produced no matches in the SIGCHI
database at all. People whose identity
and experiences are informed by being
genderqueer, gender fluid, queer, Asian
American, Chicanx and Latinx (and all
lexical variations), First Nations, Alaskan Native, Pacific Islander, and lower
class are users, but these identity keywords resulted in no matches in the
SIGCHI database. Moreover, intersectional HCI requires us to acknowledge
who is given space in our research and
who has been left out. Knowing where
we have fallen short as a field helps us
pinpoint specific areas to build on for
improving HCI. Further, it helps us target focus areas for making a better cyborg future a reality.
Through this research, we were able
to uncover critical insights into identity work at CHI, but it also uncovered
critical questions for the community at
large: How is it possible that so few papers matched our search criteria? Given
the nearly 14,000 publications we are
pulling from, and HCI’s foundational
reliance on the user, it is truly remarkable that so few publications feature
keywords from common demographic
identity categories. If not with these
common terms, how is the identity of
the user represented?
While there is a lot more work to do
in building a cyborg future that priori-tizes the identity diversity of users, it
is clear HCI is striving toward this future. Each year, more work is centered
on computing technology created by
and with people from many different,
intersectional identity backgrounds.
While only a beginning, the 24 papers
with an intersectional focus covered in
our research are a good start. Many of
these publications were in-depth, qualitative studies into a particular intersectional identity, like young black men or
homeless mothers. However, there were
also a few papers that investigated multiple identity categories quantitatively,
though in these publications identity
categories were still investigated separately and then explained sequentially—data on gendered presented first,
then data on race, then data on class.
With this research at the roots, we can
continue to build and strengthen how
identity is handled in HCI.
There is more to intersectional HCI
than considering identity intersec-
tions of users; this is just a first step.
We need qualitative and quantitative
work to be invested in intersectional-
ity. We also need to be critical about
the categories we are already using.
As we covered earlier, many papers
that talked about gender did so by us-
ing binary, cisgender categories (cis-
gender meaning people whose gen-
der identity is aligned with the gender
identity they were assigned at birth).
Only a few papers mentioned trans
identities. These publications were
focused exclusively on trans commu-
nities [ 5]. In other papers, however,
a side effect of this simplified repre-
sentation of gender is the erasure of
trans identities. This erasure contrib-
utes to widespread discrimination
against transgender and gender non-
conforming folk, which puts their
lives and wellbeing at continued risk.
Intersectional HCI can help us do bet-
ter in building the human-computer
interactions we all deserve.
The words we use to talk about
our users matter. Words are the main
medium we use to communicate our
work. The words we choose can con-
tinue to support structural, identity-
based discrimination, or they can
draw attention to the intricacies, expe-
riences, and needs of users as complex
When it comes to the cyborg fu-
ture we all deserve, we are clearly on
the right path. The CHI community is
thinking more about the user’s identity
than ever before. And, researchers are
increasingly communicating that iden-
tity is something we need to address if
we are going to understand and design
Identity is not
an exclusive category.
HCI can and should
also consider gender,
race, and class at
the same time.
for a world with ever-blurring bound-
aries between people and technology.
When we understand how identity-
based discrimination is designed into
our technologies, we are able to address
our shortcomings and develop new
paths. We are able to design differently.
To create the better cyborg future
Donna Haraway formulates in her “
Cyborg Manifesto,” we all need to play an
active role in developing the technology that is shaping our world [ 6]. It’s
not about one totalizing user. It’s about
embracing difference and diversity. It’s
about embracing a multiplicity of users.
We need to step up and take ownership
of our responsibility for the entangled
relationships bet ween our social worlds
and our technical ones. With intersectionality as a framework, we can build
the better computer interactions of the
cyborg future we all deserve.
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Ari Schlesinger is a full-time cyborg and a Ph. D. student in
human-centered computing at Georgia Tech. Schlesinger’s
research is focused on identity and infrastructure, looking
into how we can develop technology that builds just values
into multiple layers of a computational artifact. Find out
more at www. AriSchlesinger.com
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