Mark Blythe

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Mark is Professor of Interdisciplinary Design at Northumbria University. He is a design ethnographer working in the field of Human Computer Interaction. His research interests include the ageing population, looming ecological catastrophe and the messed up world we're in. Recent projects include collaborations with Goldsmiths' Interaction Research Studio which were based at a residential care home and a nunnery. He is currently working on a project on banking for the older old. His other work draws on critical theory and YouTube to consider the impacts of new and emerging technologies.

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Vines, John, Dunphy, Paul, Blythe, Mark, Lindsay, Stephen, Monk, Andrew, Olivier, Patrick (2012): The joy of cheques: trust, paper and eighty somethings. In: Proceedings of ACM CSCW12 Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work , 2012, . pp. 147-156.

Briggs, Pam, Blythe, Mark, Vines, John, Lindsay, Stephen, Dunphy, Paul, Nicholson, James, Green, David, Kitson, Jim, Monk, Andrew, Olivier, Patrick (2012): Invisible design: exploring insights and ideas through ambiguous film scenarios. In: Proceedings of DIS12 Designing Interactive Systems , 2012, . pp. 534-543.

Blythe, Mark, Petrie, Helen, Clark, John A. (2011): F for fake: four studies on how we fall for phish. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2011 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , 2011, . pp. 3469-3478.

Gaver, William, Boucher, Andy, Bowers, John, Blythe, Mark, Jarvis, Nadine, Cameron, David, Kerridge, Tobie, Wilkie, Alex, Phillips, Robert, Wright, Peter (2011): The photostroller: supporting diverse care home residents in engaging with the world. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2011 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , 2011, . pp. 1757-1766.

Gaver, William, Blythe, Mark, Boucher, Andy, Jarvis, Nadine, Bowers, John, Wright, Peter (2010): The prayer companion: openness and specificity, materiality and spirituality. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2010 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , 2010, . pp. 2055-2064.

Blythe, Mark, Wright, Peter, Bowers, John, Boucher, Andy, Jarvis, Nadine, Reynolds, Phil, Gaver, William W. (2010): Age and experience: ludic engagement in a residential care setting. In: Proceedings of DIS10 Designing Interactive Systems , 2010, . pp. 161-170.

Foster, Derek, Lawson, Shaun, Blythe, Mark, Cairns, Paul (2010): Wattsup?: motivating reductions in domestic energy consumption using social networks. In: Proceedings of the Sixth Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction , 2010, . pp. 178-187.

Blythe, Mark, Cairns, Paul (2010): Tenori-on stage: YouTube as performance space. In: Proceedings of the Sixth Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction , 2010, . pp. 72-81.

Cockton, Gilbert, Bardzell, Shaowen, Blythe, Mark, Bardzell, Jeffrey (2010): Can we all stand under our umbrella: the arts and design research in HCI. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2010 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , 2010, . pp. 3163-3166.

Blythe, Mark, McCarthy, John, Light, Ann, Bardzell, Shaowen, Wright, Peter, Bardzell, Jeffrey, Blackwell, Alan (2010): Critical dialogue: interaction, experience and cultural theory. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2010 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , 2010, . pp. 4521-4524.

Foster, Derek, Blythe, Mark, Cairns, Paul, Lawson, Shaun (2010): Competitive carbon counting: can social networking sites make saving energy more enjoyable. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2010 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , 2010, . pp. 4039-4044.

Blythe, Mark, Hassenzahl, Marc, Law, Effie (2009): Now with Added Experience?. In New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, 15 (2) pp. 119-128.

Blythe, Mark, Cairns, Paul (2009): Critical methods and user generated content: the iPhone on YouTube. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2009 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , 2009, . pp. 1467-1476.

Blythe, Mark, Dearden, Andy (2009): Representing older people: towards meaningful images of the user in design scenarios. In Universal Access in the Information Society, 8 (1) pp. 21-32.

Blythe, Mark, Robinson, John, Frohlich, David (2008): Interaction design and the critics: what to make of the \"weegie. In: Proceedings of the Fifth Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction , 2008, . pp. 53-62.

Blythe, Mark, Bardzell, Jeffrey, Bardzell, Shaowen, Blackwell, Alan (2008): Critical Issues in Interaction Design. In: Proceedings of the HCI08 Conference on People and Computers XXII , 2008, . pp. 183-184.

Blythe, Mark, Wright, Peter (2008): Technology scruples: why intimidation will not save the recording industry and how enchant. In Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 12 (5) pp. 411-420.

Wright, Peter C., Blythe, Mark, McCarthy, John C. (2008): Editorial. In Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 12 (5) pp. 343-346.

Blythe, Mark, Wright, Peter C. (2006): Pastiche scenarios: Fiction as a resource for user centred design. In Interacting with Computers, 18 (5) pp. 1139-1164.

Blythe, Mark, Monk, Andrew, Doughty, Kevin (2005): Socially dependable design: The challenge of ageing populations for HCI. In Interacting with Computers, 17 (6) pp. 672-689.

Blythe, Mark, Reed, Darren J., Wright, Peter C., Monk, Andrew F. (2005): Critical perspectives on dependability: an older person\'s experience of assistive technol. In: Bertelsen, Olav W., Bouvin, Niels Olof, Krogh, Peter Gall, Kyng, Morten (eds.) Proceedings of the 4th Decennial Conference on Critical Computing 2005 August 20-24, 2005, Aarhus, Denmark. pp. 169-172.

Blythe, Mark, Monk, Andrew (2005): Net neighbours: adapting HCI methods to cross the digital divide. In Interacting with Computers, 17 (1) pp. 35-56.

Wright, Peter C., Blythe, Mark, McCarthy, John C. (2005): User Experience and the Idea of Design in HCI. In: Gilroy, Stephen W., Harrison, Michael D. (eds.) DSV-IS 2005 - Interactive Systems, Design, Specification, and Verification, 12th International Workshop July 13-15, 2005, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. pp. 1-14.

Blythe, Mark, Hassenzahl, Marc, Wright, Peter (2004): Introduction. In Interactions, 11 (5) pp. 36-37.

Blythe, Mark (2004): Interview with Patrick Jordan. In Interactions, 11 (5) pp. 40-41.

Blythe, Mark, Hassenzahl, Marc (2004): Interview with Don Norman. In Interactions, 11 (5) pp. 43-46.

Blythe, Mark, Wright, Peter C., Monk, Andrew F. (2004): Little brother: could and should wearable computing technologies be applied to reducing ol. In Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 8 (6) pp. 402-415.

Monk, Andrew, Carroll, Jenni, Parker, Sarah, Blythe, Mark (2004): Why are mobile phones annoying?. In Behaviour and Information Technology, 23 (1) pp. 33-41.

Blythe, Mark, Jones, Mark (2004): Human computer (sexual) interactions. In Interactions, 11 (5) pp. 75-76.

Blythe, Mark (2004): Pastiche scenarios. In Interactions, 11 (5) pp. 51-53.

Blythe, Mark, Monk, Andrew (2002): Notes towards an ethnography of domestic technology. In: Proceedings of DIS02: Designing Interactive Systems: Processes, Practices, Methods, & Techniques , 2002, . pp. 277-281.

Blythe, Mark, Wright, Peter (2003): Introduction: From usability to enjoyment. In: "Funology: From Usability to Enjoyment (XIII-XIX)" Kluwer Academic Publishers .

Blythe, Mark, Overbeeke, Kees, Monk, Andrew F., Wright, Peter (2003): Funology: From Usability to Enjoyment (XIII-XIX), Kluwer Academic Publishers,

Blythe, Mark

3.9 Commentary by Mark Blythe

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to Experience Design

I like the idea of Marc's alarm clock, but I suspect that with the right sort of hangover, the gentle birdsong might sound like horses galloping over a tin bridge. It is an old point now but perhaps worth repeating: no experience can be guaranteed. In McCarthy and Wright's formulation experiences cannot be designed they can only be designed for (3). It is sometimes countered that, on the contrary, experiences get designed all the time and we only have to look at film, theatre and the other arts to see how. But in some ways there couldn't be a worse example. Consider James Cameron's "Avatar". Incredibly, the person who I was with found it… boring, yes, boring, if you can believe it. As I sat in open mouthed astonishment at the technological and artistic achievement, my friend's jaw dropped only to yawn. Experience cannot be guaranteed even with Hollywood budgets. But conceding that you can't please all of the people all of the time does not necessarily mean that we cannot learn anything from understandings of literature, film and other media. Novelists, dramatists and film directors have, after all, been designing impossible things for a very long time.

Somewhere in the fourth video of the very interesting conversations with Marc he points out that the differences in how we tell stories matter. The way that we tell and understand story is crucial for experience design and for this reason there is as the saying goes "a small but growing body of work" that draws on critical theory (e.g. 1.2.3). Critical theory developed from the study of literature, drama and film. It is a catch all term that covers a very diverse range of perspectives such as psychoanalysis, feminism and deconstruction. Because its subject of study is the everyday - novels, films, TV, it is often dismissed as pretentious. It draws on specialized or high falutin' terms like "dialogical" and can seem unnecessarily abstract and difficult.

The terms "dialogical" and "monological" were key to the thought of the literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin and they are increasingly applied to experience design (e.g. 3). Such concepts can be quite confusing and are perhaps best explained with reference to the kinds of contexts Bakhtin thought about. For Bakhtin a "monological" utterance expects no answer. For instance, the order "Charge!" on a battlefield anticipates action, not debate. For Bakhtin the style of narrative in the novels of Tolstoy is also monological. The narrator of Anna Karenina for example knows the most intimate thoughts and actions of every character. How he knows what everyone is thinking is not at issue. In Dostoevsky on the other hand the narrative is dialogical. In Notes from the Underground the narrator constantly tries to anticipate and guess the reader's responses to what he is saying. "You imagine no doubt, gentlemen, that I want to amuse you. You are mistaken in that, too. I am by no means such a mirthful person as you imagine." Even where a neutral narrative voice begins the novel with omnipresent authority, as in the Brothers Karamazov, it is later revealed that this voice belongs to one of the characters with a partial perspective and sources which might or might not be reliable. Today monological authority is increasingly undermined by dialogical forms. To find examples today we might look at the anti Mubarak protests in Egypt in 2011, organized in part through Facebook and Twitter.

Unlike a paper based encyclopedia resources such as this are also dialogical in the form of commentaries and invitations for reader responses. Douglas Adams predicted this long ago when he wrote that the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy had supplanted the older and more pedestrian Encyclopedia Galactica in many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy. This, he said, was partly because it was slightly cheaper but mostly because it had the words "Don't Panic:" inscribed in large friendly letters on the front cover. The guide's field workers like Ford Prefect, would travel the universe, write about it and send their copy to the editors. Towards the end of his life Adams became less interested in writing novels and more involved in developing new media such as the pioneering game Starship Titanic. The HG2G website which attempted to create a real hitch hiker's guide with user generated content was a precursor to wikipedia. What then might a hitch hiker's guide to experience design look like?

Experience design is complicated, really complicated. I mean, you may think planning a holiday in Centre Parks is needlessly difficult, but that's just peanuts to experience design

The style might settle down after this and go on to note that it draws on many other disciplines - psychology, sociology and yes even literary theory sometimes. Many years ago, as another new field of study formed, Roland Barthes pointed out that interdisciplinary work is not achieved by gathering a number of sciences around a new "subject": "Interdisciplinarity" he said "consists in creating a new object that belongs to no one". Or as Marc Hassenzahl puts it in conversation here, the many relevant disciplines must talk to each other to find what works.


  1. Bardzell J & Bardzell S (2008) Interaction criticism: a proposal and
    framework for a new discipline of hci Interaction Design CHI '08 extended
    abstracts on Human factors in computing systems

  2. Blythe, M. and Cairns, P. 2009. Critical methods and user generated
    content: the iPhone on YouTube. CHI '09. (Boston, MA, USA, April 04 - 09,
  3. McCarthy J., and Wright P., (2008) Technology as Experience. MIT Press
    Cambridge Mass.