Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/HCI Fragmentation

Real Costs of HCI Fragmentation (Richard Lee)Edit

Carroll’s material on the scientific fragmentation of HCI in the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s was informative, but it would be a mistake to view the trend in the past tense. The fragmentation has in no way diminished, and has instead become further institutionalized and must be met with ever more passionate evangelism.

The hard fact is that fervor without facts has little impact on the annual budget, yet the evidence one might present to justify the effort, time and expense of both HCI research and implementation of subsequent product improvements is itself time consuming and expensive to produce.

I would argue that modern advances in both real user monitoring and in behavioral metrics through both the gathering of applicable user-driven data and its analysis should be heavily leveraged in driving forward the justification for the continued application and evolution of HCI models and theories.

The argument is often made that ‘good enough’ is sufficient when bringing a product to market, yet regardless of the scope of use (not every example is a downed plane or a raging nuclear reactor) the improvement of the users’ experience via the human/computer interface is guaranteed to have a positive net impact for the organizations who choose to invest in such efforts.

Direct revenue is of course a primary driver and metric in determining the feasibility of HCI research and application, but other factors are in play. Consumer confidence in both specific products and in companies as a whole is at stake.

WIth the proliferation of software and hardware choices and their integration into our daily lives becoming more complete every day, a user’s interaction with a small, seemingly insignificant member of a much larger family of products can determine the likelihood of further adoption. Negativity bias combined with the one-to-many aspects of social media and broadcast entertainment on-air and online can lead to instances where one user’s negative experience literally determines the success of a product or company in the marketplace.

Of course, it’s important to remember that there’s more to improving interaction than simply addressing usability issues, but those of us willing to take on the challenge of advancing the state of humanity’s relationship with technology are those best positioned to continue combating the fragmentation in our multifaceted field of science.