Call: International Journal of Human-Computer Studies: Special Issue on Animal-Computer Interaction

[Members of the presence community have often commented on the ability of animals to experience spatial and social presence; note especially the second bullet point below…  -Matthew]

Call for Contributions:

International Journal of Human-Computer Studies: Special Issue on Animal-Computer Interaction

Manuscript should be prepared according to the IJHCS Guide for authors. Please select SI: ACI when you reach the “Article Type” step in the submission process at

Submission Deadline: 30 June 2015
Final Paper Due: 31 December 2015

Clara Mancini, The Open University,
Oskar Juhlin, Stockholm University,
Adrian David Cheock, City University London,
Shaun Lawson, University of Lincoln,

Animals have interacted with technology for a long time. Already in the ’60s, bears were wearing tracking devices within conservation research; while mice and pigeons were working with operant chambers in task-driven behavioral experiments. In the ’80s, great apes were using early touch-screen computers to learn human language in comparative cognition studies, followed in the ’90s by dolphins using underwater keyboards for similar communication tasks. Meantime, cows were being introduced to early robotic milking systems thanks to the latest advances in agricultural engineering. Until recently, the development of these technologies has been driven by disciplines other than Interaction Design; consequently, questions pertaining to the usability and experience of such technologies from the perspective or animal users, to the design processes that inform animal-computer interactions, or to the articulations between animals’ physiology, psychology, sociality and interaction design, were not explicitly addressed.

However, since the early ’00s, the HCI community has begun to take an interest in the interaction between animals and technology, and to tackle the challenges involved in extending user-centered design solutions and practices beyond the human species. As a result, an increasing body of work is shaping the emerging discipline of Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI) whose aims encompass:

  • studying and theorizing the interaction between animals and technology in naturalistic settings, with regards to specific animal activities or interspecies relations (e.g. influence of robotic milking systems on cows’ social dynamics; effects of quantifying technology on human-dog relations; impact of wearable biotelemetry on wildlife)
  • developing user-centered technology that can: improve animals’ welfare by enabling the fulfillment of their needs (e.g. environmental control and interactive stimulation for captive animals); support animals in tasks humans might ask of them (e.g. specialized interfaces for working dogs); foster interspecies relationships (e.g. human-animal interfaces for co-located or remote interaction)
  • informing user-centered approaches to the design of technology intended for animals, by systematically exploring, adapting and evaluating theoretical and methodological frameworks and protocols derived from both HCI and animal science (e.g. rapid prototyping and agile iteration; preference testing).

As a discipline, ACI could yield benefits that go well beyond animal wellbeing and the improvement of human-animal relations. Indeed, far from being a niche research area, ACI could strengthen HCI as a discipline and contribute to the pursuit of the HCI community’s aspirations. For example, the development of multispecies research practices and design frameworks could enable designers to better account for the cognitive and ergonomic diversity of their prospective users. ACI could also broaden participation in interaction design, providing inclusive technology to support multispecies communities, and lead to the development of more sustainable forms of technologically supported living. In the longer term, by bringing more-than-human voices to the design table, ACI could help us revisit anthropocentric biases in human activity and interspecies interaction, and contribute to the exploration of alternative models that can better support biodiversity and foster environmental restoration.

With this IJHCS special issue on Animal-Computer Interaction, we want to capitalize on the momentum that ACI research has been gaining in recent years, make a decisive step forward towards its academic establishment, and further support its development. To this end, we invite novel, high quality contributions that demonstrate a user-centered focus, and preferably (but not necessarily) present an engineering element, around any of the following questions:

DESIGN. What interaction modalities might we need to develop in order to make technology accessible to other animals? How could we design for users with different sensorial apparatuses, cognitive capabilities, and ergonomic characteristics? How could appropriated multisensory interfaces and alternative interactional paradigms be explored and theorized? On the other hand, how could design solutions developed within ACI applications inform design within HCI?

METHODOLOGY. What methodological frameworks could enable animals to actively participate in the design process as legitimate stakeholders, technology users and design contributors? How much of HCI methodological arsenal could be called upon when we design with animals or investigate how technology affects them and their interactions with us? How could non-linguistic methodologies be adapted from HCI or derived from other disciplines? Conversely, how could more-than-human approaches developed within ACI contribute to HCI practices?

THEORY: What are the main challenges that ACI researchers might encounter in conceptualizing the interaction between humans, animals and technology? How could we interpret the outcomes of applied studies, concrete designs and research practices to articulate such interactions? What existing theoretical frameworks from HCI, animal science, or other disciplines, might ACI theories draw from or contribute to?

ETHICS. What might be legitimate technological applications for ACI? What implications does ACI’s animal-centered perspective have for conducting research that involves animal participants? What ethical frameworks might be most suitable to support the development of ACI? What might the relation between ethics and methodology be in ACI? And how could a reflection on ACI ethics influence ethical aspects of HCI research?

We welcome relevant submissions contributed from within any related discipline and describing work within diverse contexts. However, please be aware that IJHCS does not normally consider papers which describe military applications.


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