Monday, May 17, 2010

HCI for Peace at CHI 2010

Bringing HCI for Peace to CHI 2010 was a great success! We recruited 500 peace ambassadors through the distribution of as many postcards and peace ribbons, held an informal brainstorm for peace gathering, and collected many ideas for peace on sticky notes.

At the peace gathering, partners discussed their ideas for peace and wrote them down on sticky notes. From these ideas, several main themes emerged: promoting education, increasing social awareness of everyday actions, creating a culture of peace, engaging other organizations, exposing the ugly side of war, promoting cross-cultural understanding, and building infrastructure and tools.

Promote education
Education plays an important role in creating peace. Participants suggested working on raising literacy rates for women, educating children, giving opportunities to adults and elderly people, and building education ICTs. Another participant captured a popular sentiment – “peace starts from the kids.”

Social awareness of everyday actions
Some participants noted the importance of informed social awareness. One stated, simply, “think about who you’re working for and what their goals are.” Another mentioned that giving consumers tools to ascertain product origin and the conditions in which different products are created can help people making more ecologically and humanitarianly sound choices. Social networking sites can allow the sharing of social pressure to maximize individuals’ social impact. Another participant stressed the need for moving beyond quick fixes by figuring out how to promote long-lasting changes in attitudes and behaviors relating to informed consumer knowledge

Highlight peace
Creating a culture that values peace includes creating activities that highlight peace: geocaching of “peace sites” in the model that war sites and battlefields are commended, including places like the ones where Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. spoke.

Engage other organizations
Ben Bederson and Allison Druin mentioned creating an HCI Peace Corps in their acceptance talk for the SIGCHI social impact award, a group that could carry out service projects around the world, in the form of Master’s projects, PhD work, and sabbatical work, similar to the University of Maryland’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab’s service day. Other ideas included connecting with existing peace groups to combine forces. A participant suggested hosting a TED talk that focused on peace and conflict in Africa or other developing regions.

Expose the ugly side of war
One idea to promote peace is to educate people about the negative facts of war through pictures, stories, and anecdotes, as a way to encourage people to think about the importance of peace. One participant noted, “conflict should not produce profit,” highlighting the frequent interplay between the two, dovetailing with another participant’s suggestion to create visualizations that illuminate the public cost of war and who profits to help people understand the true forces that create conflict.

Promote cross-cultural understanding
By far the most discussed topic was reducing conflict through emphasizing a common humanity, encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones to make cross-cultural connections and seek out information from new sources of ideas, help them learn about each other, and think from another perspective. Ideas to this effect included setting up video-conferencing classrooms across the world, creating a site for “speed friending” across the globe – particularly for countries in conflict, encouraging diverse groups of young children to communicate through playing and collaborating together across time and space, setting up partnerships for the privileged to collobrate and help people in need, and a computer-mediated pen pal system to match children in conflict prone tension areas. To seek out different perspectives, one participant suggested a, a space in which one could discuss ideas with people from different persuasions and backgrounds. A participant mentioned that it is important for everyone’s voices to be heard, even if it requires extra work on our part. Microblogging could be used as a helpful tool, both for sharing experiences and for making higher numbers of contacts from other countries.

Infrastructure tools
In the realm of infrastructure, one participant expressed a desire to create guidelines/heuristics to evaluate the use of oppressive language and sexist applications or online tools as a way to cut down these harmful forces. Another suggested that the HCI community could use its technical skills to build tools for organizing and communicating for peace. Another suggested improving worldwide computing technology overall.

If any of these ideas speak to you, think about the ways in which you can contribute to make peace a reality. If you have ideas or projects you’d like us to hear, feel free to leave a comment, tweet with the #hciforpeace hashtag, or leave us a note on our Facebook group.

What are we going to do now?
For CHI 2011, we are planning an HCI for Peace Special Interest Group, as well as a panel discussion.

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