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roots in fairly circumscribed zones of disciplinary concern, namely cognitive psychology and human factors engineering. In essence the focus of this line of work is on the human working with a computer-based system.

In the past several years the HCI focus has broadened somewhat to include small groups of individuals each working with a computer-based system but for the purpose of working collaboratively with other members of the group. This is a significantly different conceptual focus, with individuals working through the computer to interact with other individuals. Prominent developments in this domain have been technologies for computer-mediated communication, "groupware," and computer-supported cooperative work. The intellectual roots of this work go beyond cognitive psychology into other realms of the social sciences, especially social psychology, but also into anthropology, organizational psychology and sociology, and economics. The applications of these technologies have caught the attention of scholars interested in fundamental questions of human discourse, social network construction and maintenance, identity and personality formation and expression, and the social construction of meaning and reality. These rapidly growing areas of interest have been stimulated by the stunning speed with which major components of the national information infrastructure such as the Internet and the World Wide Web have invaded social life in all dimensions.

These developments illustrate the evolving capacity of computer-based systems to affect basic human activities and reflect the fact that the concept of "interface" between humans and information technology is an elastic concept that expands to deal with the new opportunities and problems presented by technological change. Three observations can be made from this evolving concern with interface.


The parochial concerns of any particular group that engages interface issues at any given moment tend to appropriate and dominate the evolving meaning of interface-related research. The routine disciplinary politics of research institutions affect researchers in the interface field. Interface research was for many years (and to a considerable degree still is) politically marginalized within the field of academic computer science. Even within the interface field, some researchers whose work is fundamentally grounded in psychology feel themselves to be marginalized by those whose work is based on traditions of engineering in which psychology plays little part. The lesson here is that the dominant definitions of what constitutes the "real" issues in interface research and what constitutes the "right" approaches to doing such research are very misleading. It is necessary to look beyond these politically constructed definitions of what ought to be done and focus on the broader challenges of what emerging applications will require.

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