tutions with which HCI researchers and designers work to develop interactive systems may have
their own policies that impact system design.
Many organizations, for example, have explicit
policies that provide guidelines for “appropriate”
employee Internet and email usage.
Working-group norms and expectations. Again,
though not public policy and perhaps not even
explicitly stated, the specific groups of individuals
who will be using the technology and perhaps even
participating as co-designers may have tacit but
strongly held norms and expectations relevant to a
technology under development. These norms and
expectations may function as if they were explicitly agreed upon policies; to the extent they do, they
may need to be accounted for in the design process
and eventual system deployment [ 4].
HCI researcher and designer principles, policies,
norms, and expectations. Finally, HCI research
and design teams have their own explicit or
tacit commitments similar to the working-group
norms and expectations that can function as
if they were policies, guiding acceptable design
practices and outcomes. For example, project
team policies might guide the breadth and depth
of user studies, the minimal extent to which co-design must occur, and explicitly supported values for a given project. Seen in this light, Bidwell
and Winschiers-Theophilus advocate project
team policies that encourage Western researchers and designers to engage in co-design with
Africans within an African context [ 5].
[ 4] Orlikowski, W. J.
“Using Technology and
A Practice Lens for
11, 4 (2000): 404–428.
[ 5] Bidwell, N. J., and
H. “Beyond the
an African Interaction
Design.” interactions 17,
1 (2010): 32–35.
Encountering Policy in the World
To help explicate the ways in which various levels of policy can interact within a single research
and design project, we draw from one of our current projects. Our work with video interviews
from the United Nations International Criminal
Tribunal for Rwanda (UN-ICTR) begins where the
official tribunal records end: the collection of 49
in-depth video interviews with a diverse group
of tribunal personnel—prosecutors, defense
counsel, judges, investigators, interpreters, court
administrators, and others—on the experience
of participating in the tribunal. We refer to this
project as the “Voices from the Rwanda Tribunal”
(or “Tribunal Voices”) [ 6]. The original goals
were to provide widespread public access to the
interviews for access and reuse while protecting
against revisionist histories.
Bounding Discourse: Rwandan National
Law and information Centre Principles
To enhance the “Tribunal Voices” material on a
local area network, we explored the development
of a commenting system. The goal of the online
commenting system was to provide visitors to
information centers (managed by United Nations
employees, many from Rwanda) in Kigali and
roughly a dozen Rwandan provinces with the
opportunity to contribute their reflections and
analyses about specific clips and the tribunal
in general. The ability to weigh in might scaffold open discourse in a country reaching for
democracy, in turn supporting UN policies of
international human rights and development [ 7].
In the words of one of our African colleagues:
“This website can help people to reconciliation….
You want people to talk. To get rid of the hatred
inside them.” Yet in early discussions about the
specifics of the commenting system, strong concerns arose. The information-center employees
worried that some comments might be perceived
as violating Rwanda’s 2008 Genocide Ideology
Law (e.g., comments that deny the genocide).
Violators of this law face harsh penalties (fines
and/or incarceration), and the site would likely be
blocked in Rwanda.
This concern for national policy led our colleagues to urge for a “moderated” forum in which
all posts would be reviewed prior to posting.
If the online forum on the local area network
were moderated and anti-government messages removed, would this system be supporting
open, democratic discourse? Together with our
co-designers we decided to set up a moderated
forum for the near term; we plan to revisit this
choice as the political climate in Rwanda continues to evolve.
[ 6] Friedman, B.,
Nathan, L. P., Grey, N.
C., Lake, M., Nilsen,
T., Utter, E., Utter, R.
F., Ring, M., and Kahn.
Design in Post-conflict
Societies: An Evolving
Project in Rwanda.”
of CHI 2010 (2010):
interacting with Participants: institutional
Review Board and uN-iCtR Culture
Conducting research in a post-conflict situation
poses unique challenges for protecting human
subjects. In particular, prior to being in the field,
it is difficult if not impossible to understand
communication norms and the conditions that
would be perceived as safe by potential participants. During our first attempt to recruit
UN-ICTR personnel to participate in our project,
our Institutional Review Board (IRB) required
that we extend at most two invitations to each
[ 7] United Nations’
Office of the High
Commission for Human
September + October 2010