ERCIM News No.46, July 2001 [contents]
by Maria Francesca Costabile and Fabio Paternò
We describe the growing interest in HCI activities in Italy and the objectives of SIGCHI Italy, the Italian chapter of ACM SIGCHI, the Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction.
The mission of SIGCHI is to bring together people working on the design, evaluation, and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use. This embraces work on the hardware and software engineering of interactive systems, the structure of communications between human and machine, the use of interactive systems, design methodology, and new designs themselves. SIGCHI helps to organize and coordinate information through on-line dissemination, traditional publications, conferences, workshops, and symposia relating to human-computer interaction. SIGCHI members are interested in keeping up with changes in this rapidly evolving fieldmaking computers easier to use and extending technology into new domains for new users.
The interest in human-computer interaction is increasing rapidly in Italy. The first research groups in this area began work in the late eighties-early nineties. Every year a growing number of universities offer HCI courses in various degree programmes (eg computer science, computer engineering, psychology, communication science). A list is available at the SIGCHI-Italy website, at http://giove.cnuce.cnr.it/sigchi/HCIcourses.htm.
Since 1992, an important international conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces (AVI) has been held regularly every two years in Italy with the sponsorship of ACM. Reports have been published in the October 1994, January 1997 and October 1998 issues of the SIGCHI Bulletin and the conference proceedings are published by ACM Press.
To further support this growing interest in HCI, in 1995 a number of Italian researchers applied to set up an Italian chapter of SIGCHI. SIGCHI-Italy was officially started by ACM on April 24 1996. The purpose is to promote and increase knowledge and interest in science and technology of human-computer interaction in Italy. The Italian chapter organises meetings, conferences, discussion groups and workshops involving people from both academia and industry. The group of members has grown rapidly and now involves about 150 people. There are two levels of membership: non fee-paying non voting members and voting members, who also have to be members of and pay subscription fees to ACM ASIGCHI. Consequently, the chapter has no budget, it is managed completely by volunteers and events are organised thanks to contributions from sponsors. SIGCHI-Italy members contribute in many ways: proposing thematic meetings, participating in the organization of events, advertising the activities, creating links with other organisations. Since members of the chapter are spread throughout Italy, it is not possible to have meetings too frequently: usually meetings are held every three months often in Rome.
SIGCHI-Italy also has a strong industrial component. Italian companies that have been or are now actively involved in the chapter include SOGEI, Etnoteam , FIAT, and CSELT, the research center of Telecom, Italy. For example, the meeting of the chapter in June 2000 at CSELT provided an interesting opportunity for our members to view new prototypes for vocal interfaces and interfaces for third-generation cellular phones with UMTS support. Our most recent meeting was in March at the FIAT Research Centre, where much work is under way on the development of interfaces for car devices.
Other groups are active in Italy on HCI-related topics and SIGCHI-Italy aims to maintain close contacts with them. Examples are the Italian Society of Ergonomics, the Italian Association of Computer Science AICA, the Italian Association of Artificial Intelligence AIIA. AIIA includes a working group which focuses on the development of adaptive, agent-based interfaces.
To further encourage the growth of the Italian HCI community we also organised the first Italian Symposium on HCI in Rome in 1999. Given the success of this event, we are now organising a second symposium which will be held in Florence, in September, in conjunction with the conference of the Italian Society of Ergonomics (information available at http://giove.cnuce.cnr.it/hcitaly01.html). We also intend to increase cooperation with other SIGCHIs, primarily those located in Europe, in order to coordinate efforts and activities.
Maria Francesca Costabile Dipartimento di Informatica, Universita' di Bari, Italy
Tel: +39 080 544 3300
Fabio Paternò CNUCE-CNR
Tel.: +39 050 315 3066