dictionary, "a surface forming a common boundary"), too thin to provide the capabilities for communication and support that people should be getting from computer systems. Most members of the human-computer interface community take the "I" to refer instead to "interaction," but the ability to collaborate ("work with") and not just interact (''act on one another") is becoming increasingly important as people use the NII not just to get individual tasks done, but also to communicate and work with others.
As explained in Chapter 2, the NII's growth is extending civic life and community to include geographically dispersed individuals. It is thus important to expand the conventional conceptualization of interfaces by recognizing that they may involve more than one person and machine and that collaborative systems can either alleviate or exacerbate problems in interactions among individuals with different abilities. As explained by Terry Winograd in his position paper in this volume, the traditional idea of "interface" implies a focus on the person and the machine. In designing interfaces it is important to focus as well on the "interspace" that is inhabited by multiple people and machines in a complex web of interactions. The expanded view this interspace implies adds to-but does not replace-the conventional requirements of interfaces for facilitating communication between person and machine.
With anticipated enhancements in capabilities and reach, the NII may also foster new kinds of collaborations. Recent work on "collaboratories" (Olson et al., 1992) and distance learning over the Web and in multiuser domains (MUDs; Bobrow, 1996) as well as the extensive use that the astronomy and high-energy physics communities make of the Web for large-scale scientific experiments involving widely dispersed people, instruments, and data provide examples of collaborations made possible by networked systems. Graphical interfaces enabling easy access to hyperlinked Web-based documents, for example, have made it much easier for dispersed researchers to share new results, articles, and references within their community than when they had to mail, fax, e-mail, or personally deliver articles to one another. The NII has the similar potential to provide new ways of conducting a range of activities important to every citizen. In health care, for example, there is an increasing emphasis on the construction of large patient care systems that coordinate multiple providers from multiple disciplines and care sites. Network information systems offer the opportunity for new kinds of communication and collaboration and the potential for integrating practices and providers across communities. With the proper support for collaboration and communication, electronic information systems could play a key role in meeting the associated challenges of integrating health care practices, providers, and settings from individuals and families across communities (and individuals with different sensory and cognitive abilities).