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Locating the 'big hole' in HCI research

Reeves, Stuart



In a recent Interactions article, “The Big Hole in HCI Research,” Vassilis Kostakos argued that HCI lacks persistent “motor themes,” based on a co-word analysis of keywords sections from the past 20 years of CHI papers. HCI as a discipline, it is argued, “simply roll[s] from topic to topic, year after year, without developing any of them substantially.”

In this analysis, motor themes—based on clusters of recurring keywords over time—are described as a critical feature of healthy disciplines. Motor themes represent commonly addressed topics that constitute the research mainstream and therefore are essential to creating a disciplinary core. Summarizing his work from a recent CHI paper, Kostakos characterizes the absence of these themes from HCI as “a very worrying prospect for a scientific community.”

These concerns seem to be echoed by events at recent CHI conferences, such as the appearance since 2011 of yearly panels or workshops on “replication” (RepliCHI), and the Interaction Science SIG of CHI 2014. While my view contrasts with the proponents of what one might label as the “scientific programme,” the emergence of increased debate about the very idea of HCI—what its work does, could, or should look like academically—feels like a valuable activity and is probably long overdue.

Here, I want to talk about two matters that are core to the discussion: the relationship between science and HCI, and, more broadly, the disciplinarity of HCI.


Reeves, S. (2015). Locating the 'big hole' in HCI research. InterActions, 22(4), doi:10.1145/2785986

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jul 1, 2015
Deposit Date Jul 7, 2015
Publicly Available Date Jul 7, 2015
Journal Interactions
Print ISSN 0927-3360
Electronic ISSN 1072-5520
Publisher Rodopi
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 22
Issue 4
Keywords HCI Research, Keywords, Motor Themes, Science, Disciplinarity
Public URL
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:
Additional Information © ACM, 2015. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Interactions, Vol. 22, iss 4, July-August 2015.


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Copyright Statement
Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:

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