Emergent Interaction

Complexity, Dynamics, and Enaction in HCI

A CHI 2021 Workshop held online, 15th May, 2021


Submissions now open via easychair

About the Workshop

Download the workshop proposal here

There is a long tradition of work in Human Computer Interaction which emphasises the specifically interactive elements of interaction behaviour. This work emphasises the way behaviour arises from ongoing adaptation, and the dynamically varying relationships between interacting elements - the human(s) and the technology(ies), as well as other humans and aspects of the environment. Researchers have used concepts as diverse as affordances, situated-ness, phenomenology, and control theory to understand these situations in which the direction of influence goes both ways. Just as human behaviour moulds and manipulates technology and environment, those same technologies and environments simultaneously condition human behaviour.

Recent work in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) has framed this old question in a new way - suggesting that interaction is well modelled as a complex dynamical system. This approach brings the tools and concepts of Complexity Science to bear on familiar, but tricky, questions of interactivity and context. In doing so, it points to a range of new theoretical perspectives, modelling techniques, and other quantitative methods. These have the potential to enrich our understanding of interaction across many scales - from moment-to-moment system control, through patterns of engagement, to the behaviours of organisations and social networks.

Some complex dynamical approaches are already found in HCI and there is room to build on this. There are many publications on control theory, but comparatively little work on applications. Ecological Psychology and Enactivism have influenced embodied approaches to interaction since the 1980s, but their influence has been largely theoretical, overlooking recent developments around complex dynamical methodologies, and related theoretical accounts. We see opportunities both to re-engage with these approaches, and also to explore new approaches, such as those applied in the social sciences, bringing new methods and perspectives to bear on common problems within HCI.

This workshop will investigate these opportunities and challenges. Our organising committee brings together established voices from HCI, Control Theory, and Enactivist Cognitive Science, alongside younger researchers. We welcome participation from researchers from a range of disciplines whose work addresses the key topics of the workshop. Attendees will have a chance to present brief introductions to their own interests and positions, before engaging in guided discussions, which will inform a final panel discussion, drawing together the themes of the day.

See our Call for Participation to get involved

Important Information and Dates

Registration information:

Registration for CHI workshops is $30/workshop and attendees must also register for at least one day of the conference. Please note that conference registration increases significantly after the early registration deadline. For more information see here


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