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Reflecting Human Values in the Digital Age

Reflecting Human Values in the Digital Age - contributed...

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58 COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM | MARCH 2009 | VOL. 52 | NO. 3 contributed articles THE FIELD OF human-computer interaction (HCI) came into being more than 25 years ago with the mission of understanding the relationship between humans and computers, often with an eye toward improving the technology’s design. But that relationship has since been altered so radically— changes in the sociotechnical landscape have been so great—that many in the community of HCI researchers and practitioners are questioning where the field is headed. Computer systems now intrude on our lives as well as disappear into the world around us, they monitor as well as guide us, and they coerce as well as aid us. Thus there are debates about such fundamentals as what HCI’s goals should be, how it should do its work, and whether its methods remain relevant. DOI:10.1145/1467247.1467265 HCI experts must broaden the field’s scope and adopt new methods to be useful in 21st-century sociotechnical environments. BY ABIGAIL SELLEN, YVONNE ROGERS, RICHARD HARPER, AND TOM RODDEN Reflecting Human Values in the Digital Age The complexity of technologies that HCI now encounters can be attributed to the major transformations that have redefined our relationship with technology. This article explores five such transformations, also reflected in this image. Can you find them? ILLUSTRATION BY BRYAN CHRISTIE DESIGN
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60 COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM | MARCH 2009 | VOL. 52 | NO. 3 contributed articles that link computers. Researchers started asking how users, with the aid of computers, might interact with each other. 13 Researchers with backgrounds in more socially oriented sciences, such as sociology and anthropology, began to engage with HCI. These dis- ciplines emphasized not only the ef- fects of computing on groups of users but also how those very same groups appropriated computers, interpreted them, and socially and emotionally ex- perienced their relationships with the technology. Several of the approaches of these disciplines were added to the mix with ethnographic approaches be- ing especially visible. The practical result of these devel- opments is that HCI has become an ac- ademic discipline in its own right, with conferences dedicated to the subject as well as departments and courses offer- ing HCI as a speciality, and it has also become an integral part of the design processes—typically, user-centered— for nearly all technology companies. 14 Moreover, an understanding of HCI (if not its details or techniques) has seeped into the broader conscious- ness, as the common use of terms such as “user-friendliness” and “user expe- rience” in the news media and everyday conversation attest. Such awareness, among practitioners and users alike, has encompassed computers not only in the conventional sense of, say, desktop systems but also as they are manifested in cars, airplanes, mobile phones, and a broad array of other products.
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