Being Human – Human Computer Interaction in 2020

If the only brain food you eat this week is the new report from Microsoft research then you won’t be going far wrong.

The report is the results of a 2 day long forum, held in March 2007, which attempted to identify where Human Computer Interaction (HCI) will be in the next decade, and beyond.

The central theme of the report is the need to change HCI research and design to enable human values to be incorporated into technology.  Technology has already transformed people’s lives massively but there is an increasing focus on how technology can support their lives, and help them achieve the things which are important to them.

It’s easy with this kind of report to read it and say ‘so what?’. But a few years ago none of us expected to be adding chat functions, pod or vod-casts or RSS feeds to our websites. We certainly did not anticipate, for example, the growth of social networking sites and the affect this would have on the students we teach or the way they communicate.

One of the areas the report examines is the growth of Hyper Connectivity where more people are connected to each other, over greater distances and at any time. Will, for example, the physical location of a university continue to be as important? When a student can access massive amounts of learning materials on the web will a proffessor continue to occupy such a revered position? As mobile devices become more powerful, what changes will occur to work and home life when physical location ceases to be as important?

This report reminds us that the internet is still young and that we’ve barely started seeing the ways it can change people’s lives. The way universities teach, communicate and market their courses will be affected by the changes likely to happen in the near future. But, as this report emphasises, human values, and knowledge of what people consider important, remain key to the success of using technology, such as the web, for achieving our goals.


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