Editor’s Note: UX and Science Fiction

The topic of this special issue of UX magazine provides an occasion to explore perspectives on the future of technology, society, communication, and user interaction. The issue stems from guest editor Aaron Marcus’ lifelong interest in science fiction and user interface design (as evidenced by his childhood drawing of a “spaceman” shown below).

Astronaut with a weapon

Drawing by Aaron Marcus, age 10, Omaha, Nebraska, 1953

The issue specifically derives from the panel discussions organized by Aaron at the SIGCHI 1992 and CHI 1999 conferences, at which he invited science fiction authors to speculate on the future of human-computer interaction. Some of those authors (Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling) appear in these pages. Following up on his keynote lecture about UX in science fiction movies and television in 2011 at the Mensch und Komputer conference in Germany in 2012, Aaron self-published a free, downloadable ebook on the topic entitled The Past 100 Years of the Future: HCI in Science-Fiction Movies and Television and presented a tutorial on the topic at APCHI 2012 in Japan and CHI 2013 in Paris. He will again present the tutorial at DUXU/HCII 2 at DUXU/HCII 2013 in Las Vegas.

In recent years, similar books and journal articles about UX and science fiction have appeared. User experience researchers, designers, and others have shown renewed interest to analyze past examples of science fiction media and emerging examples, applying the critical skills of our profession to the implied or stated personas, use scenarios, technology platforms, and cultural/social contexts depicted in modern science fiction. These are exciting times for those interested in these developments and we are privileged to have many contributors to this worldwide effort represented in these pages.

In this issue of UX, we offer articles by several innovative and engaging authors:

Christina York conducts a field observation about user experience details in the movie Star Trek. Robert Grant considers the storytelling techniques of science fiction media. Patrick Purdy analyzes the back-and-forth linkage between user experience professionals and science fiction writers in advancing knowledge about technology and people. Alex Feinman comments on the nature of futuristic user interfaces from some classic successes and failures in science fiction media.

Gerry Gaffney and Masaaki Kurosu, detail the impact of pessimism and optimism in science fiction, helping us to be more sanguine about the future, if we have the courage to look at the warnings present in science fiction media. Tricia Flanagan explores the embodiment of high-technology concepts in wearables as fashion artifacts of the future.

Lastly, two well-known science fiction authors, Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling, provide lively, challenging, and just slightly outrageous speculations in interviews about science fiction, the uses of user experience, and what we might expect in the future.

The study of user experience in science fiction media, and science fiction in user experience documents, has a rich future. Join us as we explore this interaction in the multi-polar, multi-cultural, multi-platform, multi-context world of the future, as envisioned by past, present, and future writers, designers, and producers of the world’s science fictional user experiences.

Finally, I would like thank guest editor Aaron Marcus for sharing his enthusiasm for UX and sci-fi during the preparation of this issue.

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