Uncomfortable Interactions

The next BostonCHI meeting is Uncomfortable Interactions on Tue, Oct 12 at 6:30 PM.

Register here

BostonCHI October 2021, featuring Steve Benford


UX and HCI have typically been concerned with comfortable interactions that are efficient, ergonomic, satisfying, legible and predictable. However, an increasing focus on cultural experiences, from highbrow arts to mainstream entertainment, changes the game. Our experience of artworks is often far from comfortable. Our engagements with games and sports may push our minds and bodies to the limit. I will argue for deliberately and systematically designing uncomfortable interactions to deliver entertaining, enlightening and socially bonding experiences. I will reflect on interactive artworks that have deliberately employed discomfort to create powerful and provocative interactive experiences. I will explore four strategies for designing with discomfort – visceral, cultural, control and intimacy. I will consider how these need to be carefully embedded into an overall trajectory of experience that offers resolution and reflection. Finally, I will consider the ethical challenges of such an approach, revisiting issues of consent, withdrawal, privacy and risk.


Steve Benford is the Dunford Professor of Computer Science at the University of Nottingham where he founded the Mixed Reality Laboratory in 2000 and has directed the Horizon Centre or Doctoral Training since 2009. His research explores how digital technologies, and foundational concepts and methods to underpin these, can support cultural and creative experiences. He previously held an EPSRC Dream Fellowship, was a Visiting Professor at the BBC and also a Visiting Researcher at Microsoft. He was elected to the CHI Academy in 2012. His collaborations with artists have also led to the award of the Prix Arts Electronica Golden Nica for Interactive Art, Mindtrek Award and four BAFTA nominations.

Schedule – EST (UTC-5)

6:30 – 6:45: Networking (Using Zoom breakout rooms)

6:45 – 7:45: Presentation

7:45 – 8:15: Q & A