I am a faculty member in the Department of Informatics in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. In 2014, I was awarded an honorary doctorate, “Doctor Honoris Causa,” from the University of Umeå in Sweden, for which I am very grateful. I was elected to the CHI Academy in 2013. I co-edit, with Kirsten Foot and Victor Kaptelinin, the MIT Press Acting with Technology Series which has many award-winning titles. I am a founding member of the ICS Center for Research on Sustainability, Collapse-preparedness and Information Technology at UC Irvine and of the Computing within LIMITS Workshop.

New Book!
My newest book, just published by MIT Press, and co-authored with Hamid Ekbia at Indiana University, is Heteromation and Other Stories of Computing and Capitalism. It’s not long but we worked on it a long time.

Newer Books
Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method
Tom Boellstorff, Bonnie Nardi, Celia Pearce, T.L. Taylor
Foreward by George Marcus
Princeton University Press, September 2012

Activity Theory in HCI Research: Fundamentals and Reflections
Victor Kaptelinin, Bonnie Nardi
Morgan & Claypool Spring 2012

Materiality and Organizing: Social Interaction in a Material World.
Paul Leonardi, Bonnie Nardi and Jannis Kallinikos
Oxford University Press, November 2012

Areas of interest:


Activity theory proposes that consciousness is shaped by practice, that people and artifacts mediate our relationship with reality. Consciousness is produced in the enactment of activity with other people and things, rather than being something confined inside a human head. Activity theory began in Russia with the work of Lev Vygotsky in the 1920's, continuing through his student Aleksey Leontiev, and then through students of Leontiev. This work has been influential in education, organizational design, and interaction design. Activity theory works well with design because activity theorists have always tested their theories in practical ways and believe that application is an outcome of theory, not a separate activity. In some of my writings I have discussed how, as a psychological theory, activity theory can be scaled to collaborative settings without losing sight of individual participants in an activity.

I am a Senior Editor for Mind, Culture, and Activity, a journal devoted to activity theory.

Related publications

Making HCI theory work: An analysis of the use of activity theory in HCI research. The impact of activity theory in HCI, with Torkil Clemmensen and Victor Kaptelinin. 2016
Appropriating Theory. This chapter in Diane Sonnenwald’s book is a personal account of my journey with activity theory. 2015
Affordances in HCI: Toward a Mediated Action Perspective 2012
Ensembles: Understanding the Instantiation of Activities. 2009
Acting with Technology: Activity Theory and Interaction Design, with Victor Kaptelinin, MIT Press 2006
NetWORKers and their Activity in Intensional Networks 2002
Co-editor, special issue of Computer-supported Cooperative Work, "Activity Theory and the Practice of Design," with David Redmiles. Volume 11(1-2) 2002
Co-editor, special issue of Computer-supported Cooperative Work, "A Web on the Wind: The Structure of Invisible Work," with Yrjo Engeström. Volume 8 (1-2) 1998
Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-computer Interaction, MIT Press 1996


My most fun research concerns video games! Some of the research is on very serious topics in social media.

Related publications

Chat Speed OP: Practices of Coherence in Massive Twitch Chat Proceedings CHI. Many authors. 2017.
A Study of Hashtag Activism for Raising Awareness about Riverbank Erosion in Bangladesh Proceedings CHI. With Maruf Zaber and Jay Chen. 2017.
Virtuality Annual Review of Anthropology. 2015
What’s in a Name? Naming Practices in Online Video Games. Proceedings CHIPlay Conference. Nikki Crenshaw, first author. 2014
Playing with sustainability: Using video games to simulate futures of scarcity 2014
The Lonely Gamer Revisited 2013
Mediating Contradictions of Digital Media. UCI Law Review 2012
My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 2010
Regulating Anti-Social Behavior on the Internet: The Example of League of Legends. iConference 2013
A Study of Raiders with Disabilities in World of Warcraft. Proceedings Foundations of Digital Games 2011
A New Look at the Social Landscape of World of Warcraft. Proceedings Foundations of Digital Games 2011
If You Build It They Might Stay: Retention Mechanisms in World of Warcraft. Proceedings Foundations of Digital Games 2011
A qualitative study of Ragnarök Online private servers: In-game sociological issues. Proceedings Foundations of Digital Games 2010
Technology, Agency and Community: The Case of Modding in World of Warcraft 2009
I am a black cat, letting day come and go: Multimodal Conversations in a Poetry Workshop 2009
A Hybrid Cultural Ecology: World of Warcraft in China 2008
Learning Conversations in World of Warcraft 2007
Strangers and Friends: Collaborative Play in World of Warcraft 2006
Beyond Bandwidth: Dimensions of Connection in Interpersonal Communication (2005)
Blogging as Social Activity, or, Would You Let 900 Million People Read Your Diary? (2004)
Why We Blog (2004)
Interaction and Outeraction: Instant Messaging in Action (2000)
Finding and Filing Computer Files. Proceedings East-West Conference on Human Computer Interaction. Moscow, Russia. July 4–8. 1995. Pp. 162–179
Turning Away From Talking Heads: The Use of Video-As-Data in Neurosurgery (1993)


The computer desktop was an amazing design for its time, but does not reflect the complexity, flexibility, and sociality of human activity. Based on my research, I have developed several designs that I believe would enhance the desktop, if it were possible to take them past the prototype stage and onto actual desktops. I hope the ideas will find their way into the designs of others. Eventually we will have to reorganize the desktop to reflect the complex mix of activities users engage in and move beyond the rigidity of separate applications and files-and-folders. Activity theory will be useful in this effort as we work to characterize activity. While ingenious technologies such as blogs and wikis have improved communication, we need better ways to use digital technologies to organize multiple activities, establish meaningful contexts for different activities, and collaborate with others. A different level of design and implementation is needed to make that happen.

Related publications


Driving the Self-driving Vehicle, with Pascale Blyth et al. Proceedings ISTAS 2015
Whither or whether HCI: Requirements analysis for multi-Sited, multi-user cyberinfrastructures. (co-author Ann Zimmerman) Proceedings Computer-human Interaction Conference, Montreal (2006)
Soylent and ContactMap: Tools for constructing the social workscape. (co-author Danyel Fisher). In Integrated Workscapes. M. Czerwinski and V. Kaptelinin (eds.) Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (2006).
Collaborative, Programmable Intelligent Agents (1998)
Creating Presentation Slides: A Study of User Preferences for Task-Specific versus Generic Application Software (1996)
Finding and Reminding: File Organization from the Desktop (1995)
User Preferences for Task-specific vs. Generic Application Software (1994)
A Small Matter of Programming: Perspectives on End User Computing. MIT Press (1993)
Gardeners and Gurus: Patterns of Cooperation Among CAD Users (1992)
An Ethnographic Study of Distributed Problem Solving in Spreadsheet Development (1990) 


There is a strong need to find new ways to think about the social and cultural changes that come with new technologies and to think about new technologies to address pressing social problems. My current work concerns labor and computing and long-term environmental sustainability.

Related publications

Computational Agroecology: Sustainable Food Ecosystem Design Proceedings CHI, with Barath Raghavan and others (2016)
Social Inequality and HCI: The View from Political Economy Proceedings CHI, with Hamid Ekbia (2016)
Toward Alternative Decentralized Infrastructures with Bill Tomlinson, et al. Proceedings ACM DEV (2015)
The Political Economy of Computing: The Elephant in the HCI Room, with Hamid Ekbia. Interactions (2015)
On the Margins of the Machine: Heteromation and Robotics, with Hamid Ekbia and Selma Sabanovich (2015)
Algorithmic Authority: The Case of Bitcoin, with Caitie Lustig (2015)
Offshoring Digital Work (Best Paper nomination, HICSS) (2015)
Not Just in it for the Money: Crowdsourcing (with L. Jiang and C. Wagner) (Best Paper nomination, HICSS) (2015)
Heteromation and its (Dis)contents: The Invisible Division of Labor between Humans and Machines, with Hamid Ekbia (2014)
The Role of Human Computation in Sustainability, or, Social Progress Is Made of Fossil Fuels (2014)
Collapse Informatics and Practice: Theory, Method, and Design (2013)
Response to Coburn Report. (2011). With Nicole Ellison, Cliff Lampe
Comparative Informatics. (2011). With Ravi Vatrapu, Torkil Clemmensen
Infrastructures for Low-cost Laptop use in Mexican Schools. (2010). First author, Ruy Cervantes
Forget Online Communities? Revisit Cooperative Work! (2010). First author, Yong Ming Kow
The Digital Habitat: Rethinking Experience and Social Practice. (2010). With Jannis Kallinikos and Giovan Francseco Lanzara
How We Know What (We Think) We Know about Chinese Gold Farming (2010). With Yong Ming Kow.
Who Owns the Mods? (2010). With Yong Ming Kow.
Survival Needs and Social Inclusion: Technology Use Among the Homeless. (2010). First author, Jahmeilah Roberson.
Encountering Development Ethnographically. (2009). First author, Nithya Sambasivan.
Placeless Organizations: Collaborating for Transformation (2007)
Co-editor, special issue of Transactions on Computer-human Interaction, "Social Impacts of Technology," with Matt Jones and Elizabeth Mynatt. Volume 12 (2). 2005.
Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart, with Vicki O'Day. MIT Press, 1999



Movie Pundit, 2013

May 7, 2015, Celebration of Teaching Instructional Technology Innovation Award.

Daughter Jeanette with granddaughter Lila (Jeanette’s niece), February 2014

Baby Lionel, big sister Cara, and me, Thanksgiving 2014

University of Siegen, Germany, Economics Reconsidered Workshop, September 2015

Computing within LIMITS, Public Discussion, UC Irvine, December 2015

Here's an interview with me about raiding.



Bonnie Nardi
Department of Informatics
Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697
Office 5088 Bren Hall

Copyright 2005 Bonnie Nardi - Last updated: December, 2015
University of California, Irvine - Informatics