XRDS • WIN TER 2017 • VOL. 24 • NO. 2
experiences, user needs, user errors,
user practices, and user preferences.
But who is this illusive user? Is it you,
me, Laverne Cox, Katya Zamolod-chikova, your weird relative, a tech
bro, the Terminator?
When we’re talking about the user
we’re talking about complex people
with differences from one another. I’m
willing to go out on a limb and say you
and I have at least as many differences
as we have similarities. Some of these
differences relate to socially-situated
identity factors, like race, gender, sexuality, and class. Other differences arise
from things we do, love, care about,
work on, and know. All these differences are instructive. They make the world
interesting. Can you imagine how boring the world would be if everyone and
everything were exactly the same?
We are all cyborgs. No, not the “Terminator” Arnold Schwarzenegger kind; we are a different type of cyborg. We are living in a world where the technology we create is shaping who we are. When you think about it, the boundaries between you and your technologies are fuzzy at best.
Most of us rely heavily on our tech to get through the day. Smartphones wake us up in the
morning with ringtones labeled oxygen, drip, and krypton. They let us swoon over perfectly
plated food pictures posted by someone we will never meet, halfway around the world. They
connect us to our friends through video chat, even if we’re in the same room. We see the
whole world through the high-megapixel lens of our smartphone. Whether your day is
shaped by a potential tweet, an Insta-gram post, a Facebook message, or a
Snap, you’re experiencing life as a cyborg.
The cyborg future is a networked
existence where you and your technology shape the world. Letting go
of physical boundaries, where do
you end and where does your smartphone begin? The closing distance
between you and your phone is only
the tip of a giant, cyborg iceberg
(iceborg?). Think about it, if tech
is literally shaping who we are and
what the world is, it is an incredibly
powerful tool that is being used to
build our future.
If we’re all cyborgs, living in a
By Ari Schlesinger
networked world co-constructed by
our tech, we need technology that is
designed by and for a wide variety of
people. We need to know whom our
tech is designed by and whom our
tech is designed for.
This means we need to talk about
human-computer interaction, or HCI for
short. HCI is a field dedicated to interfac-
es between people—often referred to
as “users”—and computing technolo-
gies. This is a pretty broad field. HCI
experts and practitioners have back-
grounds in design, computer science,
psychology, media studies, and more.
Likewise, HCI research covers a mas-
sive variety of research styles, topics,
technologies, and users. Research cov-
ers topics like user experiences with dif-
ferent application interfaces, anonymity
on social media sites, people’s password-
sharing practices [ 1], and interactions
with artificially intelligent chatbots [ 2].
HCI is infatuated with the user.
We are constantly talking about user
Knowing who we represent in HCI helps us understand
what is at stake. Intersectionality can help us do better.
Can We Build
the Cyborg Future
We All Deserve?