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Every now and then it's a good idea to read a book that's a little too hard for you. This book, published for the Association for Computing Machinery, is a comprehensive look at the state of research in human-computer interaction (HCI). While I've spent a great deal of time over the past year reading about HCI and thinking about how urban planning and online environment design intersect, the depth and breadth of issues addressed by the contributors to Human-Computer Interaction in the New Millennium provided a welcome challenge.
The first two parts of the book, Models, Theories, and Frameworks, and Usability Engineering Methods and Concepts, discuss the theoretical framework of HCI. The chapters in these two sections assume the reader is conversant in the popular theoretical models of HCI, such as the EPIC model and the ACT-R-PM model. I am not familiar with those models and didn't have time to look up the sources to which the authors referred, so I'm not qualified to comment on the majority of work in the first two sections. I do have the background from studying process re-engineering and flexible manufacturing systems to appreciate Kim Vicente's "HCI in the Global Knowledge-Based Economy: Designing to Support Worker Adaptation" (Chapter 7). His discussion of cognitive work analysis eschews the rigidity of a Taylorist task model and instead seeks "a flexible constraint-based approach", which offers designers more room to increase or decrease invasions into the process.
The remaining five parts of the book contain material that should be within the understanding of any graduate or advanced undergraduate student. One chapter that stands out is Chapter 15, "Social Translucence: Designing Systems that Support Social Processes". In this chapter, Erickson and Kellogg discuss how the ability to see what the other inhabitants of a digital space are doing helps participants communicate. The authors analyze how persistent records of conversations and postings on asynchronous message boards, along with graphic representations of participants involved in a discussion (much like the link analysis tools used to analyze connections among individuals in the popular press), establish social proxies participants can use to make sense of their interactions.
(The authors also discuss the privacy ramifications of such a system, including the ability to create a private chat between two individuals. For a more radical thought experiment in the privacy/translucency trade-off, see David Brin's The Transparent Society.)
In brief, Human-Computer Interaction in the New Millennium provides a comprehensive look at the current state of HCI research and points out many interesting paths for further research. I don't doubt that more knowledgeable readers will get even more out of the book than I did.
Curtis D. Frye (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the editor and chief reviewer of Technology and Society Book Reviews. He is the author of three online courses and nine books , including Privacy-Enhanced Business from Quorum Books.