Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/Introduction
Is HCI really the most visible part of computer science?: A Critique of Carroll's Introduction
Even when the initial paradigm of windows, menus, icons, and mouse pointing evolved from early work on limited office contexts thanks to the evolution of technology we find now that HCI work has given way to new mobile and virtual trends. Nowawadays, HCI pervades every field/discipline from daily interfaces, like an online banking system, to highly specialized ones like cockpits and surgery dashboards.
Thanks to HCI multidisciplinarity we can resort to a plethora of methodologies, from experimental quantitative through context-sensitive qualitative protocols. Specifically, http://ist.psu.edu/directory/jmc56 holds that HCI has become a primary testbed for two broad innovations in design methods, participatory design and ethnographically driven design. In any case, HCI is young and it has a need to be multidisciplinary; ergo, I propose that HCI enables a new renaissance in which we see a move away from specialization which gives way to a blend of the sciences (hard and "soft"/social) and the humanities. HCI has brought about the DaVinci era of the 2000s.
What Golden Age?
HCI was originally a joining of software engineering and human-factors engineering expertise. Then, in the 70s, the waterfall development model saw a crisis brought about by the need to move away from a linear model of development to one that integrated the user throughout the design and development process. PCs came about to crash this design methodology which was not suitable for systems development that was user-oriented. It is likely that, in the past, this had not been as necessary because systems were not as widespread and they were only used by elites who had the time and ability to cope with systems shortfalls.
Cognitive science and theory of mind
Cognitive scientists elaborated models of thought and behavior that informed HCI research. Specifically, Card, Moran and Newell proposed the GOMS model which intended to explain the process given from thoughts to behavior. Prior to this, we had human factors models which did not seek to integrate and/or explain the human micro components—mind, thoughts, behavior.
The change in HCI thought
In 1985, Newells’ address to the CHI founding gathering provoked a change in thought. I would argue even before that you could sense the boiling over of a need for a unified concern in this multidisciplinary science... from Wiener’s cybernetics through systems theory to Vannevar Bush's touted address about the future of technology. In the mid 20th century there was already a sense that computers were going to be important and they would be widespread enough that there needed to be a concern with the future and how to effectively integrate them in human society
Newell’s vision implicitly marginalized this work, motivating the emergence of alternative cognitive-science paradigms. As a result, among others we have, Suchman's situatedness (1987) theory elaborated from the study of photocopier use which described a variety of usability problems with an advanced photocopier's user interfaces. To be innovative, Suchman considered the interaction between the person and the machine as a sort of conversation that frequently failed because the participants did not understand one another. We see then HCI turns toward Derrida's deconstruction of science, we see HCI study evole into a critique that seeks to present an understanding of reality in which objects and people are accounted for.
Suchman brought field-study concepts, techniques, and sensibilities from anthropology, ethnomethodology, and sociology, and she applied them to a real problematic situation of human-computer interaction.
On the other hand, Carroll also argues that the internationalization of HCI may have contributed to this new HCI thought. He holds that, thanks to the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) conferences held in Europe, and by initiatives within major computer companies, HCI has boiled over with a stream of input that is diverse and multinational/cultural. We have experienced this first-hand in CHI gatherings where practitioners, artists, technologies, and multinationals come together to thinks about and discuss the evolution of technology as it pertains to human society and individuals.
Carroll cites Bødker’s (1991) application of activity theory to HCI as yet another contribution that modeled HCI thought. Born out of Russian marxist philosophy, rooted in Vigotsky's writings, activity theory could not deny its beginnings, its Marxist foundations that sought to integrate culture, tools, and cooperation as elements to be considered in any attempt to explain phenomena associated with human cooperation.
According to Carroll then there are historical factors acting as sources of ideas in the development of theory in HCI: 1. differentiation within the original cognitive-science community of HCI. (distancing from GOMS) 2. growing multidisciplinary constituency of cognitive science itself. 3. internationalization and 4. technology
Ultimately, wary but hopeful of the "New Golden Age"
We see that the future may take unsuspected directions. We confront the challenge (and at the same time advantage) of having to deal with a multidisciplinarity that has brought about fragmentation, the making up of camps and the tension between depth and breadth in scientific expertise. Furthermore, we have researchers and practitioners seeking to prevail in their views of what should be considered an HCI discipline. The ACM itself cannot come up with a unified definition of our field. But, I argue that old views, rigidly bound to ergonomics and a linear model of design, has been supplanted by a more interactive view in which practice plays a more central role in articulating requirements for theory and technology as well as in evaluating their efficacy in applied settings.
My sense is that we are ever more driven toward producing practical/applied knowledge. That the "mediocrization" of the field--- external factors such as schedule, budget, and compatibility with standard solutions often prevail. This may cause that HCI unofficial reports include no understanding of underlying theoretical aspects and do not follow the exigencies of scientific methodologies which seek to address validity and veracity concerns. Carroll indicates the need for synthesizing a comprehensive and coherent methodological framework but HCI is not about standards. At the end, as HCIers we need to remain educated and recognize the need to adopt a lifelong learner model in which we inform our research and practice with the understanding of objects and phenomena in the world, science, and society.
Carroll recognizes that, in 1988, an Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) task force enumerated HCI as one of nine core areas of the computer-science discipline (Denning et al., 1989). And a joint curriculum task force of the ACM and the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) recommended the inclusion of HCI as a common requirement in computer-science programs (Tucker & Turner, 1991).(Carroll 2003). However, he also recognizes the inaccessibility of advanced-level materials on HCI science and theory. We ourselves have experienced that in the search for a textbook for this class.
At the end, HCI remains ripe with possibilities. However, we need to remain wary of distancing from the rigour required by a scientific pursuit. We need to adapt and adopt but always keeping in mind those who came before us and the need for validity in our methods.