About Animal-Computer Interaction
ACI is a rapidly growing field, which focuses on the interaction between animals and computing-enabled technology and for which the International Conference on Animal-Computer Interaction is the main convention venue. ACI2020, the conference's seventh edition, takes place 10-12 November 2020 in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.
ACI as a discipline
Animals have been exposed to, and have interacted with, technology for the best part of a century; for example, in conservation studies, behavioural experiments, comparative cognition studies, precision farming and various support roles. But how does technology affect animals in their individual and social lives? How does it enable or disable their natural or learned behaviours? How does it influence their experience? And how does is impact upon their welfare? At the crossroad between interaction design, on the one hand, and animal behavioural and welfare science, on the other, the field addresses this kind of questions, with a focus on the usability and experience of technology from the perspective of animal users, and on the design processes that inform animal-computer interactions.
As a discipline, broadly speaking, ACI focuses on:
- Studying and theorizing the interaction between animals and technology in naturalistic settings, with regards to specific animal activities or interspecies relations
- Developing user-centered technology that can: improve animals’ welfare by enabling the fulfillment of their needs; support animals in tasks humans might ask of them; foster interspecies relationships
- Informing interdisciplinary user-centered approaches that can enable animals to participate in the design process as legitimate stakeholders and contributors.
ACI as a perspective
As a field of research and practice, ACI extends the study and design of interactions with computing systems to animals beyond humans, whilst still including humans themselves as members of the kingdom animalia. By taking a multispecies perspective, ACI acknowledges the evolutionary continuities existing between species, thus pushing the boundaries of interaction design in terms of participating agents, methods and applications.
The benefits of such a perspective range from improving animal wellbeing and human-animal relations, to the strengthening of disciplines such as human-computer interaction. 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 engagement models that foster more empathic relations towards other animals, that better support species biodiversity and that facilitate environmental restoration.