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Tue, 7 Oct 2014 18:49:46 -0400
Stacy Branham <[log in to unmask]>
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Stacy Branham <[log in to unmask]>
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Call for Papers

Interacting with Computers (IwC) Special Issue on Co-Constructing Meaning: Ethics Matter(s) in Design Research


Guest Editors: 

Stacy Branham, University of Maryland Baltimore County, USA
Anja Thieme, Newcastle University, UK
Lisa Nathan, University of British Columbia, CA
Deborah Tatar, Virginia Tech, USA 


Important Dates:

Expression of interest deadline (300-500 words): November 1, 2014
Feedback on Expressions of Interest: December 2015
Full paper submission deadline: April 1, 2014 


Description of the Special Issue:

This Special Issue invites submissions from across disciplines to consider phenomenological aspects of design research and to unpack ethical dilemmas (e.g. power, ownership, trust, privacy) that arise when we appreciate the potential for design research itself to impose a power structure and values, and to significantly shape participants and researchers even before new tools are created. At stake are policies, professional practices, pedagogical tools, and collective understandings of what it means to be a design researcher in HCI.

Three years ago, in a Special Issue of Interacting with Computers, Harrison, Sengers, and Tatar (2011) articulated the third paradigm of research in HCI. Included are approaches such as reflective design, critical design, value-sensitive design, participatory design, and design-based research, which we broadly label "design research." Common among these is an attention to the social, cultural, political situatedness of interactivity, including animate as well as inanimate, researcher as well as participant. The third paradigm brings with it a sort of enduring "epistemological trouble" (Harrison et al. 2011), whereby adoption of new ways of seeing gives rise to fundamental questions about knowing.

This Special Issue will extend and continue reflection on how the third paradigm is changing research landscapes in HCI. We identify a concomitant phenomenon, a sort of "ethical trouble," whereby fundamental questions about the effects of design research and what it means for design research to do right by participants, researchers, and the world demand renewed consideration.

As the reach of the third paradigm expands, we observe that design research is more collaborative and value-active than ever. New and puzzling relational spaces may be formed that are distinct from both everyday relationships and traditional researcher-researched relationships. Researchers and participants co-construct designs, co-construct meaning, and can form significant relationships with each other. Design researchers find themselves in positions where they persuade, console, support, or interpret for participants. Participants can likewise deeply affect researchers.

In these relational spaces, what are the boundaries and who decides? How can researchers provide care for themselves? When, if ever, should they provide care for participants? Having formed and fostered close relationships with participants, what happens to those relationships when the research comes to an end? Furthermore, as design researchers become sensitized to complex and dynamic power relationships with participants, they ask "whose values, whose design?" and we add "whose ethics, whose design research?"

We welcome submission of rigorous, generative, and original articles that address, but are not limited to, the following issues:

- What are the social, ethical considerations of the design researcher?
- How do design researchers assess and navigate power relationships between actors in the research process?
- What are the design researcher's responsibilities concerning the impact of the research(er) on participants?
- How do design researchers experience and manage conflicting roles they may assume in the process of research that go beyond their professional expertise or established research goals (e.g. as someone who cares for a bereaving participant or who advocates for a participant's political agenda)?
- What are the design researcher's personal experiences during research, including effects on their emotional wellbeing? What are strategies for coping, especially when working in sensitive contexts (e.g. children with terminal illness, mental health and self-harm, genocide)?
- How can design researchers ensure that work is thorough, transparent, and honest, both in the conduct and write-up?
- How can design researchers foster a situated ethics that extends beyond the purview of self-protective institutional approval stipulations?
- What role does persuasion play in design research engagements? Do researchers ever persuade without intention? If a design researcher seeks to explicitly persuade or motivate participants (e.g. to live more sustainably), what ethical dilemmas arise?
- What training or support might facilitate ethical practice of third paradigm research?

Reference: Harrison, S., Sengers, P. and Tatar, D. (2011) Making Epistemological Trouble: Third-Paradigm HCI as Successor Science, In Interacting with Computers: Special Issue: Feminism and HCI, eds. S. Bardzell and E. Churchill, 23(5), p. 385-392


Instructions for Authors: 

We ask that authors submit an Expression of Interest (300-500 word abstract) and a tentative title by November 1, 2014. Please send submissions to Stacy Branham ([log in to unmask]) and Anja Thieme ([log in to unmask]) with the subject line “IwC SI on Ethics”. Feel free to contact the guest editors with questions prior to submitting the abstract.

The submission deadline for full papers is April 1, 2014. Manuscripts should be 5000-7500 words, prepared according to the IwC authors’ guide and should be submitted online. All submissions need to be based on original research and will be subject to the full review process of Interacting with Computers. The guide for authors and online submission is available at 

For information on Interacting with Computers, please see
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