Tuesday 12pm, 28 October 2014


Prototyping Potential Futures: Researching Virtual Possessions through Design

Will Odom

Post-doc - Simon Fraser University


The convergence of social, cloud and mobile computing has created a world in which people generate, access, manipulate, and share personal digital content at larger scales, and faster rates than ever before. From digital photo albums to social networking profiles, these new technologies have enabled people to create vast collections of virtual possessions that capture their life experiences. While these technological trends have created many opportunities, they also raise complex questions for the HCI community as we critically look to the future and consider their potential longer-term implications. As collections continue to grow, how will people live with their virtual possessions in ways that support their evolving practices, values and understandings of self? How will people pass down and experience their digital archives over time, across generations? Should we explore designing alternatives to the always-on-and-available nature of many contemporary interactive technologies? In this talk I will discuss three Research-through-Design projects that investigate these questions and articulate new stances for framing them. I will argue that while HCI has been successful at making technology more usable and enjoyable in the present, new approaches are needed to better support critical investigation into the potential long-term effects of interactive technology in everyday life. This talk will conclude with broader implications for new approaches to support the HCI community in developing speculative visions of potential technological futures in emerging design spaces and, crucially, engaging people in dialog with them.


William Odom is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Everyday Design Studio in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University. His research focuses on the growing presence of interactive technology in everyday life and its sometimes delightful, often disruptive, and nearly always unanticipated effects. He leads a range of research projects themed within the growing digitization of people's possessions and archives, slow technology, and design-oriented methods to critically envision and investigate potential technological futures. This work has been appeared at top-tier venues including CHI, DIS, and Ubicomp, where it has received four best paper awards. His work on Technology Heirlooms in collaboration with Microsoft Research Cambridge received a silver international design excellence award (IDEA) for design research from the Industrial Designers Society of America. He recently completed a Ph.D. in HCI from Carnegie Mellon University, and prior to that was a Fulbright Scholar in the design department at Griffith University's Queensland College of Art in Brisbane, Australia.