Preface N. 13&14

Summer-Autumn 2012

Table of contents  –   Authors index


This special issue titled ‘HCI@large: Educate to the new frontiers of the Human-Machine Interaction’ is the outcome of an international workshop promoted by IFIP WG 13.1 on Education in HCI and HCI Curriculum, as part of CHItaly 2011, the biannual conference organised by the Italian chapter of ACM SIGCHI (Association for Computer Machinery – Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction).

Why ‘HCI@large’ ?

Because the design of services/artefacts/environments for the mediated communication has required the progressive contribution and integration of different disciplines like cognitive science, computer science and engineering and, more recently of sociology, anthropology, industrial design, experience design and architecture.
In parallel with this multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary evolution, the technology has considerably progressed becoming embodied within increasingly sensitive and co-evolutionary spaces, powerful, ubiquitous and mobile. Nowadays, this development offers an ideal testbed for experimenting, in an experiencial and engaging way,  complex communication processes.
The new landscape emerging from the integration of innovative technologies with different disciplines creates new challenges also in educating researchers and practitioners in the field of the “enlarged HCI”.  New visions, approaches, methodologies and educational processes are necessary to reflect the change on education.
Learning will not necessarily take place within a physical space. It can be delocalized/virtualized and can develop within mixed environments. The educational practice should reflect these changes and offer new opportunitise for learning.
‘HCI@large’ was an opportunity to reflect on the above mentioned themes from a multidisciplinary perspective. The special issue collects contributions that we hope may represent a starting point for further reflections and exploration in the field.
Vainio and Surakka explore the challenges that the recent evolution of the technological landscape poses to the training agencies that are demanded to balance traditional settings designed for a vertical development of well defined skills (hard ones) with interdisciplinary and horizontal approaches that would allow students to learn how to tame the complexity.
They articulate their reflection by analysing current Master’s-level education in collaboration with two universities and therefore illustrate postgraduate education in the international context. This analysis contributes to identify core studies that should be included in the HTI curriculum, together with some practical challenges and new directions for international HTI education.
Nordahl, Serafin and Kof discuss the issues related to the balance between educating specialists and generalists in the Medialogy Master education at Aalborg University. The case study illustrates the strategy adopted by the University to reconcile interdisciplinarity and focus on specialized topics in HCI and media technology. Furthermore it discusses the challenges in harmonising the need of optimizing on resources in terms of number of courses, the desire of the faculty members, the feedback from the students and the needs of the market and society.
These two papers show how, despite the on-going Bologna process, the way toward an European training space and a free exchange of expertise in the domain of the human-technology interaction is still long.
The paper by van der Veer et al. shows how the pervasiveness of technology – able to promote the development of new activities strictly connected to the relationship between human and technology – leads to the need to design new courses. The authors report the work done to design a new service design course based on discovery learning and mutual teaching. They illustrate the learning process starting from the students’ authentic goals merged with theoretical understanding and practice in real life. An open source interactive learning environment was developed to support the process.
The development of virtual tools able to support collaborative and technology enhanced learning is also dealt with in the contribution by Valtolina et al. where on-line environments were used to experiment with new participatory approaches to the HCI.
The reflection on the progressive shift of methodological approaches and goals of the ‘HCI@Large’ is the central theme addressed by Turner et al.. They propose, on the line of what it has been debated during the past HCIEd conferences, the adoption of more divergent and multidimensional practices than traditional approaches to HCI.
The results of a first experimentation seem to indicate a general satisfaction expressed by the learners, while the quantification of its effectiveness (e.g. through a quantification of the skills developed or the modification of the output) is still an open question and it is postponed to future investigations.
Tomico and Hengevelt focus on the design of intelligent products, systems and services that support learning strategies such as reflection, imitation, abstraction, sharing, exploring and decision making in various fields. They present project developed by bachelor, master and Ph.D. students at the Industrial Design department from the Eindhoven University of Technology. The projects, submitted to the evaluation of an expert panel session, demonstrated to be promising in stimulating the emergence of new learning strategies enabled by the use of novel technologies.
All contributions mentioned so far suggest, although not always explicitly, the need to rethink the evaluation which is carried out at several levels: student performance, course performances, output (product/service/etc.) qualities, etc. The need to go beyond traditional approaches is pretty obvious.
Along this exploration line, Giovannella and Camusi, in the last paper of this collection, suggest to adopt collaborative approaches also in the evaluation tasks. They report on the lessons learnt during an experience of participatory grading developed in the field with courses on ‘Multimodal Interfaces and Systems’ design.
We believe that this book can offer a wide and variegated perspective of issues, challenges and research opportunities offered by the view of HCI@Large. We do hope that the topics explored in this book may represent a further step toward a wider and deeper exploration on the interplay between technological development and multidisciplinary research and their impact on learning and education in the HCI field.

Carlo Giovannella and Patrizia Marti