This workshop will contribute to the development of a under-utilized source of inspiration for CSCW and HCI research and design practice: history and historiography of technology. The design and evaluation of technology, as practiced in CSCW and HCI, tends to focus on the immediate present and near future. Our field’s emphasis on the design of new technology, experimenting with emerging tools, and the development of critical speculations about the future, has positioned us as a largely forward-looking community. A focus on the present and future of technology is crucial for CSCW and HCI, but the lack of historical view threatens to leave out a wealth of resources that can inspire design, provide exemplars for comparative analysis, and help develop a deeper understanding of technology development. This workshop will convene researchers from the growing number of CSCW scholars that have sought to investigate the past to advance technology research, articulate and develop theory and method for incorporating historical investigations in CSCW, and set an agenda for future historically informed work in CSCW and HCI. 

Historical research is positioned to contribute to our field in a number of ways. First, and most fundamentally, it can provide in-depth understanding of contemporary socio-technical systems through knowledge of how things came to be as they are. In doing so, this work can demonstrate that the current form of these systems is not inevitable, but the result of historically situated, contingent events and processes. Working from classic work in the history of science, we will also discuss what we stand to gain in our understanding of technoscientific knowledge production in CSCW when we take seriously historical actors’ epistemologies. This may in turn also surface alternative, or forgotten, design pathways. Such ‘paths not taken’ can expand our sources of design inspiration and increase our capability for critique and reflection. This in turn provides insights into the values and politics of contemporary technology design, and thus offers opportunities for CSCW research and practice to more conscientiously engage with the social and political consequences of our work.

This workshop will build upon significant prior work, including past calls for an increased development of historical methods in CSCW and HCI [6,9,25], critical evaluations of technology based on their historical evolution [2,7,13,17,18], design methods that leverage historical understanding [5,8,16,25], and to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past [1,3,12]. In addition, important work has been done to trace the trajectory of CSCW and HCI [10,11,20] or particular methods or subareas of these fields [4,15,19,21,22, 24]. Finally, several recent papers have raised the question of how CSCW and HCI tools and techniques can themselves serve to support the doing of historical research [14,23].

This workshop will help support the incorporation of historical method and insight in CSCW and HCI by convening researchers who are currently working, or seek to begin working, with historical topics and methods. Over the course of the day, organizers will foster discussions that articulate the various ways in which CSCW can productively connect with history. Participants will also share resources, guidance, and tricks of the trade around relevant research methods in history and science and technology studies. Following the workshop we aim to produce materials (web resources, educational tools, short articles, or a publication) to highlight key insights from the discussion and share them with a wider audience. In particular, this workshop will seek to accomplish these goals by convening researchers to engage with the following questions:

  • How can historicizing CSCW and HCI research support design, evaluation, and critique of technology? What are the points of connection between the discipline of history and CSCW research and practice?
  • What constitutes valid historiography in this context? What should we be thinking about if we want to incorporate this suite of methods into CSCW’s research toolbox? What do we need to learn from historians if we want to approach this kind of work in a rigorous fashion?
  • Where and how are CSCW and HCI researchers already doing this kind of work, even if not described as such?
  • What can we gain from historicizing the science of CSCW/HCI itself, such as shifting objects of study, changing disciplinary participation, models of sociality & cognition, funding sources, etc?
  • Whose history, and by whom? This question opens avenues for discussing power, representation, inclusion, and the values of historical research itself.
  • What institutional challenges do participants envision, or have encountered, for doing rigorous historical work in CSCW? These might include challenges in teaching/learning historical methods, developing collaborations with historians, working around different publishing conventions in CSCW vs history, and broader disciplinary differences in computer and information sciences versus history.


  1. Ali Alkhatib, Michael S. Bernstein, and Margaret Levi. 2017. Examining Crowd Work and Gig Work Through The Historical Lens of Piecework. In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’17). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 4599–4616. https://doi.org/10.1145/3025453.3025974
  2. Ames, M.G., 2018. Hackers, Computers, and Cooperation: A Critical History of Logo and Constructionist Learning. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 2(CSCW), p.18.
  3. Bell, G., Blythe, M. and Sengers, P., 2005. Making by making strange: Defamiliarization and the design of domestic technologies. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 12(2), pp.149-173.
  4. Blomberg, J. and Karasti, H., 2013. Reflections on 25 Years of Ethnography in CSCW. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), 22(4-6), pp.373-423.
  5. Blythe, M., Monk, A. and Park, J., 2002, April. Technology biographies: field study techniques for home use product development. In Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems: CHI’02 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems (Vol. 20, No. 25, pp. 658-659).
  6. Bødker, S., 1993, August. Historical analysis and conflicting perspectives—contextualizing HCI. In International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 1-10). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
  7. Bowker, G.C., 1996. The history of information infrastructures: The case of the international classification of diseases. Information processing & management, 32(1), pp.49-61.
  8. Bowker, G. C., Karen Baker, Florence Millerand, and David Ribes. 2010. “Toward Information Infrastructure Studies: Ways of Knowing in a Networked Environment.” In International Handbook of Internet Research, edited by Jeremy Hunsinger, Lisbeth Klastrup and Matthew Allen, 97-117. New York: Springer.
  9. DiSalvo, C., 2014. The need for design history in HCI. interactions, 21(6), pp.20-21.
  10. Grudin, J. 1990. The computer reaches out: the historical continuity of interface design. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’90), Jane Carrasco Chew and John Whiteside (Eds.). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 261-268. DOI=http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/97243.97284
  11. Grudin, J., 2017. From tool to partner: The evolution of human-computer interaction. Synthesis Lectures on Human-Centered Interaction, 10(1), pp.i-183.
  12. Irani, L., Vertesi, J., Dourish, P., Philip, K. and Grinter, R.E., 2010, April. Postcolonial computing: a lens on design and development. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 1311-1320). ACM.
  13. Khovanskaya, V., Bezaitis, M. and Sengers, P., 2016, June. The case of the strangerationist: Re-interpreting critical technical practice. In Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (pp. 134-145). ACM.
  14. Khovanskaya, V., Sengers, P., Mazmanian, M. and Darrah, C., 2017, May. Reworking the gaps between design and ethnography. In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 5373-5385). ACM.
  15. Monteiro, E., Pollock, N., Hanseth, O. and Williams, R., 2013. From artefacts to infrastructures. Computer supported cooperative work (CSCW), 22(4-6), pp.575-607.
  16. Ribes, D. and Finholt, T.A., 2009. The long now of infrastructure: Articulating tensions in development. Journal for the Association of Information Systems (JAIS): Special issue on eInfrastructures 10 (5):375-398.
  17. Ribes, D. and Polk, J.B., 2012, February. Historical ontology and infrastructure. In Proceedings of the 2012 iConference (pp. 254-262). ACM.
  18. Ribes, D., 2014, February. The kernel of a research infrastructure. In Proceedings of the 17th ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work & social computing (pp. 574-587). ACM.
  19. Reeves, S., 2012, May. Envisioning ubiquitous computing. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1573-1582). ACM.
  20. Schmidt, K. and Bannon, L., 2013. Constructing CSCW: The first quarter century. Computer supported cooperative work (CSCW), 22(4-6), pp.345-372.
  21. Soden, R. and Palen, L., 2018. Informating Crisis: Expanding Critical Perspectives in Crisis Informatics. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 2(CSCW), p.162.
  22. Takayama, L., 2017. The motivations of ubiquitous computing: revisiting the ideas behind and beyond the prototypes. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 21(3), pp.557-569.
  23. Wang, N.C., Hicks, D. and Luther, K., 2018. Exploring Trade-Offs Between Learning and Productivity in Crowdsourced History. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 2(CSCW), p.178.
  24. Wong, R.Y. and Khovanskaya, V., 2018. Speculative Design in HCI: From Corporate Imaginations to Critical Orientations. In New Directions in Third Wave Human-Computer Interaction: Volume 2-Methodologies (pp. 175-202). Springer, Cham.
  25. Wyche, S., Sengers, P., Grinter, R.E. Historical analysis: Using the past to design the future. Proc. of the 8th International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing. P. Dourish and A. Friday, eds. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2006, 35–51; DOI=10.1007/11853565_3; http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/11853565_3
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