Norman Makoto Su

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In the Authentic User Experience Lab (AUX Lab), we do research with subcultures. We publish in human-computer interaction (HCI) and other related venues (e.g., CHI, DIS, CSCW, ECSCW, ICWSM). You can find all our publications here.

By subverting the now, subcultures become harbingers for the future practices and values of mainstream culture. Contemporary trends in art, fashion, sports, and cuisine may be traced to particular subcultures (e.g., hipsters, skateboarders). Lying on the fringe, subcultures face the challenge of maintaining their distinctive traditions—their authenticity—in a sensor-rich and socially-networked society.

To address this challenge, we characterize the relationship of technology with subcultures, design systems to support their notion of authenticity, and fashion theories to inform designs to help people strive for meaningful lives. We subscribe to the idea that society as a whole can learn a great deal about how to live from subcultures, the delightful microcosms they are.

Recent Projects

[Small and Big Farming]   [Minimalists]   [Video Games]   [Robotics]   [Design Periods]   [Outdoor Recreation]   [Trad Musicians]
See also past projects

Small and Big Farming Communities

Paris France ~ Louvre Museum ~ Historic Monument ~ Classical Gallery Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash

If you farm in Indiana or the Midwest, please consider participating in our study! Full details here.

With Lynn Dombrowski at IUPUI, we are conducting fieldwork examining the interplay of technology with small and big farmers in the Midwest. Designers who reside in urban areas naturally design for urban dwellers. In this work, we seek to examine the innovative practices of rural inhabitants who grow crops and do animal husbandry. Our research team includes Sai Manohar Reddy Peddireddy, Rosemary Steup, and Marisa Logan.


Tracking and reducing household trash produced Photo by EunJeong Cheon

Minimalism is a loose-knit lifestyle movement whose members conscientiously practice a continual re-evaluation of their material goods, social relations, environments, and overall impact on sustainability. With EunJeong, we draw inspiration for design based on their practices and values.

  • EunJeong Cheon and Norman Makoto Su. (2018). The Value of Empty Space for Design. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI’18), Montréal, Canada. Full paper conditionally accepted. New York: ACM.

Video Game Culture

Paris France ~ Louvre Museum ~ Historic Monument ~ Classical Gallery Photo by Sam Howzit on / CC BY

The subculture of gaming, thanks to esports, is now big business and arguably part of mainstream culture. I am interested in the “growing pains” of video game culture. With Yong-Yeol Ahn, Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia, and Supun Nakandala, I have also been conducting work examining the gendered behavior in gaming culture. Lastly, Lucas Kempe-Cook and Stephen Sher are currently examining the practices of video game commentators.

The Culture of Robotics

Paris France ~ Louvre Museum ~ Historic Monument ~ Classical Gallery Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash

We have been conducting a series of studies on the culture of robotics. We are particularly interested in methods to make transparent the discourse of roboticists and how such discourse shapes designs of robots for users. EunJeong and Stephen Sher are currently researching ways to bridge the gap between roboticist and user.

  • EunJeong Cheon and Norman Makoto Su. (2018). Futuristic Autobiographies: Weaving Participant Narratives to Elicit Values around Robots. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI’18), Chicago, Illinois, Full paper conditionally accepted. New York: ACM.

  • EunJeong Cheon and Norman Makoto Su. (2017). Configuring the User: “Robots have Needs Too’’. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW’17), Portland, Oregon, 191-206. New York: ACM.

  • EunJeong Cheon and Norman Makoto Su. (2016). Integrating Roboticist Values into a Value Sensitive Design Framework for Humanoid Robots. Proceedings of Alt.HRI, held in conjunction with the 2016 ACM Conference on Human Robot Interaction (Alt.HRI’16), Christchurch, New Zealand.

  • Norman Makoto Su, Leslie S. Liu, and Amanda Lazar. (2014). Mundanely Miraculous: The Robot in Healthcare. Proceedings of the ACM Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (NordiCHI’14), Helsinki, Finland, 391-400. New York: ACM.

Design Periods of Websites

Paris France ~ Louvre Museum ~ Historic Monument ~ Classical Gallery Photo by Onasill ~ Bill Badzo on / CC BY-NC-SA

The web has undergone substantial design evolution over its nearly 25 year history, but there is no theory to describe or explain this evolution. In contrast, historians and critics have developed rich theories including “periods” or “movements” that describe time intervals when artists and their works have shared a particular aesthetic style or philosophy. Music and art are divided into periods like baroque, classical, romantic, and impressionist. Periods enable critics to compare and contrast works by particular qualities (e.g., impressionist art emphasizes tone color and atmosphere). By defining a period, techniques, styles, tools, and vocabulary are identified, and become portable concepts that are appropriated, built-upon, and even rejected (e.g., impressionist music can be viewed as a reaction to romantic music) by future artists. Inspired by this notion of periods, with David Crandall, Bardia Doosti, and Wen Chen, we are developing theories and computational methods (e.g., computer vision with CNNs) to gain insight on the “design periods” of websites.

Outdoor Recreation

Deer Photo by Nic Jackson

I am conducting an ethnography on the practices and values of outdoor recreationalists, both from urban and rural areas. In this work, I seek to make transparent tensions in the subcultures of nature (e.g,. between rural and city hunters) between technologies, stakeholders, and institutions. Ultimately, this work seeks to create technologies to both bridge sometimes divisive practices without sacrificing the traditions and values of these subcultures.

Irish Traditional Musicians

Irish pub music - Galway, Ireland Photo by Giuseppe Milo ( on / CC BY

I did a three year ethnography of traditional musicians in Ireland. Irish trad musicians play together in “sessions”—typically, in a public place (e.g., pub). My work found that the digital representation of music is contentious, both supporting and at odds with the aural tradition of folk music. With Bryan Duggan, I developed a system called TuneTracker that automatically and continuously keeps track of tunes played in an Irish session and puts that information on a website. This system further revealed tensions regarding data curation and dissemination between amateurs and professionals.

Past Projects

Knowledge Management & Communities of Practice

Nomadic Workers

Temporal Communication Patterns in the Workplace


Ubiquitous Computing Systems

  • Norman Makoto Su, Heemin Park, Eric Bostrom, Jeff Burke, Mani B. Srivastava, and Deborah Estrin. (2004). Augmenting Film and Video Footage with Sensor Data. Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications (PerCom’04), Orlando, FL, USA, 3-12. New York: IEEE.

  • Norman Makoto Su, Yutaka Sakane, Masahiko Tsukamoto, and Shojiro Nishio. (2002). Rajicon: Remote PC GUI Operations via Constricted Mobile Interfaces. Proceedings of the ACM International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MobiCom’02), Atlanta, GA, USA, 251-262. New York: ACM.