The Essence of Human Computer Interaction


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 1 March 2000




Hutton, D.M. (2000), "The Essence of Human Computer Interaction", Kybernetes, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 239-248.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Published under the jacket‐label: “Essence of computing”, a concentrated and well flavoured distillation was expected. Unfortunately reducing the Human Computer Interface (HCI), which is still recognised in cybernetics by its original title – Man‐Machine Interface (MMI), to a concentrated essence removes much that may be trivial and regarded as peripheral to a duller and less fascinating study. The challenge of HCI or MMI has always been that of understanding what is meant by interactions between a human being and a machine that may or may not be programmed in some simple or complex way by another set of humans, or even other machines. It is simplistic to think of an interface in any other way.

This book looks at what can only be called a subset of the subject. There would be no complaints if it was titled accordingly. What it does do is to highlight a “modern” approach to a field that changes so rapidly as more and more advanced technology produces more versatile machines. It fails therefore to provide the depth a systemist or cybernetician would expect in such a title. It is redeemed, however, by some of its discussions, particularly when it takes a more psychological approach to the subject.

The text does convince the computer scientist that much of what is being developed in the HCI field has only a very short life. Books about the changing HCI world are, of course, necessary, and descriptions of currently developed HCI systems are essential for both user and practitioner. Books about the subject written for readers who wish to study these complex interfaces in real depth are also essential. Unfortunately the reviewed book falls somewhere in between and although well written from the point of view of its style it fails to meet either goal.

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