Human Computer Interaction

A series of blog posts created in the "design methodologies" module at ZHdK, teached by Dr. Joëlle Bitton.

So, this time it was Gian-Carlo Huber’s and my turn to present in front of the class and we had to do it via Zoom - a video conferencing application. Not because we were talking about Human Computer Interaction (HCI) but because of the Corona Virus and the precautions taken. So today’s blog will be about the experience and learnings of presenting to the class via Zoom and my learnings from the literature concerning HCI.

Presenting with Zoom - Experience and Learnings

I think this was the first time for all of us to be in a video chat with one’s teacher and classmates for having a lesson and therefore very difficult for us to plan our presentation. When it’s about literature I really like to have a vivid discussion on the topics everyone read about and to also have the opportunity as a student to change direction in the discussion. So I really wanted to address my classmates in spite of the fact that I had to do it in a video chat.

That’s why I came up with the idea of presenting live in a shared google document, where I was pasting in text I prepared and later on also invited the class to share their thoughts on different questions. I didn’t expect it to be as easy to have a discussion via the video chat with 16 participants, but it surprisingly wasn’t an issue.

It worked pretty well I think but I also noticed some things that could have been done better. Fitting in a discussion of all the essentials of the literature in a 15min presentation is quite hard and I didn’t manage to talk about everything I wanted to. Joëlle mentioned the importance of posing clear questions and to also repeat them if the class doesn’t answer. I think this helps a lot - especially in the online environment where it’s impossible to interpret your class’ mimics and gestures.

In all it was really weird to present in this way and it didn’t feel like presenting to people but more like making a video blog for youtube. Furthermore I was really struggling to respond to the students’ opinions because it was kind of hard for me to keep focus on listening to them. I think it takes much more attention listening to someone via headphones and with bad audio quality than listening to someone in a face to face discussion.

Learnings from the literature

This week’s readings were a lot about increasing context-sensitivity again and the understanding of the surrounding a designer is trying to change. In course of this we got to know new research and creativity techniques such as co-creation, bodystorming, improvisation, sketching, the use of ethnographical video and cultural probes. There’s a lot of things I’d like to write about but I try to keep it short and focus on summarising only the essentials of the texts.

Co-creation builds on the assumption that everyone is creative and therefore proposes to design in teams with non-designers as well. The term of collective creativity is central in this philosophy which I understood as creativity shared by two or more people. I see a lot of parallels to participatory design, which is all about designing with the people who will be impacted by the design and trying to understand their point of view. What I think strongly connects those two approaches of designing is the importance of being able to show empathy for the people. I’m not quite sure how necessary it is to actively involve the people affected by a design into the design process, as this will definitely cost a lot of time and slower the process. But it’s of high importance I guess to be able to observe precisely and therefore to build the understanding of the circumstances and the people affected.

“The more we can be active participants in observing our experiences, being critical observers in our surroundings, the better creators we will be.” (Liz Danzico, 2010)

I think Liz Danzico summarised this pretty well in her text “Lessons from Improvisation”. In consequence I asked myself, what it really takes to be a good observer. I came to conclusion that for me it’s mostly all about the mindset with which we enter a new situation. Building empathy for me definitely is the most important but empathy itself doesn’t just occur. Empathy is the result of being able to observe without judgement. It’s about listening, asking questions and trying to understand one another’s point of view instead of prematurely criticising, judging and categorising it. It’s not about having to share the same values and opinions nor is it about accepting them. For me it’s about tolerance and understanding. That’s what I define as open minded and I believe this to be essential for building a great field of view.

But being open minded isn’t that useful if you’re not able to use the right tools. Concerning this, I think I could deduce a lot for myself from the texts but I’m going to leave it to that for now.


Buur, J., Fraser, E., Oinonen, S., & Rolfstam, M. 2010. “Ethnographic video as design specs”. In Proceedings of SIGCHI Australia’ 10.

Liz Danzico . 2010. “From Davis to David: Lessons from Improvisation”. In Interactions.

Fogg, B.J. 2003. “Conceptual Designs”. In Laurel, Brenda (ed.). Design Research. Methods and Perspectives.

Gaver, Bill, Dunne, T., & Pacenti, E. 1999. “Design: Cultural probes”. In Interactions, 6(1), 21-­29.

Oulasvirta, A., Kurvinen, E., & Kankainen, T. 2003. “Understanding contexts by being there: case studies in bodystorming". In Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 7(2), 125­-134.

Sanders, E., & Stappers, P. J. 2008. “Co­creation and the new landscapes of design”. In CoDesign, 4(1), 5–18.

Verplank, Bill. 2008. Interaction Design Sketchbook.

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