Interactionist models

I’ve read a few papers recently about interactionist models in human-computer interaction (HCI). It’s not an area I’m very familiar with, but I’ve found this perspective fascinating.

A few months ago a former colleague at RPI told me about “What we talk about when we talk about context”, a 2004 paper by Paul Dourish. Dourish proposes an interactionist model of understanding “context” in ubiquitous computing applications. I’ll admit he had me hooked at the Raymond Carver allusion.

On a different track, I’ve been reading about affective computing for a personal project, and came across a 2007 paper Dourish co-authored with Kirsten Boehner, “How emotion is made and measured”. The abstract:

How we design and evaluate for emotions depends crucially on what we take emotions to be. In affective computing, affect is often taken to be another kind of information - discrete units or states internal to an individual that can be transmitted in a loss-free manner from people to computational systems and back. While affective computing explicitly challenges the primacy of rationality in cognitivist accounts of human activity, at a deeper level it often relies on and reproduces the same information-processing model of cognition. Drawing on cultural, social, and interactional critiques of cognition which have arisen in HCI, as well as anthropological and historical accounts of emotion, we explore an alternative perspective on emotion as interaction: dynamic, culturally mediated, and socially constructed and experienced. We demonstrate how this model leads to new goals for affective systems - instead of sensing and transmitting emotion, systems should support human users in understanding, interpreting, and experiencing emotion in its full complexity and ambiguity. In developing from emotion as objective, externally measurable unit to emotion as experience, evaluation, too, alters focus from externally tracking the circulation of emotional information to co-interpreting emotions as they are made in interaction.

That stream of reading also turned up “Interpersonal Chemistry: What Is It, How Does It Emerge, and How Does It Operate?”, published last year:

In lay usage, chemistry represents a property of an interaction between two (or more) individuals, such that the outcome of their coordinated activity is superior to what either partner could have accomplished alone, or in other, less well-matched partnerships. … we conceptualize the experience of chemistry as emerging from interaction rather than from “main effects” (that is, individual attributes) of the persons involved, their expectations, or their perceptual biases.