HCI is focused on improving the interactions we have with technology and innovating new types of interactions, as well as expanding the types of people for whom those interactions are designed. Central to these efforts is the simultaneously empowering and contested construct of the “user.”

We examine what the construct of the user highlights, as well as what it conceals. We introduce post-userism, a perspective that simultaneously acknowledges the limits of, and proposes alternatives to, the central construct of the user as proxy for the “human” in HCI.

Drawing on developments across the historical trajectory of HCI, we articulate how the user is enacted across four different levels of representation—systems, interface, design process, and the ideology—and identify situations where the user breaks down. Synthesizing prior work, we offer a series of strategies for grappling with such situations. In doing so, we seek to overcome the limitations imposed by the user and develop a language that will aid in evolving the foundations of HCI by asking what, exactly, we place at the center of our scholarship and design.


  1. Post-userism Baumer, Eric P S and Brubaker, Jed R
    Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI ’17
  2. Why study technology non-use? Baumer, Eric P.S. and Ames, Morgan G. and Burrell, Jenna and Brubaker, Jed R. and Dourish, Paul
  3. Departing glances: A sociotechnical account of ’leaving’ Grindr Brubaker, J. R. and Ananny, M. and Crawford, K.
  4. Refusing, Limiting, Departing: Why We Should Study Technology Non-use Baumer, Eric P. S. and Ames, Morgan G. and Brubaker, Jed R. and Burrell, Jenna and Dourish, Paul
    Proceedings of the extended abstracts of the 32nd annual ACM conference on Human factors in computing systems - CHI EA ’14