Design Informatics at DIS 2020

This past week, the ACM Designing Interactive Systems conference was due to take place in Eindhoven. Sadly, the conference could not take place in person, however an online program is available until July 20th, including pre-recorded presentations from several papers:

Design Informatics have been healthily involved, with a number of papers, pictorials and provocations as well as organising online conference workshops, which are listed below:


Papers & Pictorials

 Push-Pull Energy Futures: Using Design to Discuss Agency in Distributed Energy Systems.
Larissa Pschetz, Luis Lourenço Soares, Billy Dixon, Esteban Serrano, Ella Tallyn, and Joe Revans.
Video Presentation:

Distributed energy resources are expected to radically change the way energy is produced and distributed through decentralised generation and storage. Current distributed energy models tend to hide the complexity of these systems in order to improve ease of use, while restricting people’s participation to predefined roles of passive users who can benefit from more reliable infrastructures, more competitive prices, and more access to sustainable energy. In this paper, we question these roles and present the Karma Kettle, an open-ended device that aims to explore perceptions of different levels of agency in distributed energy resources. A study of the Karma Kettle with 20 residents of a block of flats in the UK reveals strategies and values of these residents, the effectiveness of the Karma Kettle to inspire discussion on levels of agency, and how these systems could be designed to promote more participatory approaches in distributed energy systems.

GeoPact: Engaging Publics in Location-aware Smart Contracts through Technological Assemblies.
Ella Tallyn, Joe Revans, Evan Morgan, and Dave Murray-Rust.
Video Presentation:

This paper presents GeoPact, an assembly of technological objects that materialises location-aware smart contracts using internet of things and digital ledger technologies. Such contracts may facilitate the creation of distributed systems and services for transport and logistics that are locally constructed and adaptable, thus supporting specific community needs and sustainable objectives. However the technological infrastructures that underpin these systems are complex, making it difficult to engage publics in design processes. GeoPact grounds infrastructure in relatable physical activities, that are linked with holistic views of the system, and creates new experiences for public engagement. In these activities participants were invited to roleplay as couriers, and to progress through delivery scenarios which were governed by smart contracts. Participants and spectators were then encouraged to discuss their reactions, concerns and ideas. This paper illustrates the GeoPact assembly and reflects on our engagement activities.

PizzaBlock: Designing Artefacts and Roleplay to Understand Decentralised Identity Management Systems
Jonathan Rankin, Chris Elsden, Ian Sibbald, Alan Stevenson, John Vines, and Chris Speed.
Video Presentations:

This pictorial describes in detail the design, and multiple iterations, of PizzaBlock – a role-playing game and design workshop to introduce non-technical participants to decentralised identity management systems. We have so far played this game with six different audiences, with over one hundred participants – iterating the design of the artefacts and gameplay each time. In this pictorial, we reflect on this RtD project to unpack: a) How we designed artefacts and roleplay to explore decentralised technologies and networks; b) How we communicated the key challenges and parameters of a complex system, through the production of a playable, interactive, analogue representation of that technology; c) How we struck a balance between playful tangible gameplay and high-fidelity technical analogy; and d) How approaches like PizzaBlock invite engagement with complex infrastructures and can support more participatory approaches to their design.


Experts in the Shadow of Algorithmic Systems: Exploring Intelligibility in a Decision-Making Context
Auste Simkute, Ewa Luger, Mike Evans, and Rhianna Jones.
Video Presentation:

Algorithms support decision-making in various contexts, often diminishing human agency in the process. Without meaningful human input, use of predictive systems can result in costly errors, leaving users unable to evaluate accuracy. Intelligibility is one design criterion that may ensure users remain in the decision-making loop. However, guidance is currently diffuse and focused on the lay user, ignoring the role of expertise. We propose a cognitive psychology-based framework that segments decision-making space by users’ expertise, risk-environment and motivation. We illustrate this by focusing on expertise, exploring how we might inform usable intelligibility in interface design, enhancing user agency in the decision-making process.

When Do Design Workshops Work (or Not)?
Chris Elsden, Ella Tallyn, and Bettina Nissen. 2020.
Video Presentation:

This provocation invites reflection on the use of design workshops in research. We are concerned that often, design workshops don’t work; at least, not as their facilitators might have intended, or as effectively as they could do. In this short paper we draw from our own experiences of organizing and attending design workshops, to observe common challenges in using design workshops as a research tool. Though critical, we intend this paper to serve as a point of reflection for running more purposeful workshops, and being able to better articulate the research and design developed through them.



Designing Futures of Money and FinTech.
Chris Elsden, Tom Feltwell, Belén Barros Pena, Bettina Nissen, Inte Gloerich, Chris Speed, and John Vines.
Workshop website:

In light of increasing cashlessness, platform economies, Open Banking APIs, financial bots and cryptocurrencies, money is on the move – once inert, money is gaining agency, becoming programmable, automated, data-driven and part of ‘more than human’ infrastructures. These financial futures demand that designers engage with difficult questions of economy and value, while retaining a sensibility to the many subtle and social qualities of money and our everyday economic interactions. This one-day workshop will therefore bring together practitioners and researchers to explore design challenges related to four broad themes: Designing with Transactional Data; Designing Alternative Representations of Value; Money, Automation, Power, and Control; and Financial Futures with Vulnerable Users. Developing scenarios related to these themes, the workshop will cultivate a rich design space to establish the value of design-led research in shaping our financial futures.

The Nature of Biodesigned Systems: Directions for HCI.
Phillip Gough, Larissa Pschetz, Naseem Ahmadpour, Leigh-Anne Hepburn, Clare Cooper, Carolina Ramirez-Figueroa, and Oron Catts.
Workshop Website:

The nascent field of biodesign uses the biological affordances of organisms to address some user need. These can range from the development of novel materials, which the designer actively investigates, to applications of synthetic biology or the creation of bio-digital hybrid systems. Within biodesign there is a question for interaction design: what will interactive systems look like in a guided and grown environment, rather than a built environment? In this workshop, we will explore new technologies that rely on symbiotic relationships between the user and organisms that participate in interactive systems. The goal of this workshop is to engage the interaction design community in exploring new aspects of designing for living computational systems.


Designing for the End of Life of IoT Objects.
Lechelt, S., Gorkovenko, K., Speed, C., Stead, M. Thorp J. K., and Soares L.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and ubiquitous computing are leading to an increase in objects with a short lifespan – either through breakage, “bricking” by the manufacturer, or discontinued use by the owner. This leads to a surplus of material and e-waste that cannot or is not readily recycled, upcycled or otherwise reused, aggravating material scarcity. In part, this is due to the use of unrecyclable materials and custom-built hardware. However, it is also due to the limited value people place on these objects (e.g., sentimental and environmental). This one-day workshop will explore how the configuration of values designed into IoT objects influences the end-user practices of disposal, recycling and upcycling. Through this lens, we will collectively consider potential design strategies that can be instilled during the process of design, to support the continuity of the material life of IoT objects after their “death”.