While we enjoy all the benefits the country affords, Australia also has a proud tradition of innovation and rapid uptake of technology, which has created significant opportunities in HCI.
Australia's distances offer great opportunities within the communications industry and within companies wishing to contact or sell their products to those in far-flung rural and regional areas. But distance also presents special challenges for HCI practitioners who must work within the capabilities of a thinly spread infrastructure and bandwidth restrictions.
HCI practitioners can be found working either as employees or on contract in many diverse industriesincluding the largest, our major telecommunications company Telstramany of the large resource companies, large domestic and international corporations, the tourism industry, and many small one-person businesses.
Sydney and Melbourne, our largest cities (five million and three million inhabitants, respectively), often compete for business and are both served by several specialist HCI practices. A sprinkling of mid-sized companies have their own HCI groups, and in many larger companies user-centered design principles are practiced in some form or anotheralthough the term HCI is not often used. There is a distinct mix of in-house and outsourced HCI work. As with everywhere else in the world, however, many organizations still do not know about user-centered design and therefore produce poor interfaces.
In Australia a new trend is that as the message of user-centered design becomes more widely understood, organizations that have not previously practiced this philosophynotably marketing companiesare acquiring HCI skill sets and offering user-centered design and testing services. In addition, an increased emphasis on accessibility and usability regulations, particularly within government, is boosting the demand for HCI specialists.
Conversely, the events of September 11, 2001, significantly affected Australian business, and throughout the coming year we will see companies in Australia focus on their core business; as a result, HCI will either be neglected or outsourced.
The main organization supporting HCI professionals throughout Australia is the Computer Human Interaction Special Interest Group (CHISIG Australia), which began in 1984 as a special-interest group of the Ergonomics Society of Australia and has grown year after year with more members and events.
CHISIG Australia now has more than 100 members and holds many regular events such as industry breakfasts to promote the discipline in industry and academic circles. Conferences and industry events are well supported and allow people to keep in touch and abreast of latest developments.
Check out www.chisig.org for a list of the companies in Australia that registered with CHISIG and that adopt or provide user-centered design practice.
John Murphy is a Melbourne, Australiabased interface and interaction design specialist. He works in the delivery practice of Novell Pty Ltd (formerly Cambridge Technology Partners Pty Ltd) maintaining a customer focus in the design and development of Internet and software applications. He uses his combined background in human-computer interaction (HCI), computer science, and engineering to study and profile target customers, structure content, design user interfaces and interactivity, and conduct usability tests. An active member of CHISIG Australia, John attends and presents at various events.
Editor's note: Jonathan Arnowitz and Elizabeth Dykstra-Erickson traveled to Perth, Australia, in Fall 2001 to attend the CHISIG [ComputerHuman Interaction Special Interest Group ]conference OZCHI and meet with the leadership of CHISIG. Watch for further news of SIGCHI's developing relationship with the HCI community Down Under!
Each year CHISIG holds a conference. This year's conference will be held jointly with that of the Ergonomics Society of Australia in Melbourne in November, making it possibly the largest CHISIG conference ever. It will be called HF2002 (Human Factors Conference2002) and will have as its theme "Designing for the whole person,"integrating physical, cognitive, and social aspects.
Melbourne is listed as the second most popular city in the world for staging international conventions. So. if you missed the Olympics, take the opportunity to visit in November. For details, see www.iceaustralia.com/HF2002.
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