Moving HCI Research into the Wild

Research in the wild (RITW) is generally considered as an umbrella term to refer to how, what, and where research is conducted in naturalistic settings. Its overarching goal is to understanding how technology is and can be used in the everyday/real world, in order to gain new insights about: how to engage people/communities in various activities, how people’s lives are impacted by a specific technology, and what people do when encountering a new technology in a given setting. The output can be used to inform the development of new understandings, theories, or concepts about
human behavior in the real world. This includes rethinking cognitive theories, in terms of ecological concepts (e.g., situated memory) and socio-cultural accounts (e.g., the effects of digitalization on society). More specifically, RITW can be concerned with investigating an assumption, such as whether or not a technology intervention can encourage people to change a behavior (e.g., exercising more). However, conducting RITW is messy, challenging and full of surprises. So, why would any researcher in their right mind move out of the comfort and control of the lab? In my talk, I will discuss the motivations, challenges and growing need for conducting more research in the wild, concluding how it can compliment but also question the validity of traditional lab-based research approaches.