[Catherine Letondal]

I'm assistant professor in the Interactive Computing Laboratory at ENAC.

Keywords: tangible interaction, paper computing, interactive software engineering, participatory design, philosophy of technology, end-user programing, participatory programing, design for creativity, systemic design, sustainability, mutual awareness.


I hold an HDR and a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction, a Master in Distributed fault tolerant computer systems, an Engineer diploma in Computer Sciences, and a Master in Philosophy. I'm an assistant professor in the Interactive Computing Laboratory at ENAC in Toulouse. After working in the industry as a software engineer, I worked for 15 years at the Institut Pasteur, where I defended my PhD thesis in 2001, with Michel Beaudouin-Lafon, on end-user programing for the biologists. Before 2009, I worked at In Situ as a research engineer. See my full professional bio here.


Design of sustainability This subject, for the moment largely in progress, is at the center of my current research questions, in the form of projects with students. The aspects that seem important to me revolve first of all around systemic approaches that make it possible to ask questions at sufficient spatial and temporal scales. In particular, I am co-supervising a thesis that explores quasi-quantitative modeling to equip interaction designers in this respect [CI.19]. I also co-supervise numerous student projects, with sociologists, economists, and aeronautical engineers, on the possible futures of the air mobility field.

HDR: Interaction technique et individuation The HCI research questions I have explored concern interactive writing, the physicalization of tactile surfaces, mutual awareness in separate collaboration, and participatory design. Around these well-identified themes, I propose a more general reflection on what can momentarily be called the materiality of interaction, that is to say both on the process of taking form in design and on the individuations at work in interaction. Through the subject of interactive writing, whether it is a work with contemporary composers, air traffic controllers, biologists or maintenance technicians, it is the questions of expressivity but also of the trace that are explored, leading to an exploration of reflexive interaction but also illuminating programming as a modern form of writing. It is the question of embodiment that is studied through the exploration of modalities of externalization of gestures, rhythms and temporal structures in an operational context, leading to the conception of devices incorporating different kinds of materiality, such as for example accordion-like folding surfaces. As the problem of collaborative consciousness raises the question of seeing interaction, it is again some form of materiality that must be assumed. Finally, it is the question of the individuation process by which I try to understand the theoretical principle of participatory design, which gives rise to the invention of interaction, in the continuity of what I called participatory programming during my thesis. Technical individuation is the common question that emerges from these various technical thought experiments: individuation by reification, by instrumentation, by transduction or by explicit design. To carry out this reflection, I have chosen to call upon some concepts from Greek philosophy, phenomenology, post-phenomenology or Simondon's ontological theory. What results from the reasoning I tried to build is both a plea to consider HCI as a part of science and not as an applied science, and proposals, thanks to the principle of continuity between interaction and design, for a complex approach from HCI to ecology [TR.10].

Tangible interaction: My work on tangible interaction began with the exploration of the possibilities of digital pen and paper in various fields, such as augmented laboratory notebooks for biologists, interactive scientific datasheets, augmented scores of composers, augmented strips of air traffic controllers and job cards for aviation maintenance. Through each of these projects, the focus was first to understand why paper/pen devices and their very diverse properties particularly well align to the associated activities, and then to participatory co-evolve these devices by moving to mixed and digital properties. Based on our work with Air traffic Controllers, I have also contributed to the reflection on tangible interaction models, by putting into perspective distributed cognition processes such as externalization and the use of interactive paper strips on the stripboard. Recently, I have worked on meteorological visualization for the pilots undergoing rapidly developing thunderstorms. Currently I'm reflecting on the physical design space for situation awareness and performance in the interactive cockpit, where touch technologies are going to replace current electronic displays for flying and navigating instruments (AIRTIUS ANR project).

Participatory design: My complementary experience in industry and research has also allowed me to pursue a reflection on software development processes. During my thesis, I have observed and analyzed the programing practices of biologists in the context of a biology research institute - the Pasteur Institute - and proposed a process paradigm: participatory programing. I now focus on the quite different context of system engineering in aerospace, when applied to interactive system design and teaching. In this context, participatory design brings to industrial processes - strongly based on models - an opportunity for early validation and maintaining consistency among multi-disciplinary stakeholders all along the process.

HCI as a systemic approach to design for sustainability: Given the challenge of global climate change for technology and aeronautics, I have started to reflect on how to design sustainable air transportation solutions through various approaches. I believe that the role of HCI in ecology, in addition to the eco-design and persuasion approaches, is to assume its systemic know-how to address a more global dimension of design.

PhD advising: I have co-advised a PhD on shape changing interfaces with Sylvain Pauchet; a second PhD with Valentin Becquet addressed gesture-based interaction for pilots through the investigation of anthropological aspects, and that also builds on recent perspectives drawn from the philosophy of technology. Current PhDs encompass one that has started October 2020 with Maxime Bardou on mutual awareness in the context of SPO (Single Pilot Operation) and one that started October 2021 with Laetitia Bornes on design processes in systems engineering.


  • best paper at CHI 2009 [CI.5]
  • honorable mention at CHI 2013 [CI.8]
  • demonstration 2nd prize at IHM 2009 [CN.5]
Updated : December, 2 2022