Family Tech Workshop @ CHI 2012

Yesterday, I got a chance to participate in the “Technology for Today’s Family” workshop at CHI 2012. Even though I arrived late (because of having to be at commencement the previous day), I felt like I got a lot out of it. Not only was it great to see some great folks who do work in this space, but I got a lot of ideas for future things I want to try. These weren’t necessarily long discussions during the workshop, but these are things that I jotted down:

  1. “Contrarian Design” — this is a technique for defamiliarization and eliciting design feedback. Instead of considering what may be a good design in the space, it focuses on eliciting bad designs. Looking at these ideas can point to issues of importance to families that might otherwise be difficult to elicit. For example, in the workshop Scott Mainwaring (Intel) role played as a grandmother and presented a contrarian design communication gadget that had an inaccessible interface, presented meaningless shared information (Tweets), and required a service fee each time you used it. This is a fun exercise and I think I’ll incorporate it into my interviewing practices in the future.
  2. Using Kickstarter as a way for quickly gauging interest in a design idea — just put the idea up on to get the crowd to give you feedback on your design. In the future, I might put up two or three ideas simultaneously and let them battle it out!
  3. Disseminating ideas from a workshop — I think the difficulty every workshop faces is the questions of “what next?” I’ve certainly been in my share of workshops where there was talk of special issues or books at the end, but this only rarely pans out. So, what is there between the “see you around!” and “we’ll write a special issue!”? I thought that we actually came up with some great ideas for keeping the momentum going. In the short term, each workshop member committed to posting about the workshop to their social media of choice. In the medium term, we will write a short article for the interactions magazine to discuss some of the biggest challenges in the space of designing for families. In the long term, we may pursue the more ambitious book and/or special issue of a journal goal. We were particularly excited about giving this a more method-centered spin. But, I’ll definitely be trying a similar structure for disseminating ideas at the next workshop I organize!