“The qualitative aspects of communication and personal relationships take into account such items as the opportunities for problem solving, creativity, confidence, security, interest, listening, emotional involvement. Even before we became concerned about the impact of computers on ‘man-machin’ communication, too little attention was directed towards qualitative aspects of communication ‘man to man’ (Bradley 1989:17).
Dr. Gunilla Bradley, Professor Informatics, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Department of Electronic. Computer and Software Systems (ECS), IT-university campus, Sweden
Learning is an integrated part of our life; in one's professional role, in one's private role and in our role as citizens. The deep and widespread use of ICT is entering into these life-roles, and so has become a considerable part of our daily lives. This book deals with the human side of learning and Human Computer Interaction (HCI) in a broad sense.
I happened to meet Dr McKay at the HCI International conference in Beijing in 2007. Among the 4,000 delegates and after talking about my own writings, I was asked to read the book manuscript and contribute with a foreword. I am most happy that I accepted. It is a fantastic and unique book!
As university professors we understand the importance of using a variety of different lenses to guide our students. This guidance often involves interactive cycles of learning when students and their facilitators exchange experiential moments to enhance each other's vision of the world. It is truly a wonderful time to be involved in the education and research sector. We have a simply dramatic set of information and communications technology (ICT) tools that have a great potential for successful instruction in the modern society.
However, for many of us, efficient ICT tools in the education sector are just a means to an end. It is well and truly time that educational technology provides us with effective HCI that is sensitive both to individual and group differences across the globe. Indeed it is vital that the online learning environments are designed to be useful, usable and available to everyone. Without the effective integration of the richness of the human-dimensions of human-computer interaction, these wonderful technological tools will remain hidden from those who need them the most.
The book tells a story to encourage us to understand that computing technology could and should serve to enhance the quality of life. This book embraces the social nature of computer usage by emphasizing the wealth of the human-dimensions of HCI. We must remember that technology is meant for human beings; not the reverse.
In many cases of professional IT practice the human-dimensions of HCI still needs to be recognized and addressed: more so when continuously new ICT applications are being developed and used.
One strategy for doing this is compartmentalization and specialization. However, creativity often arises at the boundaries of traditional disciplines. Research involving the social context of HCI, has to bring together skills and knowledge from multiple disciplines. This is crucial to the solution of important problems involving HCI. This book exposes the need for bringing together otherwise disparate disciplines by involving the principles of computer science and educational technologists, with the knowledge and skills from HCI grounded practitioners, within a social science context. The book provides an awareness of how to design and implement efficient and effective human-dimensions of HCI. By taking this multi-disciplinary approach Dr. McKay's book stimulates discussion on computer usage that gives an insightful view both for academics and for ordinary non-technical users.
The Human-Dimensions of HCI speaks to everyone involved in online teaching and learning because it is a book that is written through the eyes of ordinary people. The readers are taken on a journey. Each chapter may not speak directly to every reader, but as the reader progresses through this story, they can adapt and apply their insights to their own situations. The ten chapters are organized into four substantive themes that relate to HCI: the historical perspective of computing development, the human-dimension, the machine-dimension, and the interactive effect of human-machine activities. One chapter addresses important gender aspects using an impressionistic approach. A useful prelude guides readers through the book and provides valuable contextual information.
The strength of The Human-Dimensions of HCI is that it deals with social and psychological aspects with great insight. (Psychosocial aspects are an established concept in the Nordic countries.) The book further addresses the area of collaboration in distributed environments: learning and working at a distance. This is more and more a part of the lifestyle in both professional life and privately in the globalized world. In addition to presenting important HCI issues, the book also deals with ICT tools and explains how they can be designed with an awareness of basic human needs and requirements. The author recognizes the advantages and challenges of using ICTs to transform education. This by supporting social interaction within ordinary communities, non-technical neighborhoods, organisations and individuals around the world.
To conclude The Human-Dimensions of HCI is a “must read book” for all those who set out to improve the world through enhanced educational and learning tools, through effective HCI.
With Dr. McKay's book in hand, people hopefully will get together virtually; and through such personal meetings work for common visions to shape a better world.
Stockholm, New Year 2008