torsdag 26 maj 2016

On the Design of Design Fiction


My previous blog post was about a paper we submitted to the Future Scenarios special track at the 9th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (NordiCHI 2016). We actually submitted a second paper to the Future Scenarios track, "On the Design of Design Fiction: Exploring Sustainable Computing through Fictional Abstracts". This paper has no less than 15 authors and I think it's actually easier to think of the main authors (me and my colleagues Elina Eriksson, Vincent Lewandowski and Josefin Wangel) as "initiators" or "editors" of a paper that would have been considerably harder to write had it not been for today's flexible collaborative writing platforms (we use Google docs).

The paper is actually a revamped version of a paper we submitted to the 5th decennial Århus conference a year ago ("Critical Alternatives 2025: Exploring Sustainable Computing Through Design Fiction"), but that was rejected. The core of the paper is the same, but the focus has now shifted and we frame the purpose of the paper differently than last time around. I feel that it is a better paper this time around, and, a much better fit to the (Future Scenarios) call for papers. The simple fact that there is a Future Scenarios track ought to considerably increase the chances that the paper is accepted this time around.

Another huge difference is that the previous paper was 11 pages long while the maximum length for papers submitted to this conference was 10 pages and it turned out to be really difficult and painful to decrease the length of the paper by 10%. That problem was half fixed by decreasing the number of references from 52 to 35 and we also cut out a whole section (1/2 page), but parts of it entered the text later "thorough a back door". Anyway, it was really tough and that particular job had to be fixed only a couple of hours before the deadline.

Some of the 11 "non-editor" co-authors have contributed more then the others. While all co-authors have contributed by authoring a fictional abstract, some also involved themselves in the actual process of (re-)writing the paper. I would here like to especially extend my thanks to Eric Baumer who contributed with both insightful comments, but also with (many) concrete suggestions for rewriting parts of the paper. Here's what it looked like after he had had a bout with the guidelines that we end the paper with:

The guidelines were created (mostly by me) to give practical tips to co-authors about how to write successful fictional abstracts at the time when they were created. They were included in the previous paper if not as afterthought, then at least as an add-on. This time around, they moved much closer to the center stage and it therefore made sense to rewrite them from the ground up. Still, this is probably not something I would have thought of myself and as to this particular part of the paper, it was Eric Baumer who did the heaving lifting (as can be seen in the screenshot above). Other people who contributed significantly to the new paper was Samuel Mann, Ruzanna Chitchyan and Birgit Penzenstadler. Here's the abstract:

It is now clear that we have exceeded the core planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity. Sustainable HCI and sustainable computing have the potential to provide important contributions to decreasing the human impact on the planet, but serious challenges remain that will not be resolved at the current pace. We therefore need to appraise and reimagine the impact of research within the field. As prediction of and speculation about the future can help to explore critical alternatives, this paper discusses the practice and value of design fiction through the creation of high-quality fictional abstracts. Through creation and analysis of fictional abstracts, we offer ideas on how research could develop over the next ten years and explore potential roles for computing in relation to how sustainability can be achieved, or, in some cases, how computing might factor into living with the consequences of not achieving sustainability. Through this, we argue for an expanded and reinvigorated discourse on future research agendas. Furthermore, the main contribution of the paper is methodological as we present a set of guidelines for writing fictional abstracts.

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