HCII Calendar

  • HCII Seminar - Ryan Brotman
    NSH 1305
    April 16, 2014 at 4:00pm
  • HCII Seminar - Laura Granka
    NSH 1305
    April 23, 2014 at 4:00pm
  • Ph.D. Thesis Proposal: Eliane Stampfer Wiese
    NSH 3305
    April 25, 2014 at 12:30pm

John Zimmerman

» Faculty

John Zimmerman

Associate Professor
Human-Computer Interaction Institute
Newell-Simon Hall 2504F
(412) 608-8181
Administrative Staff

I am an interaction designer and researcher with a joint appointment as an Associate Professor at the Human-Computer Interaction and at the School of Design.

I have four main research areas:

    1. Designing for the Self: I have been investigating how to operationalize theories on material possession attachment and theories on material practices and material in the design of interactive products and services.

      These theories describe how meaning and attachment grow from repeated use of different artifacts. One example I really like is how parents develop an attachment to specific books they read to their children. If you visit parents 20 years after their children have left home, many still possess and cherish these books.

      My work looks at how to make things that help people become the person they desire to be; how a product can help a person feel they are moving towards their idealized self in a specific role. Examples of things I have made with my students and collaborators include the reverse alarm clock that keeps young children from waking their parents; a smart activity bag that allows parents to pass responsibility of preparing for an activity to a child; and the family time flow, a system that learns the routines of busy families and then uses this knowledge to support these families. Recently I have been taking this work in a new direction, looking at how teens construct value with their virtual possessions; things like their music, photos, text messages, video game avatars, and social network profiles.

    2. Research through Design: This work investigates how the design process can be recast as a method of inquiry. Design has an ability to holistically embrace “wicked problems;” an approach much different than the reductionist practices found in engineering and scientific inquiry. My work in this area has been to formalize research through design so that contributions made following this approach will be accepted in the HCI research community. Recent work on this with Jodi Forlizzi and Erik Stolterman has focused on the activity of theory building. In addition, I am currently working on a book with Ilpo Koskien, Thomas Binder, Johan Redström, and Stephan Wensveen that takes a broader view. In the book we describe “Constructive Design Research” as three approaches (lab, field, and showroom) that have arisen in different design schools over the last 15 years.

    3. Mixed-initiative Interaction: Many years ago when I started working at Philips Research, I began to work with researchers working on machine-learning systems. This began my fascination with how to best combine human and machine intelligence. My recent work with Anthony Tomasic has focused on the needs of non-programming office workers. I have been designing interfaces that allow them to automate their work through collaboration with software agents. The VIO system learns to recognize incoming emails that require office workers to update databases. VIO selects the correct update form and fills it out as much as it can. It then waits for the user to make any repairs and approve the update. The MIXER system allows workers to automate information retrieval tasks. Workers design a table, filling in the first row and then MIXER completes the retrieval following the patterns the user demonstrated. I am just beginning a new project in this space on a decision support tool that helps physicians decide on whether to use a mechanical circulatory device for patients suffering from heart failure.

    4. Service Design for Public Services: I am very interested in how citizens can feel ownership and responsibility for the public services they use. I have set an impossible idealized state where the citizens of Pittsburgh can learn to love and feel ownership for a public service with the same passion they bring to the beloved Pittsburgh Steelers football team. Working with Aaron Steinfeld and Anthony Tomasic, we have created a mobile application called Tiramisu (means “pick me up” in Italian). This service allows transit riders to share GPS traces in order to create real-time bus arrival information. The work attempts to operationalize service design theory on co-production. In this case the riders are working with the transit service to make the information they desire.

I teach interaction design and HCI methods with a focus on finding rich product opportunities.

Before joining Carnegie Mellon University, I was a senior researcher at Philips Research. While at Philips, I designed interactive television products and intelligent devices for the home consumer market.

Research Areas
Design Research
Enabling Technologies
Human Assistance
Social Computing
Research Interests
Design Research, Ubicomp, Social Computing, Cloud Computing, Service Design, Mixed-initiative Interaction, End-user programming, Possession Attachment