Speculative Interaction Design: Ways to find the “Moonwalking Bears”

Session Title

Interaction Design in Unfamiliar Contexts: Finding the “Moonwalking Bears”


Susan Wyche, GVU Center/ GaTech

Session Type: Presentation

During his closing keynote last year, Dan Saffer encouraged the IxDA community to pay less attention to solving problems, and more attention to inventing the future or finding the “moonwalking bears.” In my presentation, I draw from exploratory design research examining religion and technology use in Sao Paulo, Brazil to illustrate how users’ extreme and non-rational beliefs frame their interactions with technology. Rather than using my training as a designer to uncover user needs and imagine ways technology can address them, I used my skills to provoke discussion about the social factors affecting technology adoption. Specifically, I will present a collection of “speculative design” ideas inspired by my fieldwork. Speculative design concepts are meant to promote critical reflection on design rather than be mass-produced for consumption. Designers interested in understanding how to account for alternative values systems in their work will find my approach useful. As interaction designers develop products for an increasingly multicultural world, learning how to account for alternative values systems in our work becomes increasingly important.


Susan Wyche is an industrial designer finishing her doctoral degree in Human-Centered Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is currently examining how to design technology for religious purposes. Prior to returning to school, she worked as a professional designer in the housewares industry. More recently, she has worked as a design researcher for S.C. Johnson and Son, Microsoft Research, and Intel’s User Centered Design Group. Her research has been published at CHI, UbiComp and DUX conferences. Susan holds an undergraduate degree in Industrial Design from Carnegie-Mellon University.


  1. Posted September 17, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Very interesting; I’m curious about how diverse the religious purposes were for the focus of your study.

  2. Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:24 pm


    Thanks for the comment. I saw an experienced several things that were unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I observed people who told me they could receive blessings through the internet others told me how the devil used technology to infiltrate their lives. Pentecostalism is a growing globally and I think it is important to understand how users with radically different perspectives about technology-different perspectives from those commonly discussed in the IxD community-use it is important. Finally, these new perspectives can inspire interesting design concepts.

    Thanks again!