January + February 2008
Our world is at the point of major change, fueled by
the increasing capabilities of technology, the imminent entry of enormous powerhouse countries into
the global economy, and the potential for catastrophic environmental and cultural flux on both a local
and global level. The opportunities are tremendous,
yet the future is also murky in its uncertainty: As
we begin to design products, services, and systems
for this dynamic future, the speed, complexity, and
impact of our actions grow to an unprecedented
height and the feeling of anxiety begins to build.
This point of precipice is one that can be bested,
but it requires a dramatic shift in the way we
understand and think about our lives and jobs. Any
individual focus on product, research, or technology
will be seen as a narrow and limited view. Our intellectual emphasis and our creative energies must now
resonate on a cultural level, and on an emotional
level, and on a responsible level. Words like “culture”
and “emotion” and “responsibility” are scary, as they
are subjective and ethereal. But there is an associated word that is less scary, one that readers of this
magazine understand, value, and share. This was
the word that John Rheinfrank, Bill Hefley, and Brad
Myers chose when they begin this magazine in 1994,
and it speaks to the philosophical “solution” to the
challenges we face in the coming years.
We see a world rich with culture, emotion, and
human connections. The human-built world can
afford a sense of beauty, sublimity, and resonance,
and through our advancements in technology can
come advances in society. At the center of these
advances are interactions—conversations, connections, collaborations, and relationships—within and
across multiple disciplines, with and without technology.
We are proud to take editorship of interactions at
this pinnacle moment in human history. Our goals
for our three-year tenure are simple and straightforward:
1. To increase the relevance of this magazine to
practitioners focused on interactions.
2. To ensure that the contents of the magazine are
deep, diverse, and of global relevance.
3. To place an emphasis on the people, technology,
and experiences that merge in contemporary culture
to create meaningful, positive interactions.
To achieve these goals, we’ve assembled a wonderful team of designers, social scientists, engineers,
professionals, and academics who are engaged in the
creation and development of appropriate and innovative products, systems, services, and experiences.
Additionally, we’ve tapped into the historic expertise
of a number of leaders in our industry. We’ve also
developed, and will continue to extend, the
interactions website in order to support the work in the print
magazine and to allow for a more robust conversation between our readers and ourselves.
We encourage you to visit http://interactions.acm.
org and begin to respond to some of the copy in this
issue; both online and in print, you will find a number of themes that indicate some of the challenges
facing interactions practitioners in the near future,
with the reflections and thoughts of both special
guests as well as regular contributors.
Elizabeth Churchill has spent her extremely active
career in industry, academia, and research and has
a particularly strong intellectual approach to understanding the problems facing practitioners as they
strive to develop interactive products. Her examination of the relevance of language in design hints at
a new liberal underpinning to the work of technologists. This is reinforced by Alex Wright’s discussion
of the use of oral culture, as he looks at the rise of
social networking colloquialisms in our digital communities. Aza Raskin is also exploring the semantics
of language, and he reflects in this issue on some of
the distinctions between the landmark work of his
father, Jef Raskin, and his own work on linguistic
command line interfaces.
Gabe White has provided a succinct case study
of his work with Motorola in developing telephone
interfaces for developing nations. Gary Marsden’s
forum continues to explore the larger theme, as
he examines the challenges facing businesses that
intend to offer products and services to developing
nations. Eli Blevis sets the framework for an ongoing
contribution to the magazine on sustainable design,
and Allison Druin begins to examine whether the