2022 EUSSET-IISI Lifetime Achievement Award: Interview

EUSSET: Richard, you have been awarded the EUSSET-IISI Lifetime Achievement Award as announced during the ECSCW 2022. Congratulations! In this interview, we would like to learn more about your personal perspective on the award and on the CSCW research.
The award was established to recognize outstanding contributions to the innovation and reorientation of the computing field to better face of the challenges of rapidly changing technical and social circumstances. It acknowledges your impact on the CSCW and on the work of researchers in this field.

What does the award mean to you as a person?  

Richard: It is gratifying that others note what I have been doing as a researcher, as often times it is difficult to know just what your impact is.  

EUSSET: EUSSET remains a very young organization. One third of active EUSSET members are PhD students and there are equally many young members working as postdocs or assistant professors. Many of the members are looking up to you as an eminent authority seeking an advice concerning research focus, career paths, or simply becoming and being a researcher. What would be your message to them?

Richard: I would say that good research derives from people being deeply interested in a problem – and not knowing the answer to that problem. Too often researchers have an answer and seek to find the question. This is often the way in social studies of science and technology, where, for example, that something is a function of power is treated as the answer that fits most problems, and hence makes most problems look similar.  They rarely are.   

EUSSET: You are well known for publishing very influential books. Many researchers, especially younger ones, struggle with this form of publication. How does writing books (as opposed to, e.g., journal articles) supports you in your research? Why do you choose this form of expression?

Richard: Books are a different mode of expressing than articles. In computer science, journal articles are the primary form. Doing a book therefore requires extra justification. The key justification is that a topic has a number of deeply interconnected features, and only a book will allow them to be brought together. Hence you need the right problem for a book.

EUSSET: You are one of those researchers who entered the area of CSCW and sociotechnical research with a computer-science background. How does this background shape your perspective?

Richard: It should give one confidence to see things from a social perspective, but the courage to see how that view can be altered by a technical one.

EUSSET: We are living and conducting our research in a very dynamic environment. Topics of interest change very quickly. What is your perspective on the future of CSCW in this rapidly evolving context? Or is this context not so dynamic at it might seem?

Richard: CSCW needs to better inform itself about AI and its techniques,. Currently, CSCW researchers write about AI as if it were a foreign language. It is not and should not be treated a such.   

EUSSET: Is there anything else you would like to share with the community?

Richard: Honour technical solutions as greatly as social ones; the best solutions combined both.

EUSSET: Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us. Your experience is of great importance to the community. We express our congratulations and wish all the best to you for the future.

The interview was conducted by Mateusz Dolata

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