Starting a new research project, the first one that I am entirely responsible for by myself has been a ride so far. There is a freedom in deciding what to do and how, but the freedom is also fundamentally scary. To document some of my thoughts and offer brief glimpses into the work on this project, I intend to post here periodically. With this, I hope to keep my work accountable to the public and explore potential directions to take.
At the start, I will look back on the proposal to set out a shared understanding of what the project is about and also to revisit my own interpretation thereof. Fundamentally, I meant to address the following issue:
This project addresses a gap between critical approaches to the body in HCI [Human-Computer Interaction] and Interaction Design. It focuses on marginalised bodies through an intersectional lens that has previously received little attention from the field(s). This attention to marginalised bodies together with the awareness of intersectional entanglements also means acknowledging the messiness of human bodies and the diverse forms they come with.
And the proposal states further: “The project starts by targeting issues around the implicit biases of technologies and the systematic exclusion these result in. Implicit bias in technology design is more and more discussed on an algorithmic level of systematic, political exclusion (…). However, no effective epistemological and/or designerly inquiry has been conducted on technologies concerning the human body after the somatic turn within HCI and no formal attempt has been made to illustrate how we can design interactions for a range of diverse bodies in a non-normativising fashion. Essentially, while critique is at the starting point of this project, this critique is collectively turned around and productively applied within its context.”
My plan for the first year here was then to formulate the critique in a participatory research endeavour. This is difficult in the best of times, but with COVID19 still an active pandemic (remember!?), my options are currently largely virtual. I do intend to pursue some options in that regard. However, given the sensitivity and stigma we have around our own bodies and the aforementioned messiness that entails, doing these meetings exclusively virtually seems inappropriate and potentially coming of as disregarding the intimacy and trust required to have a productive and respectful research relationship. While I am working at identifying adequate strategies to account for the status quo and keep this work meaningful within the transformative aspiration it has, I currently focus on critically reviewing how bodies are constructed in (em/in/on)bodied HCI research with the intent to identify unmarked norms characterising this research and understanding how certain bodies are marginalised, othered or entirely ignored in this type of research. More on this and tacit early steps on doing critical participatory design as a way of servicing marginalised communities soon.