Interaction Design for Sustainability
Through my involvement with the ACM’s HCI and Sustainability interest group I am exploring the role interaction design can play in promoting sustainability as a future oriented project. I approach interactive design as a form of worldmaking, and ask how it may provide users with the means to rediscover and develop their capacity to affect the deep cultural and political structures that influence how they perceive and act on sustainability.
Similar questions motivated my postdoctoral research, where I was involved in Sustainability in an Imaginary World: a project that aims to design, pilot and evaluate a multimedia engagement experience that combines scenario-based models with artistic expressive vocabularies. The project is funded by a SSHRC Insight grant, and seeks to explicate and communicate the potentiality implied in sustainability in ways that get ‘behind the science’ and are imaginative and meaningful.
In my doctoral work I asked how interactive media are designed to enrol the public into the politics of sustainability. My dissertation, titled New Media and the Turn to Experience in Environmental Communication, focuses on the way interactive media evoke what I call “interactive world disclosure”, the particular way in which interactive experiences create distinct, felt and meaningful images of the world and our place in it. I argue that, in the context of sustainability, such interactive experiences are designed to promote a particular vision of political culture, and take part in re-articulating what Raymond Williams calls a “structure of feeling”. I’ve defended the dissertation successfully in October 2013, and graduated in February 2014. Here’s the abstract | whole thing.
Civic Media and Critical Theory
Over the last few years I have been involved in Disruptive Imaginings, an initiative that aims to bring together the arts, design and strategic foresight to create a more sustainable world. My involvement here is part of a larger interest in the relations between design and ways to think about the future (such as design fiction, speculative design or experiential futures).
I am also an active board member of Vancouver’s Civic Renewal Lab, a collective that initiates designerly interventions in the city’s urban space and culture. In my most recent CRL project I helped design a mapping app for discovering, sharing and increasing the use of the city’s hidden public and privately-owned public spaces. My work with the CRL is part of a larger interest in urban futures, especially in the context of Smart Cities, Open Government, and the growth of the Civic Tech industry.
Now complete, the Greenest City Conversations project aimed to develop and evaluate multiple channels for public engagement on sustainability policies – mostly around the City of Vancouver’s ambitious plans to become the world’s greenest city by 2020. Aside from taking part in developing the project’s proposal, I led the process of formulating an evaluative framework that would be relevant for both digital and non-digital channels, and did some work on MetroQuest – a decision-support tool made in Vancouver.
A few years ago I did some discourse analysis work commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives as part of their Climate Justice Project. The results of the study were published in Shane Gunster‘s article ‘Covering Copenhagen: Climate Politics in BC Media‘.
Phenomenological Approaches to Interactive Media
Much of my work is underlined by an interest in interactive experiences in various digital media contexts and settings (such as games, decision support tools, interactive installations, and so forth). I am interested in how interactivity as a specific techno-cultural phenomenon impacts the way we see ourselves, others and the world. In my earlier work I looked at Heidegger’s tool analysis in Being & Time as a theoretical framework for considering such experiential elements as immersion, break/continuity, and deep disclosure. I am currently developing a framework for considering design as a form of worldmaking, following Nelson Goodman’s work (to which I give a phenomenological twist).