Proceedings: GI 2015

Gendered or neutral?: considering the language of HCI

Adam Bradley, Cayley MacArthur, Mark Hancock, Sheelagh Carpendale

Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2015: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 3 - 5 June 2015, 163-170

DOI 10.20380/GI2015.21

  • BibTex

    author = {Bradley, Adam and MacArthur, Cayley and Hancock, Mark and Carpendale, Sheelagh},
    title = {Gendered or neutral?: considering the language of HCI},
    booktitle = {Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2015},
    series = {GI 2015},
    year = {2015},
    issn = {0713-5424},
    isbn = {978-1-4822-6003-8},
    location = {Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada},
    pages = {163--170},
    numpages = {8},
    doi = {10.20380/GI2015.21},
    publisher = {Canadian Human-Computer Communications Society},
    address = {Toronto, Ontario, Canada},


In this paper, we present a Mechanical Turk study that explores how the most common words that have been used to refer to people in recent HCI literature are received by non-experts. The top five CHI 2014 people words are: user, participant, person, designer, and researcher. We asked participants to think about one of these words for ten seconds and then to draw an image of it. After the drawing was done we asked simple demographic questions about both the participant and the created image. Our results show that while generally our participants did perceive most of these words as predominately male, there were two notable exceptions. Women appear to perceive the terms "person" and "participant" as gender neutral. That is, they were just as likely to draw a person or a participant as male or female. So while these two words are not exactly gender neutral in that men largely perceived them as male, at least women did not appear to feel excluded by these terms. We offer an increased understanding of the perception of HCI's people words and discuss the challenges this poses to our community in striving toward gender inclusiveness.