On professionalization

Last week at GROUP'2018 I presented our work that examined UX practitioners' social media discourse around professionalization of their occupation, and received a few very thoughtful questions about our use of the term 'professionalization.' I don't think I explained well during the Q&A session. Here are some afterthoughts: Professionalization has been rarely used in CHI and CSCW (the term has been mentioned less than 40 times in the past few decades in CHI and CSCW papers/notes). I guess it's because the majority of HCI research cares about what happens at present, while professionalization stresses how things develop and evolve through time. Indeed, professionalization is hard to assess during a short period of time. In addition, if not worded carefully, it might appear that we are suggesting with a modernist sense that UX has a rational, definite path into the future. We are not. What we were saying in the paper is that practitioners expressed wishes to develop their occupation in multiple aspects, such as their work's legitimacy in corporations, articulation of UX knowledge, and standards and ethics for professional conduct.

As the occupational landscape changes fast, professionalization becomes an important umbrella term covers people's lots of thoughts and reflections about their occupations. Interestingly, this also happens to HCI researchers: What is the department really looking for when they announce that they hire faculty positions in HCI? How do I justify my qualitative work in an academic environment with a heavy focus on the technical side of computing systems (e.g., a CS department)? How do I convince my department that conference publications at CHI and CSCW are important in my field? How do we as HCI researchers provide better knowledge and theory for designers? what ethical standards should we adopt when conducting HCI research? and the list goes on.


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