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CHAPTER: 2:

HUMAN-CENTERED INFORMATION SYSTEMS (HCIS)

2.1 INTRODUCTION

Human Centered Information System is about the ability to analyze,


comprehend, and understand the complex human, organizational, and technological
contexts that any use of an ICT-system will enter. But it is also about the ability to
design, recreate, and change both the ICT-system and their context of use. It is about
the ability to see the potential for innovation in new technologies, like social software
and Web 2.0, and to use these to create positive, meaningful, and useful changes that
account for ethical, social, political, and human concerns - because it is the human, not
the technology that has to be central.

Changing and recreating ICT-use in organizations and complex work-relations


is far from only a technological development process. On the contrary, it is primarily
about social and organizational development, about communication between the many
interested parties, about inclusion of new users, about user driven innovation
organization development, ethical concerns, and learning.[4]

Human Centered Informatics is about creating the best opportunities for


knowledge and learning to unfold. The challenge may be to develop and design IT-
supported learning, where pedagogic and learning concerns are important or the
challenge may be to represent, formalize, structuralize, and organize knowledge, and
create useful information architectures.

In the last several years there has been a growing national awareness that the
ways in which humans interact with and relate to information systems are critical to
achieving high levels of service and functionality. Improvements in computing and
communications are only a part of what is needed to reach the potential of new
information technologies. While there are predictions for faster computers and more
connectivity, there are yet few organized programs focusing on how individuals,
groups, and communities will interact with the technology in institutional settings to
extract useful information for decision making and for general knowledge expansion.

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Speed and connectivity are not enough to make "system" useful as "information
engine."[5]

The possibility of achieving new capabilities through human-centered


information systems and technologies is an opportunity for broad societal impact. It
holds the promise of redefining national competitiveness and productivity, for
improving the general workforce, and creating a more informed and educated citizenry
as we enter more deeply into the information age. Many of the functional failures of
major operational systems have been couched in the vague term "operator error." Such
phrases hint at knowledge gaps regarding how humans, groups and organizations
interact with computing and communication systems. Current system design
methodologies and requirements definition still tend to focus on the architecture of
software and hardware, discounting higher level issues, ones that address individuals,
groups, communities, and the nature of collaboration environments. [6]

2.2 HUMAN–COMPUTER INTERACTION:

Human–computer interaction (HCI) is the study, planning and design of the


interaction between people (users) and computers. It is often regarded as the
intersection of computer science, behavioral sciences, design and several other fields of
study. Interaction between users and computers occurs at the user interface (or simply
interface), which includes both software and hardware; for example, characters or
objects displayed by software on a personal computer's monitor, input received from
users via hardware peripherals such as keyboards and mice, and other user interactions
with large-scale computerized systems such as aircraft and power plants. The
Association for Computing Machinery defines human-computer interaction as "a
discipline concerned with the design, evaluation and implementation of interactive
computing systems for human use and with the study of major phenomena surrounding
them."

An important facet of HCI is the securing of user satisfaction. Because human-


computer interaction studies a human and a machine in conjunction, it draws from
supporting knowledge on both the machine and the human side. On the machine side,
techniques in computer graphics, operating systems, programming languages, and
development environments are relevant. On the human side, communication theory,
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graphic and industrial design disciplines, linguistics, social sciences, cognitive


psychology, and human factors are relevant. Engineering and design methods are also
relevant. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of HCI, people with different backgrounds
contribute to its success. HCI is also sometimes referred to as Man–Machine
Interaction (MMI) or Computer–Human Interaction (CHI) and generally we call
the phenomenon as Ergonomics

The human–computer interface can be described as the point of communication


between the human user and the computer. The flow of information between the human
and computer is defined as the loop of interaction. The loop of interaction has several
aspects to it including:

• Task Environment: The conditions and goals set upon the user.
• Machine Environment: The environment that the computer is connected to, i.e.
a laptop in a college student's dorm room.
• Areas of the Interface: Non-overlapping areas involve processes of the human
and computer not pertaining to their interaction. Meanwhile, the overlapping
areas only concern themselves with the processes pertaining to their interaction.
• Input Flow: The flow of information that begins in the task environment, when
the user has some task that requires using their computer.
• Output: The flow of information that originates in the machine environment.
• Feedback: Loops through the interface that evaluate, moderate, and confirm
processes as they pass from the human through the interface to the computer
and back.[7][8]

2.2.1 Goals of Human-Computer Interaction:

A basic goal of HCI is to improve the interactions between users and computers
by making computers more usable and receptive to the user's needs. Specifically, HCI
is concerned with:

• methodologies and processes for designing interfaces (i.e., given a task and a
class of users, design the best possible interface within given constraints,
optimizing for a desired property such as learnability or efficiency of use)
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• methods for implementing interfaces (e.g. software toolkits and libraries;


efficient algorithms)
• techniques for evaluating and comparing interfaces
• developing new interfaces and interaction techniques
• developing descriptive and predictive models and theories of interaction

A long term goal of HCI is to design systems that minimize the barrier between
the human's cognitive model of what they want to accomplish and the computer's
understanding of the user's task. Professional practitioners in HCI are usually designers
concerned with the practical application of design methodologies to real-world
problems. Their work often revolves around designing graphical user interfaces and
web interfaces.

Researchers in HCI are interested in developing new design methodologies,


experimenting with new hardware devices, prototyping new software systems,
exploring new paradigms for interaction, and developing models and theories of
interaction.

2.3 TECHNICAL CONTENT AND R&D AGENDA

The HCIS goals are to augment human capabilities to manage and use
information through advances in five primary research and technology areas. Research
programs or projects may aim at advances in either a few technology threads or,
perhaps, in all of them, depending on the specific research targets.

Technology R&D Thread Goal


Representation Improved representation of real and synthetic
information for effective human use.
Interactivity Improved interaction between humans, agents,
systems and information environments

Cognition Improved computational, modeling and learning


capabilities for information processing and
understanding.
Corpora Improved organization, access capabilities and
content to facilitate human access,
manipulation and comprehension
Agents Improved interactive environments, agents, tools
and test bed
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Table 2.1: HCIS Research Goal Threads

2.4 RELATIONSHIP TO CIC STRATEGIC FOCUS AREAS

The NSTC Committee on Information and Communications [CIC95] User-


centered Interfaces and Tools Strategic Focus Area is addressed directly by the HCIS
research and development agenda as is the Virtual Environments Strategic Focus Area.
In addition to these, however, basic scientific research on human learning and cognition
and application of that understanding in information technology will be required to
develop and support Human Resources and Education. Virtual environments will be
used for life-long learning as well as skill maintenance. Relevant education will depend
not so much on cycles, software, or connectivity but on the development of information
literacy and computational model literacy to be gained by working with human-
centered information systems.

The relationship of HCIS technologies to High Confidence Systems research


and development is based to a large extent on the degree to which confidence is
achieved by keeping the human in the loop yet enabling higher quality, more effective
information use. Issues of operator error will be understood and eliminated in the
design of human-centered information systems. HCIS technologies also complement
and build upon Global-scale Information Infrastructure. Distributed virtual
environments and user interfaces will rely on and set parameters for the development
and use of global information infrastructure.

On of the most important issues to be addressed in this area for HCIS is that of
how information systems scale when every citizen accesses the Internet and demands
peak performance. Finally, HCIS technologies are complementary to and build on High
Performance and Scalable Systems. New scalability parameters must be added to
existing models to account for issues that depend on the number, type, and distribution
of users, groups, and organizations and the applications they will use.

2.5 RATIONALE

Some unique rationales for investments in HCIS technologies can be identified:


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2.5.1 Information Value:

As society moves from a focus on systems to a focus on information, the need


for better understanding of information itself becomes central. Information must be
understood in terms of its value to the individual, group, or organization. The varied
intentions of the user population determine parameters of information value. Any
evaluation criteria for the success of computing and communications must include an
assessment of the value of the information delivered.

2.5.2 Performance and Productivity:

Notions of high performance in the next generation computing capabilities must


be expanded from previous machine performance concepts to the level of human work
itself. Productivity is a primary aim of high performance and is normally judged for
individuals, groups and organizations. The expected advances in high performance and
productivity require new investments in research and development to understand
productivity as applied to human-centered information systems.

2.5.3 Tractability of Productivity Problems:

There are many problems that remain intractable when merely increasing the
scales of speed, data size, or connectivity. Information use and management among
networked organizations that are in dynamic flux are increasing problems in terms of
heterogeneous information requirements and mixed computing and communications
resources. Such user environments inject new problems that affect productivity.