The face that crashed a Japanese face recognition system
(it assumed that hair lines are located over the eyes -- those pesky cultural
assumptions will get you every time!)
I'm a designer and researcher in the Social
Computing Group at IBM's T. J. Watson Research Center in New York.
I've been at IBM since June '97; before that I spent nine years in Apple's
research group. My research focus is on designing systems that make it
possible for large groups of people to interact coherently and productively
More generally, I am interested in topics such as genre theory, pattern languages, urban design, real
and virtual communities, everyday routines and rituals, ethnography, geography
and the sense of place, and the sociology of human-human interaction, all
of which inform my approach to systems design. I write quite a lot, and
you'll find most of my writing here from unpublished
essays, to paper drafts (see Additions List, below), to publications.
If you're looking for something short to read, you might enjoy my recent
essay Some Problems with the Notion of Context-Aware
Computing, or the forthcoming Social
Translucence: Designing Social Infrastructures that Make Collective Activity
After I first used the Mac, I had a dream
in which I would walk up to people, touch them, and they'd turn black.
Then I could talk to them. --anon.
What made Wells a true visionary was not so
much his ability to predict so many of the technological marvels of the
late twentieth century, but his prescience in setting them in a world where
men were still wearing neckties. --Geoffroy Nunberg
Sorry. I don't understand the word sorry.
--Computer error message.
Press Enter to Exit. --Computer 'help'
Plans are worthless, planning is invaluable.
I can't understand why people are frightened
of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones. --John Cage
Q: So, has success
A: Yeah, it's changed me. You know how when you're eating pistachios
and you find one that's hard to get the shell open? Well, I don't bother
with them anymore. --Bob Weir
- October 2004
- * Paper: Behind the Help Desk:
Evolution of a Knowledge Management System in a Large Organization, by
Halverson, Erickson and Ackerman [pdf].This paper, with Christine Halverson
and Mark Ackerman, describes the evolution of a knowledge management system
(by which we mean a system comprised of both social and technical components)
for producing FAQs. The paper examines how shifts in management, organizational
structure, incentives, software technologies, and other factors affected
the development of thesystem, and provides an analysis of how such systems
are often designed by bricolage.
- * Paper: Erickson, T. Towards
a Toolkit for Interaction Design: Thoughts on Theory and Method. This
is a chapter, written earlier this year, for the book Foundations of
Interaction Design: The First Ivrea Conference (ed. S. Bagnara and
G. Crampton-Smith.), currently in preparation or in press. It provides
a definition of interaction design, and weighs in about the role of theory
in interaction design, and whether 'second hand' theory is problematic.
- May 2004
- * Paper: This is an paper that provides an overview of my work
on designing visualizations of social activity in online spaces. It begins
with a summary of some of the empirical work that launched me on this path,
briefly summarizes the Babble work, and concludes with a number of design
prototypes, including a couple which haven't been published elsewhere before
(the conference call proxy, and the building proxy). See Designing
Online Collaborative Environments: Social Visualizations as Shared Resources.
- * For those interested in CMC, I have added download links for the
papers from the now-in-its-sixth year, Persistent
- February 2004
- * Short Paper: A short paper on the experience of conducting
interviews over IM: Interviewing
Over Instant Messaging, by Voida, Mynatt, Erickson and Kellogg to appear
at CHI 2004.
- * Short Essay: A 400 word essay on cultural
differences, and their sometimes surprising manifestation.
- * CFP: Call for participation for the 2005 Minitrack on Persistent
Conversations at HICSS (deadeline for abstracts is in April, for papers
is in June): See http://www.pliant.org/personal/Tom_Erickson/HICSS38pc.html
- * Paper: The final version of the paper onTask Proxies that
will appear at CHI 2004: "A Social Proxy
for Distributed Tasks: Design and Evaluation of a Working Prototype"
- November 2003
- * Paper: The penultimate draft of a paper on Task Proxies --
"A Social Proxy for Distributed Tasks: Design and Evaluation of a
Working Prototype" -- to appear at CHI 2004. => replaced
with final version, see February 2004 (above).
- * Paper: A draft of the latest paper on Loops, still looking
for a publication venue. [pdf]
- * Other: As usual, the AHA page (link in header) has a few updates
which are posted as they arrive.
- August 2003
- * Paper: A nearly final draft of a new paper, "What Counts
as Success? Rhythmic Patterns of use in a Persistent Chat Environment"
[pdf], to appear at Group 2003.
- * Other.: A few updates to the patterns and AHA pages (links
- January 2003
- Two short papers and one long one:
1. "In a Glass Darkly: Reflections
on the Construction and Co-Evolution of Object and Personal Identity"
[pdf], by Ian Simmonds and myself. [Updated 4 Feb 2003] Note: This
is a first draft and pretty rough (version 3 of February 4). Abstract:
"We analyze the co-construction of identity - of objects, collections,
people and institutions - by collectors of early American glass. We define
intrinsic and extrinsic features of identity; and we discuss the social
and institutional mechanisms involved in establishing and vetting identity,
as well as pathologies that result from their failure."
- 2. "Silence, Murmurs
and Applause: Reflections on Expressions of Collections" [pdf].
A 4-page position paper submitted to the workshop on "Subtle Expressivity
in Characters and Robots," which tries to argue that groups may be
said to have analogs of facial expressions in their collective behavior
(e.g. applause) and discussing how to design 'expressions' for online groups.
- 3. "Designing Social Visualizations:
Six Claims" [pdf]. A two page paper that lays out six non-obvious
claims about how to design visualizations of online social activity.
- June 2002
- * Patterns: A new version of the Interaction Design Patterns
page, with a paper by Sally Fincher , two pattern sets and two papers from
David Martin and his colleague, and an update of Martijn Van Welie's Amsterdam
- * Discourse Architectures Workshop. A page that provides access
to most of the position papers for the CHI
2002 Discourse Architectures workshop, and an addition (with hopefully
a few more pending) to the Interaction
Design Patterns page.
- April 2002
- Two new papers this month:
- * A substantially new version of a paper on Loops, the web-based succsessor
to the Babble system, The Design of Loops: A Web-Based Environment forPersistent
Conversation and Community, currently available only as pdf.
* And a chapter for the second edition of the Höök, Benyon and
Munroe Social Navigation book that is a good summary (up to the advent
of Loops) of our work and thinking: Social Translucence: Using Minimalist
Visualizations of Social Activity to Support Collective Interaction--
currently available only as pdf.
- February 2002
- Social Computing Group Website. My group at IBM (The Social
Computing Group) now has an external web site that provides an introduction
to Social Computing and a nice tour of our projects. See http://www.research.ibm.com/SocialComputing/
- January 2002
- AHA. The yearly round of updates to the AHA
(Apple HI Alumni) page has resulted in a substantially changed directory;
probably a few more updates are in store. Final updates have been
made to the information page for the Fourth Annual
Workshop and Minitrack on Persistent Conversation.
- December 2001
- A Call for Participation for a workshop at CHI 2002: "Discourse Architectures: Designing and Visualizing
Computer Mediated Conversation." An almost final version
of: Social Translucence: Designing Social
Infrastructures that Make Collective Activity Visible, also available
in pdf. This will appear in CACM
sometime in 2002, and presents prototypes of social proxies for on-line
auctions, lines (aka queues), and lectures.
- November 2001
- Two things this month: Social Translucence: Designing Social Infrastructures
that Make Collective Activity Visible [pdf only]: Replaced -- See December
2001, above. Loops: Designing a
Web-Based Environment for Persistent, Semi-Structured Conversation
[pdf only]: A rejected CHI paper that describes our current work on Loops,
the successor to Babble.
- October 2001
Knowledge Management Puzzle: Human and Social Factors in Knowledge Management.
An article that has just appeared in the IBM Systems Journal. Also available
as a pdf.
- August 2001
- Some papers finished over the last few months:
- 1. "Ask Not for Whom the Cell Phone
Tolls: Some Problems with the Notion of Context-Aware Computing"
an short essay that will appear in CACM in a few months. Also available
as a pdf.
- 2. "Knowledge Communities: Online
Environments for Supporting Knowledge Management and its Social Context"
A chapter describing the social approach to knowledge management
that is one of the rationales behind the Babble work. Also available as
- 3. "Dealing with Community
Data: A Report on the CSCW 2000 Workshop." 4. "Here
and There, Now and Then: A Teleworkers Reflections on Workplace."
This is a position paper for "WORK/PLACE: Mobile technologies and
the emergence of the new workplace" (ECSCW 2001) that describes some
of my experiences as a teleworker, and poses, but does not resolve, issues
having to do with just what a workplace is. Starts of with a bit doggerel,
if you like that sort of thing... Also available as a pdf.
- February 2001
- A short (2-page) paper -- The Design of the
'Babble' Timeline: A Social Proxy for Visualizing Group Activity over Time
-- that will appear in the CHI '01 Proceedings.
- December 2000
- A new version of "Theory, Theory".
- November 2000
- 1. A position paper for the CSCW '00 Workshop on Dealing with Community
Data: "Putting the There There: Visualizing
Community Data" (pdf only)
- 2. And, brand new, is my poem, "Theory,
Theory", which , as one reader has remarked, is "probably
the only time that ontology and ethnomethodology have ever been rhymed."
- 3. The AHA page (Apple HI Alumni) has received
about two dozen updates in the last month.
- June 2000
- Lingua Francas for Design:
Sacred Places and Pattern Languages, by Thomas Erickson. A paper to
appear at the DIS 2000 conference, that replaces the similarly named paper
posted in March.
- March 2000
- The Need for a Lingua Franca for Design: From Sacred Places
to Pattern Languages. A paper submitted to the DIS 2000 conference; some
overlap with the January 2000 position paper, but much more comprehensive.
SEE JUNE 2000...
- February 2000
- The Call for Participation for the Third Annual
Workshop and Minitrack on Persistent Conversation, part of the Digital
Documents track of the Thirty-Fourth Hawaii International Conference on
Systems Science, Maui, January 3-6, 20001. And, just so folks don't
forget, updates of the AHA (Apple Human Interface Alumni)
page and the Interaction Design
Patterns home page.
- January 2000
- Pattern Languages as Languages.
A position paper for the CHI 2000 workshop on Pattern Languages for Interaction
- December 1999
- A new paper to appear in the HICSS 2000 Proceedings: Making
Sense of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC): Conversations as Genres;
CMC Systems as Genre Ecologies.
- August 1999
- A new paper to appear in the 2000 issue of TOCHI: Social
Translucence: An Approach to Designing Systems that Mesh with Social Processes
This provides more of the rationale behind, and the future of, the 'Babble'
or 'Loops' work described in the CHI '99 and ECSCW '99 papers.
- July 1999
- The papers from my minitrack on "persistent conversation"
are now available on line as a special
issue of the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication.
- April 17, 1999
- The final version of a paper for ECSCW '99: The
Adoption and Use of Babble: A Field Study of Chat in the Workplace.
This is a study of the adoption (or not) of the Babble system (see 1/16/99
entry below) by six different workgroups at IBM.
- March 15, 1999
- CFP for the Second Workshop and Minitrack
on Persistent Conversation at the HICSS conference. A short
position paper for a CHI 99
Workshop on On-Line Communities. Many updates to the Apple
HI Alumi page (note: this is frequently updated, not just when signaled
here). Many various small changes elsewhere.
- January 16, 1999
- Final version of paper for CHI 99 replaces previous draft. The paper
-- Socially Translucent Systems: Social
Proxies, Persistent Conversation, and the Design of Babble -- describes
a new type of CMC system (known, variously, as "Loops" or "Babble").
Of special interest is the use of a social proxy, a minimalist, visual
representation of a conversation's participants and their actions with
respect to the conversation. Also a version of a short workshop
paper for the CSCW '98 workshop on "Designing Virtual Communities
for Work," describing the use of Babble: Babble:
Supporting Conversation in the Workplace.
- September 28, 1998
- The final version of my latest paper on digital genre: "Rhyme and Punishment: The Creation and Enforcement of Conventions
in an On-Line Participatory Limerick Genre." To appear in the
Proceedings of the Thirtysecond Annual Hawai'i International Conference
on Systems Science, January 1999. (Replaces the draft of June 6, 1998.)
- February 19, 1998
- Persistent Conversation: Discourse as
Document. This is a Call for Papers for a mini-track on "persistent
conversation." This is part of the Digital Documents Track at the
32 Annual Hawai'i International Conference on Systems Science.
- February 2, 1998
- The first edition of The Interaction
Design Patterns Page, a set of resources for those interested in the
application of pattern languages to interaction design.
- January 13, 1998
- A reworking of the previously posted essay into a two page paper which
has been submitted to [and now rejected by] CHI '98: Genre
Theory as a Tool for Analyzing Network-Mediated Interaction: The Case of
the Collective Limericks. This is a quick read; at some point there
will be a much longer version of this paper which actually adequately explains
genre theory, its applications, and analyzes the Limerick example in considerably
more detail. In the meantime, those interested in genre theory will need
to see the paper: Virtual Community as Participatory
Genre. There is also a new version of the AHA
(Apple Human-Interface Alumni) Community Web page, now nearing sixty
members. It is frequently updated, and I don't usually mention those updates
in this list.
- December 15, 1997
- A short essay for a workshop, which I had fun writing and perhaps you'll
have fun reading. It's an analysis of a seemingly trivial network mediated
activity, the collective creation of limericks: 'A
man whose hair was bright orange' (This will be turning into a more
formal paper; it is another facet of the digital genre work...[[See 'Rhyme
and Punishment under the 6/7/98 entry, above]]).
- December 11, 1997
- A new version of the AHA (Apple Human-Interface
Alumni) Community Web page.
- October 2, 1997
- The final version of the Report of
the CHI '97 Workshop on Pattern Languages for Interaction Design.
- September 15, 1997
- Additions beget additions. Here are two other essays on my telecommuting
experience: On the Experience of Remote Meetings,
and Some Notes on Telework.
- September 13, 1997
- Release 5 of this site. New versions of most pages -- only the papers
are unchanged. The things that are newest are the final version of the
patterns chapter, the patterns workshop report, and some essays for more
general audiences: Tom's Hawaii Story (pure fun),
After the Fire (nature writing), and Work and Spirit (Telecommuting).