6 1. INTRODUCTION
opments of the time, assessing and ruminating more generally on the role of theory in HCI. A
core concern running through the review article was the extent to which theory was used in design
practice. I noted how a diversity of new theories had been imported and adapted in the field. A key
question I raised was whether these attempts had been productive in terms of knowledge transfer.
By knowledge transfer, I was referring to the translation of research findings (e.g., theory, empirical
results, descriptive accounts, cognitive models) from one discipline (e.g., cognitive psycholog y, so-
ciology) into practical concerns that could be applied to another (e.g., HCI, CSCW). An empirical
study of designer’s use of theory that I conducted made for rather depressing reading, especially for
those championing theory in practice (Rogers, 2004). Despite designers’ perceived need and desire
for applying theory, they repor ted in the survey that they were only able to make use of some of it
in a limited way. I concluded by proposing new knowledge transfer mechanisms, including a lingua
franca that designers and researchers, alike, could use to talk to one another more.
1.3 AIMS OF THE BOOK
So what next? The purpose of this book is, firstly, to revisit the concerns surrounding the role of
theory in an applied and rapidly changing field, by examining its place and value in the field in the
interim years. Secondly, to consider the ramifications of this for a field that has become everything
and anything, in an attempt to keep up with, understand and be part of a technology-pervasive world
that is radically transforming how we live. Thirdly, to discuss what it means for the advancement of
a field and its knowledge where its theory industry has become so multifarious.
Clearly, it is impossible to do justice to all the theories that have been imported and wr itten
about in HCI (and overlapping disciplines) in one book. There is inevitable bias in what is cov-
ered here; some theories are covered in depth, while some are briefly touched upon (such as those in
CSCW and cognitive ergonomics). My objective here is to provide an overview of the theoretical de-
velopments, but to give more space to those that have been most influential in HCI (e.g., Distributed
Cognition, Activity Theory), providing more in-depth discussion of their use and impact. For each
theory, I describe how it has been imported, adapted and its impact on research and practice. I have
also included a number of approaches that are not considered to be theoretical but are methodological
in nature. The reason for their inclusion is that they have played an integral part in other theoretical
developments within HCI. These are primarily grounded theory and ethnography and I have also
included approaches that are considered largely or wholly atheoretical, namely, ethnomethodology and
situated action.These were included because of their impact. Besides being influential in shaping the
field, they have often been highly critical of existing theories in HCI, and alternatively, promoting
radically different ways of framing human-computer interactions, phenomena and data.
As Grudin notes (personal communication), a method, such as an experiment or observation,
is not a theory. However, the outcome of using a method to collect data is often used as input for
theory construction or theory testing and hence, in my view, it is important to consider methods
in relation to theory. While it is generall y accepted that there is a distinction between method and
theory, it is argued that they are intertwined, especially in terms of how they are used and developed

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