I was recently asked a question.
What are the three top problems, challenges in your area of research.
There are a lot of ways that this could be answered, but it made me reflect on some literature I’ve been reading and reviewing lately. If I take HCI as “my area of research” then the more I started to think about it the more I felt that the biggest challenge was understanding what the field of HCI encompassed. I’ve been reading about the different waves of HCI, the abundance of different theories within HCI — and not just that but that those theories make very different assumptions about knowledge and truth, and the implications for this on the core of HCI itself. What is the set of concerns that we as HCI researchers share that brings us to this field?
The second thought I had was not really a research problem, but it has implications for research. It’s to do with the difficult relationship that HCI seems to have to some, but not all, Computer Scientists. I have spent a lot of time in my career trying to bring human-centered concerns to Computer Science. I think the biggest challenge here is the ongoing persistence of some people in Computer Science to accept that humanity is a part of their field. That’s not a research challenge perse, but has significant impact on ones ability to do research. It’s clearly not everyone, but it seems to be pervasive enough that I think causing really important problems to be left unanswered.
Finally, and no surprise my mind turned to resource constrained and culturally, socially and politically different environments. I’ve written a lot about my position on that. I think that these environments challenge HCI theoretically and methodologically. I think a closer examination of those and whom they have and can serve is warranted. Second, this has a potential to add even more complexity to the first point above.
I am not at all sure that the person who asked me that question was expecting this as an answer. I would presume they were expecting more focused, here are areas of open research questions.