Diagramming Working Field Theories for Design in the HCI Classroom




Ploderer, Bernd
Taylor, Jennyfer
Munoz, Diego
Bircanin, Filip
Brereton, Margot

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Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)


HCI has historically provided little support for moving from fieldwork insights or theories to design outcomes. Having witnessed many students struggle and then justify their designs with a form of marketing hype, we developed a supporting approach of "field theories". A field theory is a working theory about salient interactions in a particular domain and sensitizing concepts in order to frame design investigations. It is presented visually in a field theory diagram to support succinct communication and critique. Studying use of design prototypes that have been informed by a field theory helps to reflect upon and refine the theory. In this paper we present examples from our HCI classes and reflections based on interviews with students. We discuss how field theories offer an orientation in the spirit of a 'bricoleuf who harnesses elements of theory and practice to produce deeper understandings and more fitting outcomes for the task at hand.



HCI education, fieldwork, sensitizing concept, visual thinking, design research


Bernd Ploderer, Jennyfer Lawrence Taylor, Diego Muñoz, Filip Bircanin, and Margot Brereton. 2021. DiagrammingWorking Field Theories for Design in the HCI Classroom. In CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’21), May 08–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 14 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3411764.3445414


CHI '21: Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems


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