Issues of Human Computer Interaction

Mark Field (Intellectual Capital Exploitation Team, Porton Down, Salisbury, UK)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Article publication date: 25 April 2008




Field, M. (2008), "Issues of Human Computer Interaction", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 42 No. 2, pp. 188-189.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The title of this collection of articles does the book no favours: many will expect an explication of user experience design, or usability; and while they will find material of use in this book, it takes a deeper and wider view. Arguably, “human computer interaction” in the book's sense is truer to the whole specialism of studying what happens in the functional space where humans and computers engage. It provides access to fairly current thinking on practices, behaviours, perceptions, human factors and learning around the relationship between humans and computers in a series of contexts: industry‐specific, process‐specific and community‐specific.

Such a miscellany needs structure and the editors give us five broadly descriptive sections to help us understand the book as a single entity. The first, “Tools to Improve Usability and Web Design” is described well and is useful, but after that, while there are many useful articles, their grouping is a little forced. None are demonstrably misplaced, but, for example, “Internet and End Users Concerns” contains three excellent articles which deal with issues that will have an impact on end users, but I am not sure that end users worry overmuch about “Interactive Proxy for URL Correction”, or indeed about “The Use of Query Operators and Their Effects on the Results from Web Search Engines”. The last time I watched a user use query operators in a web search engine … well, I have not – ever.

This is the central problem of such books. They contain many articles of merit, which deserve wider attention than the academic stovepipes in which they would otherwise languish, but organising them is a challenge. We should give all credit to the editor for her selection of material for inclusion in this volume, and recognise the challenge she faced in providing a structure to aid navigation. In section 5, we may even argue that assembling a study of: whether IT Professionals think differently (they think as they have learnt to think, like everyone else on the planet); a case study of a UK police call centre (nice, but guess what, call traffic goes up and down and training can always be improved); and group learning with new systems in a hospital (helping each other learn is a good thing) – under the title “Case Studies of Human and Organizational Issues Regarding IT Adoption and Use” actually helps the reader.

There are some real jewels in here, I am very grateful to the editor for her selection of chapter X “Surfacing Occupational Threats to IT‐enabled Change”. This article is insightful, well‐written and timely, it should be revised and re‐issued every year as the introduction to this book, not tucked away under “… IT Adoption and Use”.

This book is well worth reading if you are interested, in a holistic way, about the increasingly well‐defined, but increasingly complex place where tools and environment are not separate entities. It would be easier to get full value from this book if its 372 pages of highly diverse, but consistently good content had more than five pages of index.

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