[ 11] The general mode
of inventory-type inquiry
has also appeared in
HCI and design litera-
ture including (but not
limited to): R. Strickland,
“Portable effects: A sur-
vey of nomadic design
practice.” Tech Report
Research Corp., 1998,
com; The “Personal
card found in IDEO.
IDEO Method Cards.
2003; M. Ludvigsson,
interaction,” in Proc. of
‘In the Making’ the First
Nordic Conference on
Design Research, 2005;
S. D. Mainwaring, K.
Anderson, and M. F.
Chang, “What’s in your
wallet?: implications for
global e-wallet design,”
in Ext. Abs. of CHI ’05,
New York: ACM Press,
2005; J. Chipchase,
P. Persson, P. Piippo,
M. Aarras, and T.
essentials: field study
and concepting,” in
Proc. of DUX ’05, vol.
135, New York: AIGA,
previous design ethnog-
as T. Salvador, G.
Bell, and K. Anderson,
Journal 10, no. 4
(1999) and R. Wakkary
and L. Maestri, “The
in Proc. of C&C ’07,
New York: ACM Press,
2007—has ties to the
general aim and spirit
of our development
and use of the personal
inventories method. P.
Menzel’s Material World:
A Global Family Portrait
is an additional influ-
ence, however, while
his work represents a
treatment of global
cultural differences in
attitudes toward mate-
rialism—it is reductive
in its approach. In other
words, Menzel attempts
to reduce each country
to a single representa-
tive photograph, where
our aim is quite the
the range of practice
and phenomena with
respect to the durability
of digital and non-digital
In contrast, the newer systems were left in standby
mode to allow for fast startup of new game play
and to preserve place in game sessions. While
these hardware components are not of particularly
high quality or durability, we consider that these
entire installation spaces are ensouled—tied to
dense, enduring archives of game media, hardware
systems, and the associated memories by people
who are self-described as enthusiastic videogame
hobbyists. One of the primary reasons to keep
these game consoles around is to be able to play
early versions of game software that does not run
on newer systems.
We see the development and application of
personal inventories as part of a larger discourse
within HCI calling for methods better suited to aid
designers in facilitating actual change in the world,
apropos of a rigorous understanding of the nature
of design practice. We have made the case for the
importance of constructing individual inventories,
particularly in terms of the role products play in
mediating between us and the world, and, in turn,
the impact this has on our experiences, actions,
and relationships. This type of approach is parallel to the first step of “redirective practice”—the
concept of designing to encourage the substitution
of sustainable behaviors for unsustainable ones
[ 12]. We must first take stock of what people have,
how they use it, and what constitutes durability,
in order to understand how to design things in a
more sustainable way.
September + October 2008
[ 12] The concept of
is owed to Fry in Fry,
Tony (2008, in press).
Design Futuring. Berg
Origins, Inspirations, and Redirective Practice
Our ongoing collective research involving personal
inventories aims to examine human relationships
with the materials and phenomena that construct
the fabric of everyday life—with emphasis on how
objects become ensouled. The purpose is to establish a method that makes it possible to unpack
these complex processes in a way that could
inform and inspire designers. The development of
this approach owes to a variety of prior work and
inspirations spanning multiple disciplines.
As initial inspiration, we drew on the applied
taxonomic approaches used by Alfred Kinsey to
collect thousands of inventories of male (and later
female) behavioral histories [ 7], Csikszentmihalyi
and Rouchberg-Halton’s extensive survey of
domestic objects and their role in construction of
the self [ 3], and Collier and Collier’s proposition
of the “cultural inventory” approach and, more
broadly, photography as a research method [ 8].
While the diversity of disciplines and endeavors
reflected in these approaches was influential to
the construction of personal inventories as a method, each one remains different in its ultimate aim.
Fundamentally, these are modes of scientific inquiry concerned with the search for “truth” or holistic understandings of entire cultures or groups.
Conversely, the personal inventories method is
concerned with “that which is ideal and that which
is real [ 9],” improving interaction design practice
based on a nuanced and reflective understanding of the nature of design [ 10], and, ultimately,
producing intentional change in the world. Our
purpose is in spirit and ambition the development
of a designerly method of gaining knowledge and
understanding of the real and situated complexity
of people’s everyday lives [ 11].
ABOUT THE AUTHORS William Odom is a
contributing member to the Sustainable Interaction
Design Research Group at Indiana University. He
recently completed his master’s in human-computer interaction/design in the School of Informatics at
Indiana University. Along with his colleague David
Roedl, he recently took first place in the interface design section of
the Microsoft sponsored Imagine Cup competition. Currently, he is
a Fulbright Scholar at Griffith University Queensland College of Art
in Brisbane, Australia. He can be reached at www.willodom.com
Eli Blevis serves on the faculty in the human-com-
puter interaction design program of the School of
Informatics at Indiana University, Bloomington. Dr.
Blevis’s primary area of research, and the one for
which he is best known, is sustainable interaction
design. This area of research and Dr. Blevis’s core
expertise are situated within the confluence of human computer
interaction as it owes to the computing and cognitive sciences, and
design as it owes to the reflection of design criticism and the prac-
tice of critical design. Dr. Blevis has published more than 40 arti-
cles and papers and has given several invited colloquia internation-
ally on sustainable interaction design and the larger context of
notions of design.
Erik Stolterman is professor and director of the
human computer interaction design program at the
School of Informatics, Indiana University.
Stolterman’s research is focused on interaction
design, philosophy of design, information technolo-
gy and society, information systems design, and
philosophy of technology. Stolterman has published more than 30
articles and five books, including Thoughtful Interaction Design
(2004, MIT Press), The Design Way (2003, ITP), and Methods-in-
Action (2002, McGraw-Hill).