Cooperation between designers, engineers and scientists in HCI

Bartneck, C. & Rauterberg, M. (2007). HCI reality—an ‘Unreal Tournament’?, Int. J. Human-Computer Studies 65 (2007) 737–743. This article addresses the cooperation between designers, engineers and scientists in the HCI community. It reports the results from an empirical study about the barriers between these professions. The authors describe these barries using the term "Unreal Tournament" because of the "shouting match between academics and practitioners" between researchers in some conferences.

The description of the barriers is quite insightful:

"Barrier 1: Engineers {E} and scientists {S} make their results explicit by publishing in journals, books and conference proceedings, or by acquiring patents. Their body of knowledge is externalized and described outside of the individual engineer or scientist. These two communities revise their published results through discussion and control tests among peers. On the other hand, designers’{D} results are mainly represented by their concrete designs. (...) Barrier 2: Engineers {E} and designers {D} transform the world into preferred situations, while scientists {S} mainly attempt to understand the world through the pursuit of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws. (...) Barrier 3: Scientists {S} and designers {D} are predominantly interested in humans in their role as possible users. Designers are interested in human values, which they transform into requirements and eventually solutions. Scientists in the HCI community are typically associated with the social or cognitive sciences. (...) Engineers {E} are mainly interested in technology, which includes software for interactive systems."

Then the study also offers some pertinent results (summarized in two words below but I encourage reader to look more closely at the paper):

"Scientists, with their logical positivistic paradigm on the one side, and engineers and designers with their constructivistic paradigm on the other side, appear to have different attitudes toward REALITY. Our study attempted to find empirical proof of this difference. (...) Interestingly, among the three professions, engineers appear to be the cohesive element, since they often have dual backgrounds, whereas very few participants had dual science/design backgrounds. Engineers could, therefore, build a bridge between designers and scientists, and through their integrative role, could guide the HCI community to realizing its full potential."

Why do I blog this? articles about how a field such as HCI is organized are always interesting to understand the underlying dynamic in research communities. Although what is described there (and that I have put the emphasis on) is a bit stereotypical, lots of things are true and can be relevant to get what is at stake.