ERCIM News No.46, July 2001 [contents]
by Constantine Stephanidis
Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) is concerned with the design, implementation and evaluation of interactive computer-based systems, as well as with the multi-disciplinary study of various issues affecting this interaction. The aim of HCI is to ensure the safety, utility, effectiveness, efficiency, accessibility and usability of such systems.
In recent years, HCI has attracted considerable attention by the academic and research communities, as well as by the Information Society Technologies industry. The on-going paradigm shift towards a knowledge-intensive Information Society has brought about radical changes in the way people work and interact with each other and with information. Computer-mediated human activities undergo fundamental changes and new ones appear continuously, as new, intelligent, distributed, and highly interactive technological environments emerge, making available concurrent access to heterogeneous information sources and interpersonal communication. The progressive fusion of existing and emerging technologies is transforming the computer from a specialistís device into an information appliance. This dynamic evolution is characterised by several dimensions of diversity that are intrinsic to the Information Society. These become evident when considering the broad range of user characteristics, the changing nature of human activities, the variety of contexts of use, the increasing availability and diversification of information, knowledge sources and services, the proliferation of diverse technological platforms, etc.
HCI plays a critical role in the context of the emerging Information Society, as citizens experience technology through their contact with the user interfaces of interactive products, applications and services. Therefore, it is important to ensure that user interfaces provide access and quality in use to all potential users, in all possible of contexts of use, and through a variety of technological platforms. The field of HCI is now experiencing new challenges. New perspectives, trends and insights enrich the design, implementation and evaluation of interactive software, necessitating new multidisciplinary and collaborative efforts.
Europe is playing a protagonist role in this direction, by conducting collaboratively innovative scientific and technological work that has led to the establishment of a framework of reference for a user-friendly Information Society. The Information Society Technologies (IST) Programme of the European Commission has placed considerable emphasis on the human- and social-oriented aspects of technology. This commitment is expected to be continued and enhanced in the forthcoming Sixth Framework Programme for the period 2002-2006, currently being elaborated on the basis of the conclusions of the Lisbon European Council and the objectives of the eEurope initiative.
On the European scene, ERCIM appears as a key actor in the field of HCI, with many collaborative activities being conducted in several member institutions. The ERCIM Working Group ëUser Interfaces for Allí (http://ui4all.ics.forth.gr/) has systematically promoted the proactive realisation of the Design for All principles in HCI. The vision of User Interfaces for All involves the development of user interfaces to interactive applications and telematic services, which provide universal access and usability to all potential users, including people with different cultural, educational, training and employment background, novice and experienced computer users, the very young and the elderly, and people with different types of disabilities, interacting with different technological platforms in different contexts of use.
The special theme of this ERCIM News reflects the increasing importance of the HCI field in the wider context of research and development activities for Information Society Technologies, and sheds light on the multidisciplinary and evolving nature of work in this field, as well as on current trends and initiatives. The call for contributions has met overwhelming interest, and an unprecedented number of contributions are included, reflecting a wide variety of issues, such as novel interface development approaches, interaction techniques and devices for multimodal, continuous and ubiquitous computing, access to information, and applications in different domains.
Constantine Stephanidis ICS-FORTH
Tel: +30 81 391741