• Who: Teams of 2-3
  • Objectives: Theory; Research
  • DUE: Thursday, April 25, in class.


The goal of this assignment is for you to build knowledge about research in human-computer interaction. This assignment is required for those enrolled in CS 584 and optional (for extra credit) for those enrolled in CS 485.

In two teams of 2-3 people, you will be debating opposing viewpoints on a given topic. Importantly, your argument should be supported by research!

Debate Structure

You should be approximately following the debate structure identified here.


  • Affirmative (A1): Pro Position (3 minutes)
    • 2 minute break (team meeting)
    • Opposing: Rebuttal (2 minutes)
  • Opposing (O1): Con Position (3 minutes)
    • 2 minute break (team meeting)
    • Affirmative: Rebuttal (2 minutes)


  • Opposing (O2): Statements (3 minutes)
    • 2 minute break (team meeting)
    • Affirmative: Rebuttal (2 minutes)
  • Affirmative (A2): Statements (3 minutes)
    • 2 minute break (team meeting)
    • Opposing: Rebuttal (2 minutes)

2 min break (team meeting)


  • Affirmative (A3): Closing (3 minutes)
  • Opposing (O3): Closing (3 minutes)

Total time is 36 minutes. The remaining class time will be used to determine a winner. The whole class gets to vote on the winner. I'll also try to get external HCI professors to judge the debates.

Debate How-To

There is a lot of material online on how to debate well. For this class, the focus is not to train you to become a better debater. The only requirement is for you to use publications as evidence for your arguments! Use publications that are not too obscure (i.e. please use reputable conferences or journals). If you’re not sure if a reference is too obscure, contact me. Be prepared! Think of the evidence/publications that your opposing team could use and prepare for those arguments! Work together as a team!

Unlike typical debates, you are welcome (and encouraged) to use slides.

The two teams should schedule a meeting with me to go over the spirit of the debate. I will suggest possible papers or directions to pursue and answer any questions you might have. This should happen at least 1 week before the debate. You should have some ideas of the 3 key papers that you will use for your arguments.

Debate Topics

There are four possible debate topics to explore.

  1. “Design guidelines considered harmful”: HCI research has always had a strong aesthetic design component. As a result, a number of design guidelines have emerged over the years.
    • Affirmative team: Design guidelines are necessary. They help practitioners know how to design effective user interfaces. They also serve as the foundation of HCI research.
    • Opposing team: Design guidelines are rigid and have caused a great deal of harm to the community. There is no “good” or “bad” design – designs are inherently contextual and task dependent.
  2. “The humans are dead”: This is the debate about automation versus human-user control. Data exploration, data analysis, and decision-making have increasingly become automated. Is a human-user still necessary?
    • Affirmative team: Human users are always necessary. Skynet anyone?
    • Opposing team: Automation is inevitable. Get with the program and start praying to our robot overlords.
  3. “HCI is critically missing in critical domains”: Some of the greatest advances of our society seem to rely on "old" technology -- think NASA. think medicine.
    • Affirmative team: The greatest advances history in space exploration and medicine use tried and true technologies for a reason -- we are at our best when we stick to the basics of a powerful command line interface.
    • Opposing team: Our society's greatest advances are not at odds with a positive user experience. On the contrary, lessons from HCI have and will continue to inform the future of technological advances in critical domains.
  4. "Human-What Interaction?”: Computers are central to the name (and spirit) of HCI. But they seem to be disappearing. What does a future of HCI look like if computers as we know them disappear?
    • Affirmative team: Computers as we know them are disappearing. In their place are interactions with the environment, with computers embedded.
    • Opposing team: Other current issues in the field such as ethics and privacy will ensure that computers in their traditional form are and will remain the cornerstone of HCI.

Debate Assignments

Topic Team
1 Affirmative: Israel Anjorin, Aditya Prakash, Zenaid Zhu, Lupin Cai
Opposition: Yuntong Hu, Shaniah Reece, Lana Millman, Cole Smith
2 Affirmative: Rayant Sahni, Miriam Asare-Baiden, Emmy Shi
Opposition: Guanchen Wu, Tim Yim, Victoria Zhang


This assignment is required for CS 584 students. CS 485 students may optionally participate in the debates for extra credit: +10% on any given assignment of your choice.

  • [10%] Selection and relevance of key papers
  • [15%] Opening
  • [15%] Statement
  • [25%] Rebuttal
  • [15%] Closing
  • [20%] Group Evaluation (did you contribute to your team?)
  • [+10%] To the winning team (which team presented the most convincing argument? -- based on Peer Evaluation)