Molly Nicholas at CHI 2018

18 May, 2018

Molly Nicholas at CHI 2018

Molly Nicholas, a graduate student studying Human Computer Interaction at the Computer Science department at the University of California, Berkeley, attended the CHI 2018 Conference in Montréal, Canada. The conference took place from April 21-26.

The Spring 2018 BCNM Conference Grant helped cover Nicholas's costs of attending CHI 2018.

In her own words:

The theme of this year's CHI was "Engage". This time, I was lucky enough to be on both sides of engagement: I was enriched by many wonderful presentations, but I also had the amazing opportunity to share our work with the scholars in attendance. We were part of a session on Tangible, Embodied, and Wearable Interaction that included great work from Berkeley's own Kimiko Ryokai on designing interfaces that capture and represent laughter.

Part of being a 2nd year graduate student is learning to develop your intuition about what makes good research. I operationalize this at conferences by carefully choosing which presentations I attend. Here are a subset of my favourite talks at this years CHI:

Displaying Invisible Objects: Why People Rarely Re-read E-books.

This awesome work by Jane Gruning investigates how the affordances of digital objects support or undermine long-term relationships with those objects. In particular, she talked about how the visibility of paper books results in positive ongoing behaviors such as re-reading, whereas current systems for electronic books don't support such rich relationships. Aside from loving the focus on books as a site for research, her research methodologies and theoretical complexity in the discussion were new and fascinating to me.

Design Within a Patriarchal Society: Opportunities and Challenges in Designing for Rural Women in Bangladesh.

I lived in Bangladesh for nearly a year with my family just after I had graduated from high school, and had a very tough time grappling with the extreme poverty. To hear an established researcher reframe the challenges there with such honesty and optimism moved me to tears.

Seeing What Is and What Can Be: On Sustainability, Respect for Work, and Design for Respect.

This was my first introduction to Ely Blevis, and like many in the audience I am now a permanent member of his fan club. His thoughtful approach to visual media as a way to engage with questions around how to design, the purpose of design, and the relationship of seemingly minute design choices to societal attitudes was deeply compelling.

Sketch&Stitch: Interactive Embroidery for E-textiles.

Embroidery is one of my favourite forms of textile art, and the Sketch&Stitch platform is all about combining that technique with electronics, in a way that maintains the 'handedness' that's so important to so much of crafting. The authors even developed techniques to create embroidery sensors using conductive thread!

There were so many more presentations about fresh new work: from design inquiries into our relationships with everyday objects to an awesome pop-up workshop in an alt.chi session critiquing the conservative ACM establishment. While it can be huge and overwhelming, my experience at CHI this year was intriguing, inspiring, and invigorating. I look forward to next year :)