INTERACTIONS.ACM.ORG 68 INTERACTIONS SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER2014FORUM SUSTAINABILITY IN (INTER)ACTION
for a nuanced, flexible, and sensitivediscourse on the respective roles ofinnovation, novelty, and responsibilityin the face of historicallyunprecedented challenges. Thus, achallenge for SHCI researchers—andHCI in general—is to use old and newtechnologies effectively in service ofmeaningful sustainability goals.
Thus far, sustainable HCI researchhas had little impact outside HCI. Mostearly system-development effortswithin SHCI saw sustainability as anapplication domain for HCI businessas usual. As we have come to realizethe severity of the challenges ofsustainability and the multiscalar,transdisciplinary nature of theprocesses that drive them, we havecome to see sustainability less as aninteresting research topic and moreas a practical ethical imperative.
This view drives our current effortsto reach beyond HCI for theoreticaland methodological inspiration, andfor allies in doing the practical workof grappling with the complexitiesand unsustainabilities of particularsociotechnical situations.
To contribute more substantively toefforts to promote sustainability, SHCIresearchers should:
Specify and operationalizesustainability goals in our work andarticulate approaches to evaluating ourwork in vie w of those goals. Discussionof sustainability goals and how tooperationalize them has been partof SHCI since its early days. Butwe have yet to develop a vigorousdiscourse of sustainability evaluation.
We call on SHCI researchers to beas clear as possible in orienting andevaluating design work with respectto sustainability goals covered insustainability discourses outside HCI.
Do research that considers longer
time scales. To fully appreciate the
interlinked social, economic, and
ecological contexts and effects of design
interventions, and their implications for
future designs, we call for an expansion
of the temporal scope of analysis in
SHCI user and field studies. This does
not necessarily mean longer studies,
although they would be welcome. It
means considering, as rigorously as
possible, the long-term social, economic,
political, and ecological processes that
might influence the adoption, use, and
effects of particular technologies and
Draw from and support relevant workoutside HCI. To substantively engagesustainability issues on the appropriatesocial, physical, and temporal scaleswill require connecting with concepts,methods, people, and work in otherfields and sectors (policy, industry,civil society, and social movements).
It is increasingly clear that this is theway forward if SHCI research is tocontribute to addressing sustainabilityissues in practice.
Build and support systems people
use in their everyday practices, and
do studies that inform the design
and operation of such systems. HCI
researchers have built and maintained
systems used in people’s everyday
practices—outside the methodological
context of a user study. But most
HCI studies—prototype-based and
fieldwork-based—aim primarily to
influence design practice through the
production of knowledge. Directly
supporting or influencing particular
practices over long-term use are
secondary aims—if they are aims at all.
This is largely true even of prototype
persuasive systems that aim to influence
user behavior. We call for more action
research, “HCI in the wild,” and
participatory projects in SHCI.
Address the full diversity of
sustainability issues. SHCI has focused
on consumer behavior with respect
to energy, transport, food, and water.
The sustainability literature proper
considers both larger scales (e.g.,
metropolitan, national, global) and
a broader range of topics, including
population, health, poverty and
affluence, peace and security, disasters,
social transformation, cultural renewal,
and governance. Outcomes in these
domains depend on the conditions
of both natural systems and human
institutions. Information plays a key role
in the operation of human institutions,
and institutions affect the health of
natural systems. Thus information
system researchers, designers, and
operators can contribute to addressing
a much wider range of sustainability
issues than have been studied in SHCI.
Move beyond simple models to grapple
with the full multi-scalar complexity
of “wicked” sustainability problems.
change nor any other
will be addressed at a
single point. I M A G