activities are as much sociological as
architectural and as much about politics as cognitive reasoning. Given the
scope and complexity of these issues,
HCI professionals need to engage in
discourses that may at one time have
seemed distant, if not entirely alien to
Redefining the H, C, and I. It is with
these concerns in mind that the report
suggests redefining the three elements
of HCI—human, computer, and interaction.
The “H,” representing the “user,”
clearly needs revision, especially given
that people nowadays are as much consumers, creators, and producers as they
are users of computers, and they often
employ computers just for the fun of
it. Conceptualizing the emotional aspects of experiencing technologies is
already starting to happen. Words like
magic, enchantment, pleasure, wonder, excitement, and surprise have begun to creep into the vocabulary when
researchers and designers discuss the
value of technology to people. But HCI
specialists also need to ask what these
terms really mean and how technologies may engender such experiences.
The aesthetics of computational products has also gained importance in
helping to define users’ relationships
to technology. Therefore new models
would provide a better understanding
of how the emotional aspects of computing relate to human values.
A new conception of the “C” in HCI
is also needed so that we may better
understand how the embedding of
digital technologies in everyday objects, in the built structures around
us, and in the natural landscape is
transforming our surrounding environment into a physical-digital ecosystem. Thus we need to address not just
the design of artifacts per se but also
the spaces within which they reside.
And the design has to deal with deeper
and more systemic issues. As the computer becomes increasingly reliant on
a larger world, and in particular as the
connection to a network becomes an
essential part of the computer’s operation, the opportunity for improving
the user experience simply through a
better interface is rapidly disappearing. HCI needs concepts, frameworks,
and methods that will enable it to consider people and computers as part of
a messy world full of social, physical,
technological, and physiological limitations and opportunities.
It follows that the “I” in HCI will
also need to be understood at many
different levels. As Greenfield has
so elegantly described, we will have
to consider different sites of interaction—for example, interactions on
and in the body, interactions between
bodies, interactions between bodies
and objects (properties such as graspable, pushable, and other human-centered descriptors may be important
here), and interactions at the scale of
kiosks, rooms, buildings, streets, and
other public spaces. All these levels
of interaction offer different physical and social “affordances”—readily
perceivable action possibilities—that
technologies can potentially change.
In redefining H, C, and I, and in
extending what the field of HCI may
achieve, we will need to develop a lingua franca that expresses not only new
metaphors but also new principles.
Such a common language will enable
the diverse parties to better understand each other, to talk in detail about
the emergent transformations, and to
productively explore how to steer them
in human directions.
In a world where people’s movements and transactions can be
tracked—where individuals trigger
non-deliberate events just by being in
a certain place, physical or virtual, at a
certain time—the notion of interaction
itself is being fundamentally altered.
As the conception of technology use
as a conscious act becomes difficult
to sustain, other models of interaction
and communication will have to be developed. At the other extreme, digital
technologies will continue to be used
in more deliberate and engaged ways
as media for self-expression, commu-nity-building, identity-construction,
self-presentation, and interpersonal
relations. HCI professionals must understand the complexity of the new
forms of social relations and interactions if they are to help develop technology that enables people’s effective
The fact that we now live with technology and not just use it means that
HCI must also take into account the truly
human element, conceptualizing “
users” as embodied individuals who have
desires and concerns and who function
within a social, economic, and political
ecology. HCI must also be flexible, given that people’s forms of engagement
with technology and the nature of their
interactions with it will continually be
changing, often becoming more sophisticated, as they grow older. Understanding the new forms of interaction
between humans and computers will
involve asking questions about the
qualitative—process, potential, and
change—rather than quantifiable attributes and capabilities alone.
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Abigail Sellen ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is Principal
researcher, microsoft research cambridge, cambridge,
Yvonne Rogers ( email@example.com) is a professor in the
department of computing, the open university, milton
Richard Harper ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is Principal
researcher, microsoft research cambridge, cambridge,
Tom Rodden ( email@example.com) is a professor in the
school of computer science, university of nottingham,
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