Empowering Children To Shape Their Future

Oct 26th,11.30-16.30 EET

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While much of previous research in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and more specifically Child-Computer Interaction (CCI), discusses empowerment of children and other vulnerable groups through their technology use, design, and making, yet the experience, impact, ethics and politics of empowerment are still under-explored. Questions emerge such as what does it mean to empower children, where are we currently on this quest towards empowerment, and where are we headed or aiming for in the future? Empowerment is a multifaceted concept with different disciplines employing and understanding it differently. Within the context of CCI, different forms of empowerment are identified - critical, mainstream, functional, democratic, and empowerment as learning and competence development. While learning and competence development (providing skills and competencies that enable participation in society), functional (providing tools for improving lives) and mainstream (increasing decision-making regarding day to day experiences) forms of empowerment have been in the focus of previous work in HCI and CCI, the democratic (improved decision-making powers) and critical (questioning the status quo to gain more power and control) forms of empowerment are less studied.

Update made Oct 21st, 9pm EET: The workshop time was previously mentioned incorrectly, the correct time is 11.30-4.30pm EET.

Wokshop goals

This online workshop focuses specifically on the critical form of empowerment, the essence of which lies in the power-weak questioning and challenging the status quo to gain more power and control over their own lives and destiny. Methods such as critical design and design fiction, speculative design, and other future oriented design approaches, will be explored. The main goals of the workshop include:

  • Reflecting on previous research on empowerment of children through technology use and design.

  • Exploring future-oriented methods and examining how they can be adapted to design with children their technological future lives, with a focus on:

    • their advantages and limitations within the context of empowerment of children

    • ethical aspects in participatory methods entailing co-design with children

    • devising future pathways and defining ways for monitoring progress

    • creating an agenda for future research in this domain

Call for participation - extended till September 30th (flexible). Please email the organizers if you are interested in attending but cannot make this deadline.

Please submit a short position paper (in the SIGCHI extended abstract layout, max 4 pages) by filling in this form. In the paper, please mention

  • author names and affiliations, and
  • provide a short description of your research interests, driving values and motivations, goals, and
  • your vision for the future of your own research and children’s role in designing their technology-rich everyday life, overall
  • mention a method that you would like to bring with you to the workshop (not mandatory)

Please elaborate in particular on how your work addresses empowerment of children and in which sense. You can also provide an overview of a study, project, or research paper that you are most proud of in this respect and discuss how the topic of the workshop aligns with your research domain and interests.

Planned sessions

Session 1 (120 mins)

Session 2 (120 mins)

Introduction to the workshop goals and agenda. Participant introductions and ice-breaker (20 + 20 minutes)

Introduction to future-oriented methods (30 mins)

Group Activity: where are we now and how did we get here? (30 mins)

The focus is on methods that engage, empower, involve, and allow for co-designing and co-creating together with children.

Group Activity: designing for the future (40 mins)

  • Vision and goals: Where do we want to be?

  • Approach: How are we going to get there?

  • Motivations and Drivers: Who is going to do what?

  • Success metrics: How will we monitor our progress?

Discussion on activity (30 mins)

Discussion on activity (30 mins)

Session wrap-up (20 mins)

Workshop wrap-up (20 mins)


Dr. Netta Iivari is a Professor in Information Systems and research unit leader of INTERACT Research Unit in University of Oulu. She has a background in Cultural Anthropology as well as in Information Systems and HCI. Her long-lasting research interest concerns empowerment of children in and through design and technology. Her research is strongly influenced by interpretive and critical research traditions. Currently, she is examining critical design and Making in collaboration of children.

Dr. Ole Sejer Iversen is Professor in Interaction Design and Director of Center for Computational Thinking and Design at Aarhus University. His research lies at the intersection of Interaction Design and Child-Computer Interaction with a special interest in participatory practices that support children’s digital empowerment.

Dr. Marianne Kinnula is an Associate Professor of human-centred design and digitalization in INTERACT Research Unit in University of Oulu. Her research focus is on how technology changes our everyday lives in many ways, at society level, organizational level, as well as at individual level. She is interested in children’s genuine possibility to affect the decisions that concern them as well as their technology-rich environment.

Dr. Sirkku Kotilainen is professor of media education at the Faculty of Information Technologies and Communication Sciences at Tampere University, Finland. Her research focuses on children and youth as users online and their digital literacies. More recently, her research has focused on promoting digital literacy among at-risk youth and methodological developments in co-research with young people as empirical experts in their uses of technology.

Dr. Jussi Okkonen is Adjunct Professor of sociotechnical environments and he works currently as Senior Research Fellow in Faculty of Information Technologies and Communication Sciences at Tampere University, Finland. Lately Okkonen has put more emphasis on extended, augmented, asynchronic and spatially dispersed work and humans in digital environments. The underlying theme still is the individual and organizational performance connected to information ergonomics.

Dr. Sumita Sharma is a post-doc researcher at the INTERACT Research Unit at the University of Oulu. Her research work focuses on designing inclusive and collaborative technology for the classroom environment for children across the world, including children living in urban slums, children with special needs, and children in remote communities, and studying socio-technical opportunities for empowerment of children.

Guna Spurava is a project researcher at Faculty of Information Technologies and Communication Sciences at Tampere University, Finland. She is working on the development of media education research focusing on teachers' and librarians' role as mediators of media literacy. Also she works on research of young people’s media usage and she is interested in co-research with young people as empirical experts.