Duration: 3 sessions

Course Content

Human beings have evolved to operate in a complex, dynamic and unpredictable world. In stark contrast, most research about human behaviour has been conducted in controlled lab conditions, focusing on one domain (e.g. cognitive psychology) and within that a specific phenomenon (e.g. spatial memory). The effects of the real-world context are kept to a minimum or eliminated in order to isolate variables and test hypotheses. However, lab experiments account for only 20% of the variance we see in everyday life.  This raises serious questions about how ecological valid and generalizable the results are from lab studies and the theories that are derived from them.

It is increasingly recognized that everyday practice is distributed and situated in the moment rather than being able to be reduced to models in the head where knowledge is conveniently divided among mind, body, activity.  To be more representative of the messy world we live in research needs to be conducted in the wild. It needs to bring the richness of the wild back into focus. In doing, so we can begin to bridge the gap between theory and its relevance to the real world. 

One field where this shift has begun to make in-roads is in Human-Computer interaction (HCI). The term in-the-wild is increasingly used to describe approaches in HCI research that are accounting for user experience phenomena that differ from those derived from other lab-based methods. It is used to refer to research that seeks to understand new technology interventions in everyday living. In this course, we will cover how to conduct research in the wild with a focus on how to use it to design and evaluate user interfaces.

The course will start with an introduction to research in the wild, starting with the pioneering work of Jean Lave, Lucy Suchman and Ed Hutchins  who cogently argued that cognition could only be studied in in-the-wild.  We will then examine the methods that are currently used and the comparative studies that have been conducted to demonstrate how wildly different lab and in the wild studies are. The course will be illustrated by a number of case studies. We will also examine how newly emerging technologies and techniques can be used to study and track people at work, at home, on the move and in other contexts, providing a new repertoire of ways to understand and explain human behaviour. The ethical and practical issues they raise will also be addressed.

The course will include small group projects involving observing your fellow students in the wild to learn more about how they behave in the real world.


  • To get an overview of in-the-wild research.
  • To learn about the methods, technologies and new techniques that can be used as part of conducting in the wild research.
  • To learn about the opportunities and challenges of in the wild research.


Rogers, Y., Yuill, N. and Marshall, P. (2013) Contrasting lab-based and in-the-wild studies for evaluating multi-user technologies. In Price, S., Jewitt, C. and Brown, B. (eds.) SAGE Handbook of Technology Research. 359-173.

Rogers, Y. (2011) Interaction design gone wild: striving for wild theory. interactions, 18(4): 58-62.

Marshall, P., Morris, R., Rogers, Y., Kreitmayer, S. and Davies, M. (2011) Rethinking 'multi-user': an in-the-wild study of how groups approach a walk-up-and-use tabletop interface. Proceedings of CHI’11. ACM. 3033-3042

Crabtree, A. Chamberlain, A. Grinter, R.E., Jones, M., Rodden, T. and Y Rogers. (2013) Introduction to the special issue of “The Turn to The Wild” ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 20 (3), 13

Johnson, R., Rogers, Y., van der Linden, J. and Bianchi-Berthouze, N. (2012) Being in the thick of in-the-wild studies: the challenges and insights or researcher participation. Proc. CHI’12, ACM, 1135-1144. 


Yvonne Rogers is the director of the Interaction Centre at UCL (UCLIC) in the UK, deputy head of department for Computer Science and a professor of Interaction Design. She is the Principal Investigator for the Intel-funded Cities collaborative research Institute (cities.io) at UCL. She is also an honorary professor at University Cape Town and has spent sabbaticals at Stanford, Apple, Queensland University, Melbourne University, University Cape Town and UCSD. Her research is in the areas of ubiquitous computing, interaction design and human-computer interaction. This involves informing, building and evaluating novel user experiences through creating and assembling a diversity of pervasive technologies. She has been instrumental in promulgating new theories (e.g., external cognition), alternative methodologies (e.g., in the wild studies) and far-reaching research agendas (e.g., “Being Human: HCI in 2020” manifesto), and has pioneered an approach to innovation and ubiquitous learning. She is a co-author of the definitive textbook on Interaction Design and HCI now published in its 4th edition that has sold over 150,000 copies worldwide and has been translated into 6 languages. She is a fellow of the BCS and the ACM CHI Academy. She was also awarded a prestigious EPSRC dream fellowship concerned with rethinking the relationship between ageing, computing and creativity. Her current research focuses on community engagement and behavioural change, through augmenting everyday, learning and collaborative work activities with interactive technologies. She has published over 200 articles, including a recent monograph “HCI Theory: Classical, Modern and Contemporary”..