Practice: connections

XII.2 March + April 2005
Page: 62
Digital Citation

What else?

Manfred Tscheligi

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Several weeks ago, I had a discussion with the former head of the local branch of a famous international company (everyone knows this company). Upon discussing the acceptance of usability during his time of influence, the man mentioned: "Industries like us know about the importance of user-centeredness, but as long as people buy our goods, and by doing this give us good business numbers, we don't care—why should we?" This person has never heard about such a field as human-computer interaction, and even if we relate our strongest cost/benefit stories he would still resist. This happens in parts of our world, where "HCI" is a foreign concept. This is only one example of an interesting conversation; there are many more out there. Telling stories like these, short or long, connects to experiences usually not found in research papers.

We would like to hear what is expected of our field. Which answers are anticipated, and which challenges should be addressed? Aren't the users our focus? Do we listen enough to all the different kinds of users to whom we intend to bring our message? Users are the recipients of our products and methods, innovations and visions. What are their opinions of our field and of us? Do we connect to the essence of dissatisfaction if it happens? And dissatisfaction happens!

Let's connect to different domains with different levels of HCI maturity. What are the domains where no reports and research papers applying HCI are available at a first investigation? Maybe HCI happens or not? What are the HCI problems? Which problems are raised and maybe solved? Is there a domain with no or almost no inclusion of HCI knowledge and methodology? Are there new domains, existing or developing, that need our input? What about HCI in the area of life sciences, to name only one example? There are tons of conferences and events in all these areas. It would be interesting to get at least a glimpse of what is happening here and there that relates to our field.

In this column, we will connect to thought-provoking opinions and viewpoints from people, known or unknown, insiders or outsiders. We will ask students what they think about current HCI education practices—what they need and what is missing. We will ask about the books that are missing and should be written. We will ask about the "future of..." to provoke speculation and connect to future developments in HCI. We will open a road to radical new forward thinking. We will connect to the past to identify roots for the future. What worked, what didn't? Did we lose something on the way?

Connecting to different regions (whatever "region" means) in the world shows us what is going on elsewhere. What is the essence happening here and there, what are the problems identified and solutions discussed? What are differences based on cultural, economic and societal situations? What are the questions and requirements to be faced by an inclusive human-computer-interaction community? We hope this will also connect people, both virtually and physically.

There are plenty of activities that go beyond the mainstream events of our community, both in research and in industry. Connecting to interesting developments discussed in the summits related to next-generation mobile technology might be interesting for our field, as well as reporting on the newest findings in neuropsychological conferences. Connecting to some of this will give us new starting points and some ideas of what happens elsewhere. This is also true for strategic issues, like upcoming or nonexistent HCI-related funding schemes and needs, national or international HCI lead projects, or looking behind the scenes of institutions.

And there are all the connections we seek to establish to all the interesting disciplines, which are not part of the daily reading list. What's new in dramatics, or what is happening in the area of marketing that could be of interest? The Web business would interest at least some of us or the field of consumer electronics, which is more and more at the heart of our field. What are the discussions within all the different fields of psychology to link to foundations of our discipline or discover interesting issues on the societal level from the discussions around the information society? Communication science will have something interesting to tell, as will the different strands of sociology. The list of potential connections is long.

"Connections" is about this and much more like it. We seek to connect to all the different aspects of our field, in particular those that are not the "usual" topics of consideration. Consider this column a vehicle for opening a wide and interdisciplinary field to a wider and more interdisciplinary domain. Exploring these aspects is a joint effort, so I invite everybody to participate with her or his connections.

Does it sound like connecting to everything that relates to our field? That is exactly what we intend here!

Write to me at

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Manfred Tscheligi is professor of HCI & Usability at the Institute for Advanced Studies and Research in Information and Communication Technologies & Society, University of Salzburg, Austria. He is also founder and director of CURE-Center for Usability Research and Engineering in Vienna, Austria and the founder and managing director of USECON, a usability and user-experience consultancy firm also in Vienna.

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