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Accepted Paper:

Anticipation and the Work of Conversational UX  
Elizabeth Rodwell (University of Houston)

Paper short abstract:

This paper exists at the intersection of anticipation theory and ethnographic praxis, and presents ongoing fieldwork in the field of conversational UX design, where the "ontology of anticipation" is complicated by the market-driven nature of voice assistant design development.

Paper long abstract:

Academic evaluations of UX methods tend to be siloed within applied anthropology communities or favor a quantitative / lab-based approach when presented in human-computer interaction (HCI) forums (Robinson et al, 2018). Although HCI has a long history of academic dedication to the concept of usability (e.g., Baecker, 1989; Kasik 1982; Gould & Lewis 1985; Norman 1983), it lacks substantive discussion of UX as a social practice concerned with anticipating and reacting to the needs of others. Further, it commonly fails to address the ways that UX as a business strategy contributes to the digital divide. In this paper, I will explore the ways that anticipation theory is reflected in the decision-making of usability experts focused on conversational voice assistants (CVAs, like Alexa and Google Home). My analysis is based on ongoing ethnographic research and interviews with conversational UX professionals and is focused on usability as an (anticipatory) practice of daily negotiation. I argue that anticipation is one of the main discursive strategies of usability work but is complicated by a lack of system transparency and discoverability for voice assistants. While UX work, at its best, tries to avoid thinking for others by involving testers at all stages of the design process, it frequently designs towards a dominant user model and constructs a form of conversational exchange that almost nobody finds usable (yet).

Panel P27b
Life Itself. Anthropology and Anticipation.
  Session 1 Tuesday 7 June, 2022, -