November 9th 2020, 14.00-19.00 EET

via Zoom

The event is organized by INTERACT Research Unit, University of Oulu. This year’s theme is Empowerment through design and technology: the potential of critical design and critical Making. In addition to keynotes on the topic, the traditional awards of best Master’s thesis, the best doctoral thesis, and the information systems sciences researcher of the year are announced, along with presentations by the awardees.

The symposium will be in English.


Please fill in the form here to register for the event. Registration is open till Mon Nov 2nd end of day AoE. The zoom link will be provided only to participant who register.

Event program:

14.00 EET Opening session

  • Opening words
  • MSc thesis award
  • Doctoral thesis award
  • Information systems researcher of the year award
  • Presentation of Informatics Europe, the European association of Computer Science departments

16.15 EET Keynotes on “Empowerment through design and technology: the potential of critical design and Making”

  • Prof. Shaowen Bardzell (Penn State University): “Design Activism: How a Menstrual Cup Changed the Society it Critiqued”

Can design contribute not just towards an incrementally better world, but to a radically better one? In recent years, feminist utopian thinkers have sought to imagine radically better social worlds and accompanying ways of life using a double-move: the first is a “diagnostic critique” of the present that seeks to denaturalize it, which creates openings for the second move “anticipatory design,” which imaginatively construes one or more aspects of the social world in a preferred and plausible way—much like what we in design call “design futuring.”

In this talk, I will explore how anticipatory design and critique contributed to real world product design, in this case, a menstrual cup in Taiwan. The cup proposes and enacts concrete strategies that challenge and overcome unquestioned misogynistic cultural tendencies about the care and maintenance of the hymen in Chinese culture. In doing so, it also proposes an aspirational future for the women in the country, which in fact led to activism that helped bring that future into being. I argue that contemporary feminist utopianism represents a living critical/design practice: its double-move teases out glimpses of preferred and possible futures, which can guide and motivate democratic forms of activism in the present.

  • Prof. Jeffrey Bardzell (Penn State University): “Chimeras of Boundless Glamour, Realities of Little Worth” 

Though its major concepts have been around for over half a century, artificial intelligence seems to be extending beyond computer science and cognitive science into a much wider range of domains. According to a Deloitte study, the early emphasis on AI builders—researchers, software developers, data scientists, etc.—is slowly giving way to a new type AI worker, known as AI translators: business leaders, user experience designers, and subject matter experts. Professionals in the latter group will probably not write algorithms that train neural networks, but they will need to understand AI’s capabilities and limitations well enough to leverage it within their organizations. As an HCI researcher and educator, I realized that I, too, needed to become an AI translator, not least because I was helping to train the next generation of them.

So I started to read books and articles about AI. I noticed that while I was reading about word vectors, latent features, and unsupervised learning, even the most technical readings seemed haunted: for lurking behind explanations of captured vs. exhaust data and Bayesian search, there was a horror story—a “demon” in Elon Musk’s words—that AI would take our jobs, if it didn’t enslave or kill us outright. Increasingly, I began to attend to these parts of the readings, which sometimes came across as guilty, dismissive, thoughtful, and/or defensive. Many insisted on leaving any final judgment concerning AI’s risks versus benefits up to the reader, but implored the reader to acquire AI literacy sufficient to do so—a bewildering non-answer.

But we readers are not without resources. HAL 9000, an AI from Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey, decides to eliminate the humans onboard its spaceship. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein narrates the consequences of a monster abandoned by its horrified creator. John Milton’s Paradise Lost chronicles the actions of the fallen angel, who rejected his creator and was abandoned by him in turn. The myth of the creation that turns against its creator has been with us for thousands of years. Literature, it is said, trains us how to read, and so I began to wonder, how might a novel like Frankenstein train me, as an HCI researcher moving into an AI translator role, to read about artificial intelligence? And the answer is not a cheap moral about a mad scientist—but rather about how humans use narratives as a technical methodology to work out what happens to ourselves when we experience transformation—which is timely, because those of us who are AI translators are also, inevitably, AI storytellers.

  • Prof. Kari Kuutti (University of Oulu): “Innovation and HCI - a critical research perspective”

The purpose of the traditional critical research is to empower the audience by showing that some issues that are normally perceived as given and self-evident facts of life are actually artificial creations to distort that perception to benefit a particular group of stakeholders by fooling others. The talk attempts to concretise this perspective with an exercise of critical research by putting one of the given and self-evident facts of current university research life under a critical lens. The fact in case is that "the main purpose of the university research is to produce innovations for business". This will be discussed in the context of HCI. It will be shown by a historical example, that innovation is not a neutral, universal, and all-encompassing perspective towards research, but a rather narrow and detrimentally limiting one. The perspective that the innovation discourse presents as universal is actually that of investors, while the perspectives of users and even producers are made to disappear. The innovation discourse is particularly harmful for HCI, because it further amplifies HCI:s native obsession in novelty, and thus makes even more difficult to recognize historically cumulative ingredients of actual innovations ("long nose of innovations" by Bill Buxton). Finally the talk will discuss the possibility of alternative perspective for HCI research, based on improvement and invention.

Welcome to the event!