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HCI Research: Does it really matter?

Gregory Abowd
Distinguished Professor in the School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Tech


Newell-Simon Hall 1305 (Michael Mauldin Auditorium)

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The field of HCI has come a long way in its relatively short history. HCI is not fighting for intellectual credibility nearly as much as it did even ten years ago. While the battle for intellectual legitimacy will never be over, it’s not where we should be directing our attention in the future. Rather than prove our worth to our close colleagues, we should be demonstrating our value to a much broader audience, demonstrating relevance to the world outside of our disciplines. We must work on problems that children, grandparents, and politicians understand and believe are important. When we connect what we do to the challenges of everyday life, two things happen. First, people pay attention. Second, we see just how complicated real life is to explore and impact as a researcher. In my experience, it is actually a lot harder to work as a scientist on problems that people care about…education, health, sustainability, national sovereignty. By examining the challenges of my own career in ubiquitous computing, I will show how thinking more broadly about the relevance of our research can help to focus our attention on what intellectual progress we need to make as a community.

Speaker's Bio

Gregory Abowd is a Distinguished Professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. His research in ubiquitous computing has resulted in well-known living laboratory projects Classroom 2000 and the Aware Home. His current research explores applications of health and sustainability. He currently serves as the Interim Director of the Health Systems Institute, a joint Georgia Tech/Emory research effort focusing on systems engineering for chronic health care management in traditional and non-traditional health spaces. Dr. Abowd received his doctorate in Computation from the University of Oxford and held postdoctoral positions at the University of York and Carnegie Mellon before joining the faculty at Georgia Tech. He was elected to the CHI Academy in 2008 and received the 2007 ACM SIGCHI Social Impact Award and the 2008 Georgia Tech Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Advisor Award. He has graduated 14 Ph.D. students, 12 of whom hold academic positions.

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