Enthusiasm for using human-centered design persists among HCI and ICTD researchers and practitioners; funding agencies continue to support efforts to use this design strategy in development projects. However, few—if any—of these projects reach their potential. Given that most of these projects fail researchers and practitioners might consider adopting different approaches to design. In this talk, I will offer “irrational design” as an alternative to human-centered design. This approach draws from 15+ years of studying technology use in sub-Saharan Africa, in (primarily Kenyan) sites, as well as my training as an industrial designer. In particular, I will present three case studies detailing my use of these design methods in research conducted in rural Kenya: cultural probes, speculative design, and design workbooks. My findings raise questions about generalizability, objectivity, and the pursuit of a single solution in design. These findings also draw attention to different ways for people to participate in design processes, and to the value of long-term engagement with communities.
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Susan Wyche is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University and has a courtesy appointment in MSU’s African Studies Center. Her research focuses on human computer interaction (HCI) and information and communication technologies and development (ICTD). Her work has been supported by Google, Facebook, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Wyche is a 2015 recipient of an NSF CAREER Award. Wyche received her Ph.D. in Human-Centered Computing from Georgia Tech, an MS from Cornell University and an undergraduate degree in Industrial Design from Carnegie Mellon University.