Colloquium: William Odom (Simon Fraser Univ.): Prototyping Potential Futures: Researching Virtual Possessions through Design


People's practices of accumulating, curating, and interacting with material possessions play important roles in providing a sense of who they were, who they are, and who they wish to become. Yet, today people's practices have expanded and today they are amassing ever-larger and diverse collections of digital information, which I characterize as virtual possessions. Virtual possessions offer potentially valuable resources for capturing vast, rich records of people's life experiences. However, wide-ranging experiences of overload and loss of control are emerging as people's virtual archives rapidly grow.

How is the growing presence of virtual possessions and information technology in everyday life currently mediating people's meaning-making activities? How can we advance current design processes to create new technologies that enable virtual possessions to more appropriately participate in the meaningful activities of people's lives? I investigate these questions through an approach combining qualitative field research with insights into future technological states rooted in Research through Design. In this talk, I will describe field research conducted at sites across Asia, Europe, and North America to understand factors shaping how people experience their virtual possessions. I will then discuss a long-term field evaluation of the Photobox system, which offers a concrete example of research investigating slow interaction design as a strategy for radically reforming virtual possessions into valued, longer-term resources in people's everyday lives. I will conclude with research opportunities and implications that my work suggests for creating future technologies that could enable people to reclaim the meaningfulness of their virtual possessions over time and into the future.

Dr. William Odom is a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University. His work frequently appears at venues including the ACM CHI, DIS, Ubicomp, and CSCW conference proceedings, where it has received four best paper awards and three best paper honorable mentions. His work on the Technology Heirlooms project in collaboration with Microsoft Research received a silver international design excellence award (IDEA) for design research from the Industrial Designers Society of America. He holds a Ph.D. in Human-Computer Interaction from the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to his doctoral study, he was a Fulbright Scholar in the design department at Griffith University Queensland College of Art in Brisbane, Australia. In 2008, he took first place in the Imagine Cup International Interface Design Competition and the CHI Graduate Student Research Competition.


4:15am to 5:45am


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