Interaction Design in the Wild

Rogers, Y. (2011). Interaction design gone wild: striving for wild theory. Interactions, 18(4), 58-62.

Yvonne Rodger’s article “Interaction design gone wild: striving for wild theory,” begins to touch on the inherent problem of theory and practice.  HCI theory draws from many domains, but no one theory maps completely or produces exact results.  Thus, there is a break-down between what is theorized and what is practiced.  One problem which the article is trying to address is the fact that much of theory is based on controlled lab experiments, which are good for some things but not everything.  The controlled lab experiments can test very specific things, but what is missing from the theoretical landscape is what happens in the real world, or as researchers like to say, “in the wild.”   The article calls for researchers to start doing research “in the wild” and to develop “wild theories.”  It is a noble request and there is possibility that it will occur.

My call is for there to be another phrase rather than “in the wild” for research that occurs under real conditions in real world situations with real world constraints.  The “in the wild” phrase really is coming out of ethnographic research where the “in the wild” was the “other.”  The “wild” also speaks to the “otherness” of the real world as compared to the lab.  The lab represents the “not wild” world whereas the non-lab world is represented by “wild.”  The wild means there are less researcher inflicted constraints and thus, “wild” refers to the researcher’s perspective of the context.  If we truly want to do interaction design for the world in which it will exist, then we need not think of that world as a form of “other,” apart from oneself and one’s world.  Designing for the everyday world and life mean doing research, implementation, evaluation, theory, and all that comes with it, in that world for that life.

Real world also has it’s problems as a terminology but at least it’s not separating the world into otherness.  There’s enough of that already happening in the world.  We really don’t need any more theories or conversations labeled “wild.”  Let’s call it what it is rather than what it is not.


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