Recognizing that recuperation will
always be an imminent threat forces us
to confront our own locations within
institutions of technology production
and design training. These present us
again with both a challenge and an
opportunity. The challenge is working
tactically within the systems of the
status quo to head off recuperation. The
opportunity is to introduce ideas to
audiences that might not otherwise be
exposed to them. The flexibility of HCI
offers opportunities for action, and as we
move forward, we will have to
continually reassess how best to leverage
our proximity to an institutional locus of
power in ways that might not only be
co-opted but that also might give us—
and others—the perspective to see new
opportunities for change.
Designing for the world we want?
A final tension foregrounded by work to
design against the status quo concerns
the question of whether we should
design for an alternative future of a
particular kind—or if we should aim,
instead, to trouble the status quo in
ways that explicitly refrain from
articulating new, alternative sets of
values and possibilities.
Tactics of troubling or friction can be
appealing because they aim to
intervene more indeterminately and as
refusal to dictate what is right—
creating space for alternative values to
emerge and allowing for processes of
becoming. Instead of working to
replace the current status quo with
another fixed alternative, we emphasize
the livedness of design work, research,
and computational artifacts to “make a
space for flexible interactions of the
future, rather than stipulate a desired
outcome in societal terms” [ 2].
Yet designing against the status quo
is not about designing for just any
change. Our motivations may often be
rooted in desires for very specific
change—to create more equitable
futures, to redistribute resources, and
to empower groups who have been
disenfranchised from decision making
in civic, social, and technological
contexts. Allying with these groups
requires taking explicit sides and
embracing the messy, imperfect
political work of building partnerships,
facilitating others’ questioning, and
leveraging our skills to co-envision
new futures and new designs.
Recognizing the importance of artifacts
for shaping politics and possibilities,
we hope to leverage design’s close
alignment with production and
progress to find our way to the table and
showcase the alternative worlds that
could be possible. Even if we do not yet
have perfect (or complete) methods for
ensuring that design brings about more
progressive and just futures, we cannot
continue forging ahead with the world as
it is. As we improvise and iterate on our
practices, a series of questions help us to
maintain an orientation that rebuffs and
resists the world as it already is:
• Whose status quo? What should be
• What’s at stake? Now, what else?
• Who gives permission?
Who disagrees? According to whom?
• What makes a good change? How
does (can) change happen?
• What is my positionality, power,
• How can we overcome inertia,
dislodge the sediment of history?
• What are the limits of design?
Like method cards or inspiration
toolkits, these questions and
provocations can be called upon at many
points within a design practice to
remind us of the human stakes of our
work and the alternative futures that
may yet be possible. Our workshop
concluded with a renewed commitment
to exploring alternatives. We call on
the broader HCI community to join us.
1. Harmon, E., Korn, M., Light, A., and
Voida, A. Designing against the status
quo. Proc. of the 2016 ACM Conference
Companion Publication on Designing
Interactive Systems. ACM, New York,
2016, 65–68. DOI: https://doi.
2. Light, A. HCI as heterodoxy: Technologies
of identity and the queering of interaction
with computers. Interact. Comput. 23, 5
(Sept. 2011), 430–438. DOI: http://dx.doi.
3. Dombrowski, D., Harmon, E., and Fox,
S. Social justice-oriented interaction
design: Outlining key design strategies
and commitments. Proc. of the
DOI: 10.1145/3178560 COP YRIGHT HELD BY AUTHORS. PUBLICATION RIGHTS LICENSED TO ACM. $15.00
2016 ACM Conference on Designing
Interactive Systems. ACM, New York,
2016, 656–671. DOI: https://doi.
4. Khovanskaya, V., Sengers, P., Mazmanian,
M., and Darrah, C. Reworking the gaps
bet ween design and ethnography. Proc.
of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human
Factors in Computing Systems. ACM, New
York, 2017, 5373–5385. DOI: https://doi.
Vera Khovanskaya is a graduate student in
information science at Cornell University.
Her research interests include speculative
design, archival research methods,
and the intersections of technology design
and labor practices.
Lynn Dombrowski is an assistant professor
in human-centered computing at Indiana
University – Purdue University – Indianapolis
(IUPUI). She studies, designs, and evaluates
technologies centered on social issues,
including economic and social disparities.
Ellie Harmon is a senior instructor in the
Department of Computer Science at Portland
State University. She teaches courses in human-computer interaction, computer literacy, and
the social and ethical impacts of computing.
Matthias Korn is a postdoctoral researcher
at the University of Siegen, Germany. His
research interests include studying and
designing for civic engagement, activism,
subversion, and transgression. He has a
background in information systems, human-computer interaction, and participatory design.
Ann Light is professor of design and creative
technology at the University of Sussex, where
she leads the Creative Technology Group. She
is a design researcher specializing in design for
social well-being and sustainable futures, the
politics of participation, and the long-term social
and cultural impact of digital networks.
Michael Stewart is an assistant professor
of computer science at James Madison
University. He teaches courses in human-computer interaction and computer science
Amy Voida is an assistant professor
and founding faculty in the Department
of Information Science at the University
of Colorado Boulder. She conducts research
in human-computer interaction and
computer-supported cooperative work,
with a focus on philanthropic informatics—
supporting philanthropic work wherever
it can be nurtured and provoked.