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Clara Mancini, PhD

Animal-Computer Interaction: Attending to Animals by Designing Technology for and with Them


Throughout its history, our species has developed technology to advance human-centred interests over those of other animals, who have largely been dealt with as resources to be exploited or competitors to be eliminated. Thus, technology has increasingly separated us from other animals, and from nature more generally, with consequences that now threaten the future of all life on earth.


In contrast, the growing field of Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI) is dedicated to the animal-centred study and design of technology, aiming to improve animal wellbeing and human-animal relations, thus bridging the gap that human-centred technology has created. Interpreting this year’s conference theme as ‘the value of attending to animals’ and drawing examples from work conducted at The Open University’s ACI Lab, I will talk about the process of developing technology for and with animals. I will discuss the design, methodological, ethical and political implications of animal-centred research and design; and how such a shift in perspective is needed if we are to achieve a sustainable development.

Clara is Professor of Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI) in the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University, UK, and founding head of the University’s ACI Laboratory. Her work investigates the interaction between animals and technology; and the nexus between technology, animal wellbeing and justice, and human-animal relations. Her research spans the theory, methodology, practice and ethics of designing animal-centred interactive systems for and with animals, to help inform more equitable and inclusive multispecies ecosystems.

Her work has reframed human-centred concepts to develop more inclusive multispecies approaches as well as translated ACI concepts to develop animal-centred research and design approaches beyond the ACI field. Her collaborations with industry and NGOs have resulted in practical innovations, including interfaces to support the work of bio-detection dogs, dog-friendly controls to support the work of mobility assistance dogs, screen-based games to monitor and foster the cognitive health of companion dogs, and interactive environments to enhance the welfare of rescued tigers.

Clara has published extensively in the leading peer-reviewed computing, interaction design, animal computer interaction, and animal behaviour and welfare journals and conference proceedings. She has lectured and refereed on ACI research worldwide. Her work has been brought to broad audiences through public lectures and exhibitions - including for HM Queen Elizabeth II - and has been featured in national and international media, including print, radio and television.

She is a founder of the ACI International Conference and for over a decade has been promoting animal-centred research and design across disciplines by organising numerous scientific events and by serving on various scientific committees. In recognition of her contributions to ACI, in 2023, she received the inaugural Outstanding Career Impact Award created by the ACI Steering Committee on occasion of the ACI Conference’s tenth edition.

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