CHI 2016 Workshop on Visual Literacy & Human-Computer Interaction

ATTN: We have extended the submission deadline for the CHI 2016 Workshop on Visual Literacy & HCI to February 1st, 2016

Call for Position Papers: “Visual Literacy & HCI”
CHI 2016 Workshop to promote visual literacy as first class competency in HCI research and practice


The goal of this workshop is to develop ideas about and expand a research agenda for visual literacy in HCI.

By visual literacy, we mean the competency
(i) to understand visual materials,
(ii) to create visuals materials, and
(iii) to think visually.

There are three primary motivations for this workshop on visual literacy in HCI, namely
(i) to engage HCI researchers in the transformative dimensions of visual literacy with respect to modern digital technology
(ii) to assess the relevance and pervasive nature of visual artifacts in and as a consequence of HCI design, and
(iii) to promote visual literacy as a first-class competency in HCI research and practice.

This workshop will consist of paper and visual material presentations, critique, and structured discussion sessions. The overall goal is to detail a viable research agenda that investigates the persistent and emerging dimensions of visual literacy in HCI.


Extended Submission Date: February 1st, 2016
Camera-Ready Papers: February 12, 2016 (5pm EST)
Workshop: May 8, 2016


At the workshop, we will address visual literacy in HCI from the perspectives of researchers and practitioners. We invite the CHI community to consider the following questions:

1. What are the dimensions of visual literacy in HCI?

2. How do visual metaphors and visual artifacts influence the way we think about HCI research and practice?

3. How do HCI researchers and practitioners use visual literacy to conveying knowledge, for conceptualization, for engagement, or as support for argumentation?

4. How is visual literacy efficacy evaluated, sustained, and fostered?

5. Does current and future technology require new ways to comprehend, create, communicate and teach about visual literacy in HCI?


In the most general terms, we invite paper contributors to explain notions of visual literacy in terms of three main themes, namely

(i) Visual understanding
how are visual materials understood and explained in HCI research and practice?
(ii) Visual making
how are visual materials used in HCI prototypes and other forms of making?
(iii) Visual thinking
how is visual thinking different than textual thinking, and how does it augment notions of HCI?

There are a number of alternative themes or framings that are germane to visual literacy, namely

(i) Definitions
how may visual literacy be defined in terms of constituent dimensions and competencies?
(ii) Scale
how is the scale and pervasive nature of visual materials implicated in HCI?
(iii) Measure
how can we know what is entailed in claiming visual competence in HCI?
(iv) Transdisciplinarity
how can we transcend disciplinary boundaries with respect to the integration of concepts of visual literacy as they owe to various fields within and beyond HCI?

This workshop invites people focused on the development, use, and exploration of visual material in HCI, either in the context of research, design process, or outcome.

People working in the following areas, but not limited to these, may be interested in submit position papers:
* Visual literacy
* Visual thinking
* Design-oriented HCI
* Digital Imagery
* Data Visualization
* Information Visualization
* Interface Design
* Visual and Digital Rhetoric
* Communication Design
* Information Design
* Interactive Art & Media
Participants are invited to contribute papers that present theories, frameworks, methods, and exemplars of visual literacy in HCI. The workshop aims to build a network of collaboration among those in the CHI community interested in promoting visual literacy in HCI research and practice. Through presentations and group activities, participants will propose the notion, dimensions, and future research directions for visual literacy in HCI. The workshop group activity will include hands-on, visually-oriented, methods to synthesize and present insights.

Physical presence of at least one author of each accepted position paper is required. To encourage the inclusion of thoughtful imagery, submissions have no page restrictions. Papers are to be submitted in the ACM archive format, ACM extended abstracts format, or the SIGCHI DIS pictorial format.

Submit your imagery or position paper to

All participants must register for both the workshop and at least one day of the conference.

Kyle Overton (Indiana University — USA)
Omar Sosa-Tzec (Indiana University — USA)
Nancy Smith (Indiana University — USA)
Eli Blevis (Indiana University — USA)
William Odom (Simon Fraser University — Canada)
Sabrina Hauser (Simon Fraser University — Canada)
Ron Wakkary (Simon Fraser University — Canada)


Why did I find Spotify using my profile picture as an album cover a little bit disturbing?

Today, when I opened Spotify, I found this (see image below):

Spotify Discover Weekly album coverLater, I mentioned in facebook that using my profile picture for the “Discover Weekly” album is a little bit scary. Moreover, I tweeted that although Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be the next big thing in UI/UX design, we shouldn’t forget taking care of the execution, the how, the form — By the way, this somehow sarcastic since tweets before I was arguing that just paying attention to the looks leads to a poor understanding of what design is (after watching the “Why Design Matters” video).

Later, someone asked me on Facebook to explain what I was meaning of my post and provide an example of how the design could be “better.” This person argued that such a design decision helps to “merge” the self and (his/her) music. I think he’s a good point. However, to me, this design decision was a shocking micro-experience with Spotify. Below, I re-write what I posted on Facebook.

The concept of agency came to my mind when I opened Spotify and saw my profile picture being used as the cover for the “Discover Weekly” album. I think it’s great to like or “plus” a song, and thus to think that I decide what music/genre I like and want to listen. From my perspective, this provides a feeling of empowerment to the user. However, I lost that feeling of agency or empowerment when I saw my profile picture. Setting the music on Spotify is part of my work routine and I was not expecting to find something like that today! Seeing “myself” as an album cover made me feel that I became a thing, an interface component; that Spotify had objectified me, transformed me in another interface component. The idea of being de-humanized crossed my mind. I know it’d sound too dramatic, but coming across this UI change provided me an example or situation wherein micro experiences are important. It’s interesting to see how just a little thing provides an element of surprise that lasts just a little bit! A micro-moment that affected my UX with respect to Spotify for the whole day today! I have to acknowledge, nevertheless, that I might be too sensitive since I’m trying to understand how these ideas of user experience, phenomenology, persuasion and rhetoric, identification and rhetoric, and denotation and connotation work in interfaces.

And about my proposal of making this UI change better, first, I have to say that I wouldn’t argue for “better.” A less shocking transition, perhaps. As I commented on FB, Spotify could have introduced me this idea of the “Discover Weekly” in a more ludic way. As it occurs when Spotify doesn’t allow you to interact with the interface and you have to wait seconds to see an ad, one possibility would be having a similar dynamics. Showing this concept and probably letting the user picking the album cover. Once set, it fades away.

Of course, there is nothing wrong or bad with that design decision for the Spotify’s interface. I’d like to emphasize that. Perhaps, this idea of the profile-album-cover has been evaluated with good results. Possibly, I don’t express the archetypical user’s desires for this case (functionality and part of the interface). Perhaps, a later evaluation will come, and a different proposal will be implemented. That’s the way design is. However, I’d emphasize that the capability of implementing smart functions in a system is just a part of the UI/UX design.


Postcolonial design and Mexican culture

I don’t know why I hadn’t paid attention to it before. Maybe it’s consequence of being surrounded by design philosophers, feminists, and rhetoricians as part of my PhD education. I’m talking about the postcolonial role of design in the development of the Mexican culture. I don’t have a concrete argument here, but sparse thoughts and questions. All of them are consequence, in turn, of being exposed to the architecture of some european cities I’ve had the opportunity to visit. By observing and reflecting about the architecture of Europe and Mexico, I couldn’t avoid thinking about how the hegemonic vision is imposed through design.

Puebla City Hall
Puebla City Hall. Picture taken from

The (Mexican) architecture, as I imagine that it occurs all over Latin America and other colonized countries, shows such hegemonic vision. It seems that design, before and nowadays, either we talk about architecture or object design, is clearly the materialization of the hegemony. Design works as a cultural wax stamp. 

Juarez Theatre in Guanajuato
Juarez Theatre in Guanajuato. Picture taken from

I just heard in the DRS 2014 Conference that, as designers, we should pay attention to the design needs of Africa and Asia due to their coming population growth, including its economic impact. Who should be in charge of these design situations? To what extent design should avoid fostering a neocolonialist vision? Is there a design vision and education emerging from not-western countries that should be taken into account? In other words, do we need to use that cultural wax stamp as safe action? How much?

Fine Arts Palace
Fine Arts Palace. Picture taken from

The old zones of Mexican cities show the European heritage in terms of functionality and aesthetics. Furthermore, current developments also follow modern architectural approaches influenced by developed countries. Nevertheless, Mexican cities don’t identify themselves as European cities. The Mexican flavor has developed on its own. So, why do Mexicans need to care about how the european vision has affected what they call culture? Will it make any change? Is it anyhow relevant to make a comparison with the inherited wester design and the design that mexicans are allowing to conquer them nowadays?

Morelia downtown
Morelia downtown. Picture taken from

I know that it might sound as an exaggeration. Too much buzz around the idea of architecture, and hence of design. Nevertheless, just by observing, reflecting, and understanding architecture as an evidence of a repeating history, it comes to my mind more doubts about the failure of design. It comes to my mind images of clumsy Mexican cities where the marginalized zones are not considered as design projects; software that is not inclusive for the heterogenous societies within the Mexican Republic; or even an image of how certain products and services might be unaccessible for people whose user or consumer profile parallels to that of people in USA or Europe.

Mansion in Merida, Yucatan
Mansion in Merida, Yucatan. Picture taken from

I think that Design perceived as a transformative action deserves a couple of thoughts. It changes reality, and hence, it changes us. Therefore, shouldn’t we be more critical about how other forces affect our agency?  Regardless, I’d bet that any thought about Design and its implications is just as mess; as anything that plays part of transforming the world.



The visual rhetoric of the workplace

What are you communicating about yourself from the arrangements of signs at your workplace? What about your personal spaces?

Today I plugged an extra monitor that I have on my desk to my laptop in order to work with two Word documents at the same time. Suddenly, I couldn’t avoid to step back and put attention to the signs on, in, and around the monitor. Because of my interest on Visual Rhetoric and Semiotic, I was wondering what my visual analysis/interpretation for such image. I’ve observed in many cases that people have different arrangements at the workplace in comparison to their living rooms, bedrooms, inside of their cars, and so on.

Then, these questions came to my mind,

  • What is our workplace telling about us?
  • What are our personal spaces telling about us?
  • Is the same message for both cases?
  • If not, is there something as a “reconciliation” between them?
  • How do our workplace and personal spaces participate on constructing a discourse regarding our identity?
One corner of my desk.
One corner of my desk. Messy. Chaotic. Arranged and cleaned only when I feel that I’ve finished something relevant in my projects or coursework.

And tell me… what do you see here? Who am I?