Defamiliarisation in Innovation and Usability @ CHI 2012

20 Feb 2012 - 11:01am
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We still have space for a couple of participants for the following workshop:


Defamiliarisation in Innovation and Usability

Designing for innovation, with the aim of eventual user adoption, requires that standards be broken and user habits be challenged. In this context, designers need to ask themselves how they can offer a non-disruptive, and indeed enjoyable, user experience while they are at the same time not meeting users' expectations. A concept whose employment can assist here is defamiliarization. Defamiliarisation has been coined by Viktor Shklovsky to account for an artistic technique that describes common things in an unfamiliar or strange way in order to bring vividness to audiences' perception of the familiar. In interface design, defamiliarization causes users' perceptions to slow down and their attention to be averted from the task before them to the process or system through which they are attempting the task. Such a 'distancing' can, and often does, facilitate a discovery process that yields the take-up of innovative features, and is rewarding.

In addition to assisting with user adoption, defamiliarization can also be employed to determine where a design can support a new user experience, and where, in contrast, the design is simply creating a usability problem by causing confusion or disorientation in users.


We at Canonical/Ubuntu have been involved in several projects where we use defamiliarization as a tool to facilitate innovation. We have many questions about defamiliarization in design, however, and, in particular, we have started to explore how to create user testing protocols to gain insights into the usability of defamiliarized interfaces.

We are eager to share our knowledge and to hear how others engage with these issues. Accordingly, we invite participation in our CHI 2012 workshop, "Defamiliarization in Innovation and Usability".

We invite designers, visual designers, researchers, usability specialists, anthropologists, product designers, and strategists from all industries to participate and present their work for discussion.


Participants should prepare examples from their own experience in line with these themes to facilitate group discussion. Projects, and designs or research, small or large, need not be completed.

Submissions and questions should be directed to Charline Poirier ( We plan for a workshop group of 10-15 participants.

Please provide up to 4 pages in CHI Extended Abstract format, describing your experience engaging in designing, testing, or evaluating defamiliarization.

Your proposal should include:

  • Name, affiliation, title
  • A short bio of yourself (100-150 words)
  • A summary of your project(s)
  • Your interest in defamiliarization
  • Your motivation for participating


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