What is Intermediate-Level Knowledge?

According to Höök and Löwgren [4] ”In the HCI field, the dominant approach to knowledge construction is to design innovative interaction schemes and to evaluate them empirically through more or less rigorous use studies”. While theories are important input to the design artefact, they are at a level of abstraction that often requires further elaboration in design research. The idea behind the notion of intermediate-level knowledge is that the space in-between the instances and the theories is non-empty and can be filled with knowledge constructs that are more general than the particular instances but have a different scope and purpose than general level theories.

What is its relevance to IDC?

In 2017 several of the organizers of this workshop performed an analysis of all papers at IDC from 2003 to 2016, showing that 40 percent of those papers presented the design of an artifact accompanied by an evaluation [1]. We will refer to such papers as artifact-centered papers. While exploring the design space in the form of artifacts is important and valuable, we argued that those artifact-centered papers generally make a smaller contribution to the field as a whole because it is hard for other designers to build further upon the kind of knowledge presented in such papers. This was also visible in the number of citations to artifact-centered papers in comparison to the number of citations to other kinds of papers. In the previous paper it was suggested that the child computer interaction field should try to abstract from the specific examples to generate knowledge that can be re-used across cases, so called Intermediate-Level Knowledge.
We made a first step towards the creation of one particular kind of intermediate-level knowledge, namely strong concepts. According to Höök and Löwgren [4], strong concepts are design elements abstracted beyond particular instances (or artifacts), which have a generative potential. A strong concept “resides at the interface between technology and people and concerns an artifacts interactive behavior rather than its static appearance. It is a design element, a potential part of an artifact, that also speaks of a use practice and behavior unfolding over time, and it carries a core design idea which has the potential to cut across particular use situations and perhaps even application domains”. The construction of strong concepts begins from an instance (or possibly several related instances) by identifying the elements or principles in the instance that could be of value in other design situations within the same genre or domain as the original instance, or transgressing genre/domain boundaries, depending on the abstraction level of the strong concept identified.
Three possible strong concepts were proposed, namely Collective Storytelling, Head-Up Gaming and Remote Sensing. These concepts were based on an analysis of a set of relatively often-cited artifact-centered papers from the IDC conference proceedings. Although the focus in the previous paper was on strong concepts, there are many different forms of intermediate-level knowledge, such as Patterns, Critique, Guidelines, Methods and Tools, Bridging Concepts [2], and Annotated Portfolios [3]. Each of these forms serves its own role in design. While guidelines and methods are well-established notions within both HCI and CCI, other intermediate-level knowledge forms like strong and bridging concepts were introduced rather recently. Our aim with this definition of three strong concepts was practically demonstrate that CCI design researcher can contribute to the field with intermediate-level knowledge, and to urge them to do so. We did not claim that strong concepts are the most useful form of intermediate level knowledge, nor did we claim that the particular strong concepts we defined were the only possible ones.

What are the aims of this workshop?

In this full-day workshop, we would like to build further upon the idea of creating intermediate-level knowledge in the CCI field going beyond just methods/tools, guidelines, or heuristics, which have been dominant contributions in this field. We therefore invite both designers and researchers who position themselves as producing intermediate-level knowledge and people in the field of design research who have not necessarily thought about their work as producing intermediate-level knowledge, to discuss how we can move forward to produce this kind of knowledge.

Key papers

  1. Wolmet Barendregt, Olof Torgersson, Eva Eriksson, and Peter Börjesson. 2017. Intermediate-Level Knowledge in Child-Computer Interaction: A Call for Action. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC ’17). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 7–16. DOI:
  2. Peter Dalsgaard and Christian Dindler. 2014. Between Theory and Practice: Bridging Concepts in HCI Research. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1635–1644. DOI:
  3. Bill Gaver and John Bowers. 2012. Annotated portfolios. Interactions 19, 4 (2012), 40–49. DOI:
  4. Kristina Höök and Jonas Löwgren. 2012. Strong Concepts: Intermediate-level Knowledge in Interaction Design Research. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 19, 3, Article 23 (Oct. 2012), 18 pages. DOI:
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