allowing ourselves to move in novel
ways—ways that may, for example,
not rhyme with our gender—our
culture comes into focus and we can
start questioning it. If we are not even
aware of how our gender limits our
movements, in turn limiting our
reach, beliefs, and attitudes, we cannot
change these limits. And so long as we
do not change with and through our
bodies, others cannot either and will
respond to us accordingly.
I am therefore going to allow myself
a second abracadabra magic moment
where not only prejudice is gone, but
also design research becomes more
honest and engages heavily with who
we are, beyond oppressing norms or
readymade ideas about the human
How relaxing it would be. How
much work we would get done.
Note: This column contains sections
of text from my recent book Designing
with the Body [ 2].
1. Höök, K., Caramiaux, B., Erkut, C.,
Forlizzi, J., Hajinejad, N., Haller, M.,
Hummels, C.C.M., Isbister, K., Jonsson,
M., Khut, G., Loke, L., Lottridge, D.,
Marti, P., Melcer, E., Müller, F. F., Graves
Petersen, M., Schiphorst, T., Márquez
Segura, E., Ståhl, A., Svanaes, D.,
Tholander, J., and Tobiasson, H. Embracing
first-person perspectives in soma-based
design. Informatics 5, 1 (2018), 8.
2. Höök, K. Designing with the Body:
Somaesthetic Interaction Design. MI T
3. Bardzell, S. Feminist HCI: Taking stock
and outlining an agenda for design. In
Proc.of the SIGCHI Conference on Human
Factors in Computing Systems. ACM, New
York, 2010, 1301–1310.
4. Grosz, E. A. Volatile Bodies: Toward
a Corporeal Feminism. Indiana Univ.
5. De Beauvoir, S. The Second Sex. Vintage,
New York, N Y, 1949/2014.
6. Shusterman, R. Thinking through the Body:
Essays in Somaesthetics. Cambridge Univ.
Press, Cambridge, U.K., 2012.
Kristina Höök is a professor in interaction
design at Royal Institute of Technology
(K TH), Stockholm, Sweden. Höök is known
for her work on soma design, first-person
perspectives on design, and epistemology for
culture, and the development of
the subjective self, then the design
process and the resulting designs
need to reflect this. It will not only
be important to care about whether
the body is tall, heavy, or fits other
biological realities, as those biological
realities cannot be separated from
the sense of self—from the soma. The
whole soma will be different, but not
different in a generalizable sense. We
cannot claim that female somas will
behave, feel, think, and engage in
certain manners, while male somas will
always act in other ways. Instead, the
idea points to the unique engagement
with design from each subjectivity.
Richard Shusterman points out that
the norms for women reinforce gender
oppression, such as to “speak softly, eat
daintily, sit with closed legs, and walk
with bowed heads and lowered eyes”
[ 6]. Not only are these limiting bodily
practices that hinder movement, they
are also often taken for granted and
so escape critical consciousness. As
we filter our experiences through our
own somas, we might not even be
aware of these behavior and movement
patterns. Their influence on how we
behave, how we feel, and our attitudes
are profound but entirely bundled up
and therefore invisible. Only when we
engage with our own somas, discerning
different experiences, engaging with
others intersubjectively, empathically,
can we come to see these norms,
which in turn means that they can be
challenged and altered.
Shusterman sees somaesthetics
training as a path to empowerment.
Once we become more body aware,
DOI: 10.1145/3365217 COP YRIGHT HELD BY AUTHOR
INTERAC TIONS. ACM.ORG NOVEMBER–DECEMBER 2019 IN TERAC TIONS 21