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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