The human-computer interaction community has made some efforts toward racial diversity, but the outcomes remain meager. We introduce critical race theory and adapt it for HCI to lay a theoretical basis for race-conscious efforts, both in research and within our community. Building on the theory’s original tenets, we argue that racism is pervasive in everyday socio-technical systems; that the HCI community is prone to “interest convergence”, where concessions to inclusion require benefits to those in power; and that the neoliberal underpinnings of the technology industry itself propagate racism. Critical race theory uses storytelling as a means to upend deep-seated assumptions, and we relate several personal stories to highlight ongoing problems of race in HCI. The implications: all HCI research must be attuned to issues of race; participation of underrepresented minorities must be sought in all of our activities; and as a community, we cannot become comfortable while racial disparities exist.
Additional framing for this discussion can be found in our CHI 2020 paper on Critical Race Theory for HCI:
We have also created a mailing list and a Slack community for individuals who would like to further engage with the topic:
Alexandra To (http://www.alexandrato.com/) is a PhD Candidate in the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Her core research interests are in designing social technologies to empower people in vulnerable and marginalized contexts using qualitative methods to gather stories and participatory methods to design for the future. Her most recent research focuses on designing social technologies to empower support-seeking and coping with interpersonal racism. Alexandra is an activist, a critical race scholar, award-winning game designer, and an organizer of the Pittsburgh Racial Justice Summit. She previously received a B.S. and M.S. in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University. She has published work at CHI, CHI Play, DiGRA, FDG, UIST, CSCW, and DIS.
Angela D. R. Smith (https://angeladrsmith.com/) is a PhD Candidate in the Technology & Social Behavior at Northwestern University. She is a designer and qualitative researcher who focuses on understanding and conceptualizing technology experiences that meet the information needs and practices of homeless emerging adults. Broadly, Angela’s research leverages equitable design practices to give voice to vulnerable and marginalized populations. Her specific interests are finding ways to employ design as a catalyst to combat information poverty and provide socially responsible technology experiences. Currently, Angela conducts qualitative and exploratory design inquiries by leveraging co-creation and community-based participatory research methods to understand the technology needs and experiences of marginalized individuals. She has published work at CHI and CSCW.
Ihudiya Finda Ogbonnaya-Ogburu (http://www.ihudiyaogburu.com/) is a third year PhD student in the School of Information at University of Michigan. She is interested in understanding the impact of technology on low-income African Americans across the United States. She recognizes the great diversity of this community, and enjoys researching questions related to the intersection of race, class, and technology. Her current research focuses on the digital literacy development of individuals who were formerly incarcerated in the Detroit metropolitan area. She is an alumnus of Harvard Graduate School of Education and Rochester Institute of Technology. Prior to becoming a doctoral student, she has worked as a software engineer and product manager in various sectors of industry including Booz Allen Hamilton, Uplift Education Charter School, and the US. Department of State. Ihudiya Finda has published work at CHI and CSCW.