New Project: Speculative Usability

Lars Söderlund and I have been working on what we are currently calling speculative usability. Combining Bruno Latour's work on ANT and his Heideggerian reading of the thing and work in speculative realism (e.g., Ian Bogost), we want to carve out a space in usability testing for more inventive, less normative approaches. That is, we want to treat usability as a thing that is always at stake in usability testing.

Abstract:
Speculative Usability calls us to attend more rigorously to the individual existences of objects, and as such it allows us to ask usability questions less exclusively wedded to the user than those posed in most usability tests. Rather than “Is the user able to quickly work this object as the designer intended?” or “Does the composition of this object satisfy the user?” we can ask, “How does this object work given its own particular set of relations?” and “How, then, might this object work otherwise?” This involves not only decentering the user as our focus, but also opening ourselves to non-normative evaluations of objects. Our goal is no longer to measure the distance between an object’s use and acceptable levels of efficiency, but to notice an object as it interacts with other objects (including the user).