Full Proposal Details

Call for Papers: Special Issue on Rural Computing and HCI

Deadline for abstract submissions: Friday January 10th, 2020

45 percent of the world’s population—over 3 billion people—live in rural areas. Scholarship has begun to amplify the already innovative practices and opportunities of rural communities for HCI, while drawing out the uniqueness that defines rural spaces (Hardy, Wyche, and Veniot, 2019). Research on the role of social technologies for LGBTQ people living in rural towns (Hardy & Lindtner, 2017), work documenting the Kenyan “camera men” who work in rural villages (Wyche et al., 2013), research on agricultural experimentation and sociotechnical interventions in rural Taiwan (Liu et al., 2019), and study of hunters and small farmers in the Midwest reveal alternative relationships between people and technology (Su and Cheon, 2017). The urban bias of user-generated content on sites like Wikipedia (Johnson et al., 2016), the creation of digital community boards in the rural UK (Taylor & Cheverst, 2010) and the deployment of interactive voice forums for farmers in rural India (Patel et al., 2010) demonstrate the need for unique technological interventions in rural communities. 

Rural areas thus offer us novel insights on privacy, location, values, and space which are useful for imagining more diverse forms of information infrastructures and technologies. Moreover, this work highlights characteristics of rural areas that make them ill-suited for technologies designed with the city in mind—sparse populations, limited internet bandwidth, practices in primary production environments (e.g., agriculture, forestry, fishing), and different modes of knowledge production/sharing.

HCI can and is offering an important counter to popular media that often emphasizes the apparent helplessness of rural people in the face of complex sociopolitical and economic crises—whether it be about outmoded infrastructure, lack of jobs, and health crises. Such a counter aligns with the “cultural turn” in rural sociology, geography, and public health research that speak to “multiple” ruralities, the interconnectedness of urban and rural spaces, and the active enactment of rural identities (Lichter & Brown, 2011; Woods, 2012; Bell, 2007). 

The time is ripe for a special issue at ToCHI on rural computing that seeks to build and grow a computing research community interested in celebrating rurality (Hardy et al., 2019). Such an issue will contribute to deeper discussions from ICTD, emboldened by postcolonial, social justice, and feminist perspectives, questioning the dominance of cities in design. We seek scholarship dedicated to understanding, designing, and building computing technologies that are particular to the needs, aspirations, and practices of rural areas around the world. We welcome narratives on how research can avoid parachuting, dehistoricizing, and imposing upon rural communities sometimes wary of past research and efforts that have promised technological change. In parallel, we also seek contributions that help legitimate rural computing not as “niche area” but rather a space offering exciting opportunities to benefit design for all of us. HCI has an opportunity to work with the rural as a legitimate voice of expertise in design.

We welcome articles that contribute to this special issue in the following ways:

  • Empirical studies of the design and use of technologies in rural places, particularly studies within the unique context of local rural culture and values (e.g., novel insights on privacy, location, values, information infrastructures)
  • Design methods that engage with rurality in equitable and inclusive ways, or that propose new ways of thinking about and doing design methods in rural places
  • Theoretical work that explores, problematizes, or locates rurality in HCI, especially work that tackles issues of multiple ruralities (e.g., developed VS. developing rurals, queer and other identity-based understandings of rurality, etc.)
  • Work identifying and offering potential solutions to methodological challenges of the rural, including the challenge of bridging rural and non-rural populations or researcher fatigue
  • Articles that introduce concepts outside HCI that can help us better understand the complexities of geography and rurality
  • Work that considers popular discourse around the rural

We will use a standard journal review process for this special issue, with two rounds of reviews and revisions. Authors are required to submit a short abstract (300-500 words) and a tentative title prior to the full paper submission to be reviewed by the special issue editors.

Authors should address the following in their abstracts:

  • Description and motivation for the work, methodology, and primary contribution
  • Definitions of rural: How rural is being defined or conceptualized in their proposed paper and whether that definition is truly representative of the data and experiences of participants (if applicable)

Details on ToCHI submission formatting and procedures can be found at: http://www.acm.org/tochi/

Manuscripts should be submitted via:


We welcome any inquiries about possible contributions. Please contact the special issue editors at TBD.


Bell, M. M. (2007). The two-ness of rural life and the ends of rural scholarship. Journal of Rural Studies, 23(4), 402–415. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2007.03.003

Hardy, J. & Lindtner, S. (2017). Constructing a Desiring User: Discourse, Rurality, and Design in Location-Based Social Networks. In Proceedings of CSCW 2017, 13-25.

Hardy, J., Phelan, C., Vigil-Hayes, M., Su, N. M., Wyche, S., & Sengers, P. (2019). Designing from the Rural. ACM Interactions, (July/August).

Hardy, J., Wyche, S., & Veinot, T. (2019). Rural HCI Research: Definitions, distinctions, methods, and opportunities. To appear in Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, CSCW 2019.

Johnson, I. L., Lin, Y., Li, T. J.-J., Hall, A., Halfaker, A., Schöning, J., & Hecht, B. (2016). Not at Home on the Range: Peer Production and the Urban/Rural Divide. Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 13–25.

Lichter, D. T., & Brown, D. L. (2011). Rural America in an Urban Society: Changing Spatial and Social Boundaries. Annual Review of Sociology, 37(1), 565–592. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-081309-150208

Liu, S.-Y. (Cyn), Bardzell, S., & Bardzell, J. (2019). Symbiotic Encounters: HCI and Sustainable Agriculture. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 317:1–317:13. https://doi.org/10.1145/3290605.3300547

Patel, N., Chittamuru, D., Jain, A., Dave, P., & Parikh, T. S. (2010). Avaaj Otalo: A Field Study of an Interactive Voice Forum for Small Farmers in Rural India. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 733–742. 

Su, N. M., & Cheon, E. (2017). Reconsidering Nature: The Dialectics of Fair Chase in the Practices of American Midwest Hunters. Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 6089–6100. 

Taylor, N., & Cheverst, K. (2010). Creating a Rural Community Display with Local Engagement. Proceedings of the 8th ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems, 218–227.

Woods, M. (2012). Rural geography III: Rural futures and the future of rural geography. Progress in Human Geography, 36(1), 125–134. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132510393135

Wyche, S. P., Schoenebeck, S. Y., & Forte, A. (2013). “Facebook is a Luxury”: An Exploratory Study of Social Media Use in Rural Kenya. Proceedings of the 2013 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 33–44. https://doi.org/10.1145/2441776.2441783

Special Issue Editors

Norman Makoto Su (Indiana University Bloomington)

Jean Hardy (University of Michigan)

Morgan Vigil-Hayes (North Arizona University)

Tiffany Venoit (University of Michigan)

Shaowen Bardzell (Indiana University Bloomington & ToCHI Editorial Board)