Stockholm university

Barry Brown

About me

Barry Brown is a professor of Human Computer Interaction at Stockholm University, where he runs the post-interaction research group.  Barry’s work combines computer science and social sciences, aiming to study and design technology for work and leisure settings.  His most recent research used video methods to study mobile technology in detail, looking at mobile phones use, smartwatch use, and drivers interactions with self driving cars. He currently has two new projects looking at “implicit interaction”, and critical approaches to security and the Internet of Things.  MIT Press recently published his book “Enjoying Machines” (2015), and Sage his edited book “The SAGE handbook of digital technology research” (2013).   


Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Data Bites Man

    2018. Pedro Sanches, Barry Brown.


    Malaria surveillance is a practice concerned with collection and analysis of data. This paper presents an ethnographical account of an international team of researchers producing data about malaria in the Zanzibar archipelago. We show that malaria is increasingly constituted by data, and inextricably interwoven with the practices of data workers using ICT tools. Through the practices we document here malaria: 1) becomes a problem to be managed by asymptomatic, as well as symptomatic individuals, 2) increases its geographical incidence through surveillance data and articulation work, and 3) becomes more certain, through coordination mechanisms enabled by ICT. As electronic data, malaria builds and mobilizes diverse human, organizational, and infrastructural worlds around it, who must now be dedicated to its production, management, and care.

    Read more about Data Bites Man
  • Member-Owned Alternatives

    2018. Airi Lampinen (et al.).


    Cooperatives are member-owned organisations, run for the common benefit of their members. While cooperatives are a longstanding way of organising, they have received little attention in CSCW. In this paper, through interviews with 26 individuals from 24 different cooperatives, our focus is an exploratory inquiry on how cooperatives could expand thinking into what future economies can look like and the part technologies may play in them. We discuss (1) the work to make the co-op work, that is, the special effort involved in managing an enterprise in a democratic and inclusive way, (2) the multiple purposes that cooperatives can serve for their members, well beyond financial benefit, and (3) ICT usage within cooperatives as a site of tension and dialogue. We conclude by discussing the meaning and measures of success in alternative economies, and lessons learned for CSCW scholarship on civic and societal organisations.

    Read more about Member-Owned Alternatives
  • Text in Talk

    2018. Barry Brown (et al.). ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction 24 (6)


    While lightweight text messaging applications have been researched extensively, new messaging applications such as iMessage, WhatsApp, and Snapchat offer some new functionality and potential uses. Moreover, the role messaging plays in interaction and talk with those who are co-present has been neglected. In this article, we draw upon a corpus of naturalistic recordings of text message reading and composition to document the face-to-face life of text messages. Messages, both sent and received, share similarities with reported speech in conversation; they can become topical resource for local conversation-supporting verbatim reading aloud or adaptive summaries. Yet with text messages, their verifiability creates a distinctive resource. Similarly, in message composition, what to write may be discussed with collocated others. We conclude with discussion of designs for messaging in both face-to-face, and remote, communication.

    Read more about Text in Talk
  • Situating Wearables

    2017. Donald McMillan (et al.). Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 3582-3594


    Drawing on 168 hours of video recordings of smartwatch use, this paper studies how context influences smartwatch use. We explore the effects of the presence of others, activity, location and time of day on 1,009 instances of use. Watch interaction is significantly shorter when in conversation than when alone. Activity also influences watch use with significantly longer use while eating than when socialising or performing domestic tasks. One surprising finding is that length of use is similar at home and work. We note that usage peaks around lunchtime, with an average of 5.3 watch uses per hour throughout a day. We supplement these findings with qualitative analysis of the videos, focusing on how use is modified by the presence of others, and the lack of impact of watch glances on conversation. Watch use is clearly a context-sensitive activity and in discussion we explore how smartwatches could be designed taking this into consideration.

    Read more about Situating Wearables
  • The Social Life of Autonomous Cars

    2017. Barry Brown. Computer 50 (2), 92-96


    Until the day comes when all vehicles are fully autonomous, self-driving cars must be more than safe and efficient, they must also understand and interact naturally with human drivers. The web extras include videos demonstrating "rude" behavior by Tesla's Autopilot system,; a human driver confused by self-driving technology,; and aggressive driving prompted by self-driving technology,

    Read more about The Social Life of Autonomous Cars
  • The Trouble with Autopilots

    2017. Barry Brown, Eric Laurier. Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 416-429


    As self-driving cars have grown in sophistication and ability, they have been deployed on the road in both localised tests and as regular private vehicles. In this paper we draw upon publicly available videos of autonomous and assisted driving (specifically the Tesla autopilot and Google self-driving car) to explore how their drivers and the drivers of other cars interact with, and make sense of, the actions of these cars. Our findings provide an early perspective on human interaction with new forms of driving involving assisted-car drivers, autonomous vehicles and other road users. The focus is on social interaction on the road, and how drivers communicate through, and interpret, the movement of cars. We provide suggestions toward increasing the transparency of autopilots' actions for both their driver and other drivers.

    Read more about The Trouble with Autopilots
  • Smartwatch in vivo

    2016. Stefania Pizza (et al.). Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 5456-5469


    In recent years, the smartwatch has returned as a form factor for mobile computing with some success. Yet it is not clear how smartwatches are used and integrated into everyday life differently from mobile phones. For this paper, we used wearable cameras to record twelve participants' daily use of smartwatches, collecting and analysing incidents where watches were used from over 34 days of user recording. This allows us to analyse in detail 1009 watch uses. Using the watch as a timepiece was the most common use, making up 50% of interactions, but only 14% of total watch usage time. The videos also let us examine why and how smartwatches are used for activity tracking, notifications, and in combination with smartphones. In discussion, we return to a key question in the study of mobile devices: how are smartwatches integrated into everyday life, in both the actions that we take and the social interactions we are part of?

    Read more about Smartwatch in vivo
  • The IKEA Catalogue: Design fiction in academic and industrial collaborations

    2016. Barry Brown (et al.). Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Supporting Group Work, 335-344


    This paper is an introduction to the “Future IKEA Catalogue”, enclosed here as an example of a design fiction produced from a long standing industrial-academic collaboration. We introduce the catalogue here by discussing some of our experiences using design fictionwith companies and public sector bodies, giving some background to the catalogue and the collaboration which produced it.

    Read more about The IKEA Catalogue: Design fiction in academic and industrial collaborations

Show all publications by Barry Brown at Stockholm University