritable panoply of masquerade, vanity, narcissism, and femininity.  In chapter V, as Cleo prepares herself to receive Jose, Varda’s directions make this quite explicit: ‘She moves about on her bed, more feline than her cats, checks her beauty in the mirror, then smiles when she recognizes her lover’s voice.'”

I found it interesting that it said “most important – cats” when speaking about “this veritable panoply of masquerade, vanity, narcissism, and femininity.”  If I were to watch this film, I would probably catch on to mirrors, necklaces, feathers, flowers, etc., but I’m almost certain a cat being in the picture would not make me think twice of it.  This reminds me about what we discussed about “The Double Life of Veronique” – the part where I thought the presence of falling into a puddle was kind of b.s…. and how some argued that everything in the film was put there for a purpose.  I’m beginning to see this more and more.  Even if it wasn’t put there for a purpose, viewers can interpret it as having been placed there on purpose.

Today’s class reminded me of a few things and I wanted to share in hope that they will start a discussion and helps your design/research projects.

Generalizability vs Transferability

Colorado State university has this guide to understanding Generalizability and/or transferability

It might help clarifying the similarities and differences between the two terms? They definitely aren’t mutually exclusive, it seems like a fairly subtle difference.

Relationships and Action Research

A while back, Shaowen suggested I read the book “The Action Research Dissertation”  [2] for my own research. There are a few visual which have really stuck with me that I wanted to share with you, especially as you move forward in capstone and other design projects. The following two images and citations are paraphrased from this book:

The first is the four squares of knowledge, which helps us see where we position ourselves as researchers/designers. this was originally introduced by Luft [3]. If you are in III, you are positioning yourself as an outside expert, rather than a collaborator and placing yourself in a privileged  power role. This renforces having insiders place themselves and stay within quadrant II, undervaluing their professional and vernacular knowledge and experiences. However, quadrant IV is where action research comes into play.It helps to reduce the tendencies of people in II and III in order to reach an understanding of a topic mutually and collaboratively (Quad I).

Screen shot 2013-04-09 at 1.45.07 PM

The second is seeing the different types of relationships and participation levels between researcher/designer and local people (participants/user group). It is taken from Cornwall [1].

How do you generally frame your work with those for whom you are studying?

Screen shot 2013-04-09 at 1.44.52 PM

It’s a great book and I’m happy to talk more about it! I really liked the 3rd column in this chart;  it made me think about my own work and how I view my role. Reflexivity and self-awareness, FTW!  🙂


[1] Cornwall, A. (1996). Towards participatory practice: Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and the participatory process. In K. De Koning & M. Martin (Eds.) Participatory research in health: Issues and experience (pp 94-107). London: Zed Books.

[2]Herr, K., Anderson, G. 2005. The Action Research Dissertation. Sage Publications Limited. Thousand Oaks, CA.

[3] Luft, J. (1963). Group Process: An Introduction to group dynamics. Palo Alto, CA: National Press Books

A few years ago, Gopi brought me up to the design studio for my first visit. He candidly launched into an explanation about sex toys and the research he was doing in HCI before talking about some of the core faculty. As we passed by Jeff and Shaowen’s offices, he pointed to the latter and said:

“And that’s Shaowen Bardzell. She’s positioned herself as the leading authority on feminism in HCI. That’s one of the great things about this field – you have to opportunity to stake your claim. I’m trying to do the same with sex toys and intimacy.”

I already had a healthy degree of respect for Shaowen (sorry Jeff, I didn’t know you yet) but was impressed by the idea that you could argue for the existence of a new epistemology within an established field. I am of the opinion that Shaowen’s paper is an excellent model not only of an academic HCI paper, but of a paper that argues for the existence of a new epistemology within the existing HCI and design community. Because I’m doing something similar with journalism, this paper is especially pertinent to the paper I will write myself.

To better understand how Shaowen positions her argument, I’ve deconstructed the paper in a way that makes sense to me:

First off, it’s important to understand that Shaowen is not arguing for a completely new direction in HCI. Rather, she has recognized the ad hoc presence of feminism already in the field, and is calling attention to these examples. By doing so, she has essentially acknowledged a phenomenon within the community and is arguing that the field as a whole can benefit from its continued presence and expansion into a more holistic entity across the entire design process.

The paper also includes a brief genealogical overview of feminism – the important movements across the years that have helped develop the field. It provides an overall orientation to feminism for the uninitiated and an introduction to the field in an accessible manner.

Shaowen also calls specific attention to the evolved presence of feminist thinking in related disciplines – i.e. game design, STS, and architecture. In doing so, she’s essentially conducting an exemplar review – examining the ways in which feminism positively contributes to these fields and the values of identity, diversity, and equity it inscribes.

The overall message of the paper is clear – Shaowen wants to “clarify and solidify what we do already”. In terms of my final paper, this is exactly what I’m trying to accomplish. HCI already incorporates many methods (i.e. interviews, ethnography) that journalism has practiced for several decades. On the flip side, journalism incorporates more design principles than they know – they’re just not focused on them as principles of user experience. By using Shaowen’s paper as an example, I hope to stake my own claim in HCI epistemology, arguing for the continued expansion of a discipline which is in dire need of design thinking and HCI theory.

I really enjoyed reading Shaowen’s Article for tuesday’s class.  This article is very well organized, easy to read and comprehend.  While reading it I also realized that it is very similar to how I plan on organizing my paper.  I’m dealing with personal informatics tools and how to design to keep people better motivated to use them, and continue using them.  So my topic isn’t as powerful as Shaowen’s Feminist HCI, but this article is a big inspiration to me of how to organize my thoughts and layout my paper.

When I read the feminism chapter in the shoe book, I rethought about the motivation that I took ceramics as the subject of my capstone project. Handmade things are always attracting me in every aspect. The aesthetics quality I got inspired me to theorize what I feel deep touched for more people, especially in interaction design field. But I started to doubt whether my concerns will be valuable for the others, for example, men who do like technical and unified design style.

When I finish reading the paper of feminism in HCI, my doubt got clear. Shaowen promotes multiple perspectives to look at interaction design, including considering different user groups, different stances to design and evaluate, etc. A design for a universal need is not a good one, and actually if there is a design that can satisfy a “universal” need or context, the reason may be that the researchers and designers idealize the target users and contexts. In this way, it may fail.

So the concern about whether it will be valuable to some other people got clear. I won’t promote a universal thing about aesthetics in HCI, I will just provide my perspective, which is about the inquiry of a soft, slow, enduring and aesthetic quality interaction design could concern.

I like Barnard’s feminism piece, because what he argues is not only very useful for my own research, but also very true. Perhaps even the best couple in the world, sometimes, will think like this, “What’s wrong with him/her? How can he/she think like this? I really don’t understand.” For example, I did a very simple “test”. Personally, I feel the figure 5.1 of flower patterns on p.105 is very nice: I like those flowers, leafs and how they are combined together. Then I showed it to my boyfriend but he did not like it. His words were: “Such a mess.” Similar meaning as “false principles of design.”

I agree that gender is an important factor to discuss in relation to why and how people act in either online or offline environments. Actually, many studies have shown gender differences in terms of men and women’s behaviors, communication patterns, psychology, etc. What I’m most interested in Barnard’s piece is his account of the nature of gender-based approach, “Where traditional history and design history are rooted in the idea of an objective science, dealing with facts that exist independently of the people doing the understanding, feminists approaches will stress the part of the understanding subject in the activity of understanding” (p. 94). Can we “understand” this as “gender-based approaches focus more on the personal horizons of the understanding subject than on the facts”?Because the facts on which gender-based approaches studies can be selected: These studies pay attention to objects, practices, institutions and personnel that is different from those prescribed by traditional mainstream and masculine history.

Another question I’m thinking about is whether or not Barnard includes (or suggests) the role of sexual orientations in his piece. I notice that he uses “gender identities” at times, and I assume that someone’s gender identity can be different from his/her actual gender, which might be related to his/her sexual orientation. But on p.115, he says, “[t]he understanding of mass-produced, …was seen to be dependent upon one’s gender identity, differing according to whether one was male or female.” In this context, he seems only talks about one’s actual gender, not his/her sexual orientation. His book was published in 2001, so I’m not sure whether he includes this implication in his book or not.

My last thought is whether Barnard’s account of feminist approaches can be applied to cultural approaches too. It seems these two approaches share a lot of common focuses, such as on the understanding subject’s unique “horizons”. For example, the “test” I mentioned at the very beginning might also be understood as cultural differences between two people: I’m asian and he is American.

I notice that I tend to draw all kinds of connections between readings and classes now.

When I was reading the 5th Chapter about feminism, Barnard’s interpretation of Attfield’s opinion of design history captured my eyes:

The facts of design history do not exist ‘out there’, objectively and independently of the design historian’s consciousness.

Also, just a few lines below, Attfield quotes Bourdieu’s idea about the attempted ‘objective’ investigation:

[is] always bound to remain partial and therefore false, so long as it fails to include the point of view from which it speaks and so fails to construct the game as a whole.

These make a lot of sense to me and make me think about something Shaowen has talked about in Methods class. The issue of bias is discussed nearly each class. When considering about bias, Shaowen will always say that she believes bias cannot be eliminated. As long as we are human beings, we will always have bias. What we can only do it to take this bias into consideration, and this is exactly the same idea with Bourdieu’s. I have read about another discussion on objectivity in a Chinese journalist’s book. What she says is that she thinks only when one understands one’s own bias and also the bias of the interviewee can one approach objectivity more. To understand is very difficult, but probably it is the only way.