HCI at the End of Life – Understanding Death, Dying, and the Digital (April 2010, Atlanta)

HCI at the End of Life: Understanding Death, Dying, and the Digital
A workshop to be held at CHI 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia on April 10, 2010.
Workshop website: http://www.dgp.toronto.edu/~mikem/hcieol/
Submission deadline: January 6, 2010

As computing increasingly pervades all aspects of our daily lives, it is becoming important to consider the implications of technology at the end of the lifespan. This workshop offers an opportunity to explore the ways in which computing intersects with issues of mortality, dying, and death. Potential topics include, but are not limited to: digital memorials; social networking sites and the deceased; examinations of cultural, social, legal or technological practice surrounding dying or death; professional and lay-person perspectives; and the design of technological artifacts which engage these issues in new (and possibly provocative) ways. This workshop therefore intends to address how death
is managed, marked and reacted to in the digital/technological age.


Conceptualizing the design space surrounding end-of-life practice requires an interdisciplinary, open-minded, and culturally sensitive approach. This workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to address the following themes:

  • Technology & Design: Computationally enhanced artifacts which help groups of people to share, remember, and relate to the deceased or dying. Examples include technology heirlooms, online memorials, electronic gravestones/memorials/shrines, or traditional desktop software which addresses mortality, death, and dying in unique or novel ways.
  • Social Practices: Obtaining a better understanding of how technology and other artifacts are appropriated, used, discarded, or incorporated into social practices surrounding death. Topics in this theme may include ethnographic analyses of end-of-life issues, sociological models of practice, culture-specific practices, or other forms of empirical qualitative research focused on the intersection of mortality, dying, death, and technology (e.g., interviews, questionnaires, surveys).
  • Humanities and Cultural Studies: Insights related to mortality, dying,and death as understood in fields traditionally underrepresented in HCI (including, but certainly not limited to: archaeology, religion, anthropology, sociology, literature, philosophy, or the arts). Understanding how to incorporate these themes into research or design practice will be a major component of this workshop.
  • Research Methodology and Evaluation: Discussions of how to conduct thanatosensitive research (that is, research is sensitive to issues of dying, death, and mortality). Topics of interest include (but are not limited to): epistemological approaches, empirical methods, conceptual or theoretical frameworks, analysis procedures, and standards and metrics for evaluation of systems. Discussions will also include how to conduct ethical and respectful research, either with respect to a particular methodology/setting, or more generally across contexts.

Call for Submissions

Participants are requested to submit a 2-4 page position paper in the CHI Archival format. Papers will be accepted based on originality and quality, and will represent a spectrum of viewpoints. Submissions from underrepresented disciplines in the HCI community will be particularly welcome (e.g., archaeology, religion, anthropology, literature, philosophy, or the arts).

At least one author must register for and attend the workshop, in addition to registering for at least one day of the CHI conference.

Submissions are due by January 6, 2010. For more information, please see the workshop webpage at http://www.dgp.toronto.edu/~mikem/hcieol/


Michael Massimi, University of Toronto, Canada
William Odom, Carnegie Mellon University, USA
David Kirk, University of Nottingham, UK
Richard Banks, Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK


About Fil Salustri
I'm a design methodologist and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. Adjectives that describe me include: secular humanist, meritocrat, and long-winded. Some people call me a positivist too, as if that were a bad thing. Go figure. My real home page is http://deseng.ryerson.ca/~fil.

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