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Common Interactive Objects

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CIO (Common Interactive Objects)

Reporting period: 2019-06-01 to 2020-11-30

Human-computer interaction is currently caught between, on the one side, the Internet of Things, where objects as such are seen as becoming interactive, beyond user control, teamed up with Big Data which similarly assumes to know human beings better than they do themselves; and on the other side, the augmentation of the human being itself with ‘enhanced’ capacities from smart prostheses, teamed up with a renewed interest in augmented and virtual worlds. In both of these alternatives, human control over technology is jeopardized. At the same time, while the research field of HCI is expanding in scope and method, little is happening in terms of innovating how we think and build user interfaces, rooted in understanding complex human use. This is despite the current occurrence of mobile, ubiquitous and large-screen interfaces. I intend to address core challenges of human control over interactive technology, and offer alternative solutions.

With this proposal we identify a number of strands of thinking that support the idea that common interactive objects may ultimately bring together an understanding of use and building of user interfaces in a coherent and unified framework, to be applied in interaction design. CIO will deal with theory, development of interaction design methods and the underlying technical platforms. Once carried through, the gains of CIO will be a coherent new, high-impact framework of understanding and building human-computer interaction across physical and virtual structures, bringing understanding and control back to the users.

When carried through, the project offers new ways for people to construct and configure their physical and virtual environment, together, over time and within communities. It offers innovative ways for people to have shared control over data, artifacts and technological environments as alternative to the current trends where Internet of Things, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence threaten to take control away from people.

In this manner CIO will offer alternatives that support transparency of society and public institutions, and alternatives that are not dependent on ownership of software and data by big coorperations.
In the first period CIO has worked to establish the theoretical foundation, elements of methods and a technical platform, and it has tied these three elements together through the three cases that are in focus.

Parts of this work has been accepted for academic publication in prime venues, while other parts are in the pipeline for journal publication
CIO is very ambitious academically, with a potential of fundamentally changing how we think and do human-computer interaction. CIO offers theoretical, technical, methodological and empirical contributions: Theoretical as concepts to support the understanding of common interactive object in IT-mediated human activity; technical as new building blocks to build and explore such interactive objects; methodological as the scaffolding that it takes to support the processes of designing, building and evaluating interactive objects; and empirical as the exemplar that get build in the cases, and that hopefully provide useful in these contexts.
The project sets out to leave a lasting mark on how Human-Computer Interaction thinks and not least builds interaction. It seeks to provide means and structures for activating the many ways in which common interactive objects get (re-)appropriated and (re-)used over time.

Academically the high gains lie in a understanding or framework of common interactive objects from design, via implementation to use, and the technological building blocks and exemplars that will hopefully change human-computer interaction for good. The risks do indeed pertain to whether ultimately it is possible to create a framework that embraces understanding as well as interface components; in design and in use.

For society at large, this provides hope of forms of interactive objects that mix and match across hardware and software platforms. The fundamental assumption of CIO, that interactive objects will empower users to better understand and develop the technologies they use, is indeed high-gain in itself. CIO has a strong potential of supporting a renewed attention to human control, as well as new critique of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Virtual Reality. Supporting multiplicity and diversity, both in terms of what technical solutions may work across which technical platforms, and in terms of providing the means for more diverse communities of users to apprehend and develop their own technologies, is similarly most needed and very challenging at this day and age where commercial actors such as Facebook and Google seem to want to claim this space for themselves, at more and more obvious risks. The risks at this societal level do indeed pertain to this massive commercial penetration, and to whether ultimately the framework will provide the needed empowerment. The main technological gain, but also the main risk lies in WP3, in whether it will be possible to suggest an object-based interaction framework.