Beki Grinter

Top Challenges in HCI

In academia, computer science, discipline, HCI on July 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Recently I was asked what the top three challenges are in HCI. At the same time I was reading Yvonne Rogers’ new book on theory in HCI (and revisiting Harrison, Sengers, and Tatar). It was an interesting time to be asked that question given my reading choices at the time.

I’ve wanted to—although since it’s the summer, time for academics to work on research—survey my HCI colleagues at Georgia Tech, what would we write as our top three challenges. I suspect we’d pick different challenges. And perhaps that’s OK, since we are working on different things and our challenges represent our orientations.

But the question was: what are the top three challenges in HCI and not “what are the top three challenges in your area of research” (at least that’s what I thought I heard)? So, what then was I to answer.

Challenge one: there’s no common core in HCI? (I use a question mark because I am not sure that that’s a problem). The theoretical plurality within HCI allows a variety of research questions to be pursued following a vast number of methods, and with answers that have very different beliefs about knowledge embedded within them. On the other hand, I suspect that some theories have established a stronger voice at the table than others. Are there actually theoretical sub-specialities within HCI?

Challenge two: what are the boundaries of HCI? (Again a problem?) Asked another way, what is not legitimate to study under the banner of HCI? One way I think about this is that HCI has followed computers as they left the military and large corporations into the hands of users wherever they are located and whatever they happen to be doing. That’s likely not the right set of ways to carve the boundaries, so then in what way should we cut them up?

So I am not sure that either of these are problems perse, but it does seem to me that its a very interesting time to be in HCI, whatever that is.


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