segunda-feira, 28 de abril de 2008

Being Human: Human-Computer Interaction in the Year 2020

My printed copy of the Being Human: Human-Computer Interaction in the Year 2020 report arrived this week! Although I have already downloaded a PDF file with the same content, the printed version is much more pleasant to read.

cover from the Being Human report

This report is a result of a forum entitled HCI 2020: Human Values in a Digital Age that took place in Spain, on march 15-16, 2007, gathering researchers and practitioners of computing, design, social sciences, and scientific philosophy to discuss, debate and help formulate an agenda for human-computer interaction (HCI) over the next decade and beyond.

It’s curious that they have decided to name their report as a parody of the classic book from Negroponte, Being Digital. I guess they’re right…the time of the computers, as we know them, is about to end. We should be more concerned about the human part of the ‘human-computer interaction’ in the years to come.

Although I can’t say that I’m reading many new stuff, as mostly they’re discussing the same topics that I’m studing in my PHD research, it’s very refreshing to see that I’m not crazy in pursuing this discussion! The greatest difference is that while I’m basicaly doing a theoretical research, people are actually developing concepts and products for this upcoming world (I guess that’s an issue that I have to deal with, for living in a country that has not a role in developing computing technology). And, of course, with so many good people gathered together, the ideas and questions they came up with are very interesting.

A quote from the report, that may give you a brief understanding of it’s principles:

Computer technologies are not neutral – they are laden with human, cultural and social values. We need to define a new agenda for human-computer interaction in the 21st century – one that anticipates and shapes the impact of technology rather than simply reacts to it.

If you’re interested on this subject, take a look at the Being Human website. You can download a PDF version of the report there, or ask for a printed copy.

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  1. Well, i kinda disagree with you about “computers as we know them going away”. Think about “fuzzy logic”. It is actually a completely un-fuzzy system hacked with some clever, clever sideways thinking. Like a thermostat that instead of measuring temperature measures if the temp is raising or lowering. It is, well, clever. But too much cleverness bites us back. Like smart programs that are nifty when they work but a fu** hell of a nightmare when they decide to stop working.

    What i mean is: the issue is not making “the computer more humane”. This will only lead to more complicatedness with few increased complexity. And this means: things will be harder and harder to deal with, and the increased “joy” it brings to our lives will not accompany the effort.

    One example: processor power has raised like a quintillion times since some years ago, but our current computers seem just as sluggish as they ever were. More, if you actually can remember those DOS days. I know, DOS did suck, but i could write my school papers just fine. What exactly is my computer doing MORE?

    Simply put, making computers “more humane”, while a good thing per se, is not a solution to the problem.

    Sometimes a completely mechanical uncreative computer that just dumbly does what you thought it would do helps you more than a clever, humane, caring computer that actually does a lot of things you don’t even understand.

    Even simpler: remember Microsoft Word’s Clippy

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_Assistant

    Marcio Rocha
    sexta-feira, 23 de maio de 2008
    22:05
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