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HCDE Guest Lecture: "Being Capable," Alex Taylor, Microsoft Research Cambridge
WhenThursday, Apr 20, 2017, 10 – 11 a.m.
Campus locationAllen Library (ALB)
Campus roomAuditorium
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsDepartment of Human Centered Design & Engineering

Being Capable

In this talk, Alex Taylor will ‘think aloud’ about a philosophical orientation that is coming to shape both his ideas and his design-led research. This orientation is concerned with what it means to be capable. Mr. Taylor will contend that much of what we do to understand and design for the proverbial user is tied, closely, to a tradition that foregrounds the limits of individual ability—that abilities, and consequently mediated interactions, are constrained by the finite limits of what can be seen, heard, touched, memorised, and so on. Thinking with a generative theorising from scholars such as Donna Haraway, Vinciane Despret, and Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, and (re-)threading a line through his own work, he will show how the possibilities are opened up when we see capability as always emergent, always brought about through the lively entanglements between actors of all kinds. Heterogeneous composites—of families in cars, of the vision impaired with their guides, and of surgeons with their instruments—invite an expansion of capability. This, he suggests, presents exciting opportunities for design and HCI. Using his current research on human-AI relations, Mr. Taylor will point to his first steps with a design that is centered less on individual limits and seeks, instead, to amplify and extend what we are capable of.

About Alex Taylor
Alex Taylor is a sociologist in the Human Experiences & Design group at Microsoft Research Cambridge. He has been contributing to the areas of Science and Technology Studies and Human-Computer Interaction for almost fifteen years, and held positions in both academic and industrial research, including the University of Surrey, Goldsmiths and Xerox EuroPARC. Showing a broad fasciation for the entanglements between social life and machines, his research ranges from empirical studies of technology in everyday life to speculative design interventions—both large and small scale. Across these realms, he is interested in how digital technologies are co-constitutive of forms of knowing and being, and, as a consequence, provide a basis for fundamental transformations in society. Most recently, he’s begun obsessing over computation and wondering what the compulsion for seeing-data-everywhere might mean for the future of humans and machines.

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