Societal interfaces

XIV.5 September + October 2007
Page: 24
Digital Citation

The importance of HCI for solving societal challenges

Manfred Tscheligi

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Society is always facing challenges. Among these (to name a few) are issues like quality of life, health, security and other forms of protection, independent living, aging, working conditions, employment, environmental issues, education, closing the digital divide, and information access for all. All of these concerns influence people and are influenced by people. Several disciplines are investigating these areas, and information and communication technologies are often incorporated.

The field of HCI has a special role in the contribution to societal questions by introducing the particular viewpoint of human centeredness. This position is not only taken by optimizing the quality of interaction but also by the explicit development of advanced interaction approaches to support societal challenges. Based on this interpretation, our field has a lot to contribute to the process of solving societal challenges. The term "societal interfaces" isn't yet generally used; it can be defined as advanced interaction approaches that are explicitly designed to improve or solve a specific societal aspect, using HCI as an approach to create a different society.

The focus of societal interfaces is to trigger new HCI solutions (e.g., how we as a scientific field can contribute to different environmental questions) or bring in a specific viewpoint to consider existing work in the area. Raising HCI work to a societal level offers new interdisciplinary insight and viewpoints. The small selection of articles in this issue shows some examples that we hope will inspire more work in this area.

A variety of viewpoints are covered. A prominent area where societal-interface approaches are becoming more and more available is the area of health. We present one article that examines user-experience issues and another that introduces a virtual environment to support people living with HIV and AIDS (a real societal problem). Another article addresses the specific context of traveling, which is also ubiquitous in our society. And an additional article proposes that young children are a special group in our society that should be protected against the misuse of technologies. In addition, persuasive technologies are discussed as important concepts to trigger behavior changes that could have positive effects on societal problem areas. These are some of the pieces of a mosaic forming a picture of HCI as societal discipline.

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Guest editor

Manfred Tscheligi
ICT&S University of Salzburg

About the guest editor

Manfred Tscheligi is professor of HCI and usability at the Institute for Advanced Studies and Research in Information and Communication Technologies and Society, University of Salzburg, Austria. His research interests are usability and user-experience methodologies, innovative interaction environments, and contextual interfaces. He is also founder and director of CURE-Center for Usability Research and Engineering and the founder and managing director of USECON, a usability and user-experience consultancy firm, both located in Vienna, Austria.

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