Where Do HCI Theory and Practice Meet?

Terry Winograd, Stanford Computer Science Dept.


Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University February 7, 2003

Much of the work in HCI proceeds in a pragmatic, atheoretical style, employing generalizations at the level of metaphors, guidelines, patterns, and informal principles. Since the earliest days of the field there have been attempts to apply theories of cognitive psychology to HCI design, with some small successes and overall mixed results. Other theoretical frameworks dealing with human thought and action have been proposed as the basis for design, such as activity theory, speech act theory, and phenomenology. Each of these provides a broad orientation to human-computer interaction, and in some cases they have been employed directly in the design of the interactions.This talk is a reflection on some of the specific successes and problems that have emerged in applying theory to HCI design, and see what lessons can be learned from them.

Terry Winograd is Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, where he directs the Interactivity Laboratory and the teaching and research program in Human-Computer Interaction Design. He is one of the principal investigators in the Stanford Digital Libraries Project and the Interactive Workspaces Project. He is currently on sabbatical at Google, a search engine company founded by Stanford students from his projects.

His early research on natural language understanding by computers (SHRDLU) was the basis for two books and numerous articles. "Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design" (Addison-Wesley, 1987, co-authored with Fernando Flores) took a critical look at work in artificial intelligence and suggested new directions for the integration of computer systems into human activity. He co-edited a volume on usability with Paul Adler, ("Usability: Turning Technologies into Tools" Oxford, 1992) and edited "Bringing Design to Software" (Addison-Wesley, 1996).
Winograd was a founder of Action Technologies, a developer of workflow software, and was a founding member of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, of which he is a past national president.

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