Research in Human-Computer Interaction

With the emergence of the "personal computing" paradigm in the 1970s, computers moved out of the machine room and became devices with which end-users would interact directly. The field of HCI grew up in response to the engineering and cognitive challenges of building systems that fit with user needs. The field of HCI has broadened considerably since then, reflecting the influence of new disciplines (e.g. sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, communication, design) and the emergence of new areas of interest (e.g. physical and tangible computing, mobile and ubiquitous systems).

In previous years, we have taught a single graduate HCI class. We found, though, that there are two broad constituencies for this class -- those who wish to understand design fundamentals and methods that they can apply in their own work (at UCI or beyond), and those who intend to conduct doctoral research in HCI. Accordingly, this year, we have split the class into 231A, for people with a practical interest, and 231B, for people with a theoretical interest.

In this class, we will examine current research issues in Human-Computer Interaction, largely through reading current research papers. A familiarity with the basic topics and techniques of HCI will be assumed. You will also undertake a research project connected to a topic of the class, which will be the primary basis for evaluation. The class is organized with two primary goals. The first is to make students familiar with the current range of problems and questions being addressed in HCI research. The second is to look at how HCI research proceeds -- how HCI approaches its topic and how HCI research is conducted.

Grades will be based on participation in online and in-class discussion, and on a quarter-long project to be conducted in groups of two or three.

Weekly Discussions

Most of the quarter is structured around in-class discussions of readings (see schedule below). For each class, two students will be selected to lead the discussion. Everyone else should post a response to the readings online, due 24 hours before the class starts (in order to give the discussion leaders time to use them to prepare for the discussion.) Your participation in discussions, online and in class, will be one component of your grade for the class.

Discussion responses should be posted on the class wiki. You can login using your UCINet ID.


The second component of your evaluation is a project, to be conducted in groups of two or three. We'll make time in the first few classes for you to discuss ideas and form groups.

You should plan to undertake a piece of research in an area of HCI. The important focus here is that it is a research project, rather than a development effort. That is, you should (1) have a specific research question that you are asking, (2) be grounded in research literature, and (3) substantiate an answer with data.

Obviously, in a ten week quarter, it's impossible to formulate, conduct, and write up a substantial research project; but nonetheless, although the projects will be necessarily modest in scope, they can still maintain a research focus.


The readings are stored on UCI's webfiles service. To gain access, you will first need an activated UCINet ID, and then to register for a Webfiles account.

9/29 Introduction and course overview
10/1 Seminal ideas and starting points.
10/6 Theoretical Foundations (Discussion: Justin, Kyle)
  • Hollan, J., Hutchins, E., and Kirsh, D. 2000. Distributed Cognition, ACM Trans. Computer-Human Interaction;
  • Bertelsen, O. and Bodker, S. 2003. Activity Theory, HCI Models, Theories, and Frameworks: Toward a Multidisciplinary Science.

See also: the CHI94 toolglass video; Beaudouin-Lafon's paper on instrumental interaction; excerpt from Pyschology of Everyday Things; Kirsch's Intelligent Use of Space; and Hutchins' How a Cockpit Remembers its Speed.

10/8 Methods and Evaluation (Discussion: Josef, Patrick)
10/10 End of Week 2: Project teams due
10/13 Fieldwork and ethnography (Discussion: Catherine, Francisco)
10/15 Prototyping and design (Discussion: Marisa, Matt)
10/17 End of Week 3: Project abstract drafts due
10/20 Ubiquitous computing (Discussion: Patrick, Phoebe)
10/22 Information Visualization (Discussion: Kyle, Josef)
10/24 End of Week 4: Finalized project abstracts due
10/27 Information seeking (Discussion: Phoebe, Justin)
10/29 Social computing (Discussion: Patrick, Marisa)
11/3 Project meetings
11/5 Project meetings
11/10 Tools and Toolkits (Discussion: Kyle, Matt)
11/12 No meeting Paul at CSCW 2008 conference
11/17 Critical design (Discussion: Marisa, Josef)
11/19 Affect and emotion (Discussion: Kyle, Justin)
11/24 Persuasion (Discussion: Marisa, Francisco)
11/26 Pre-Thanksgiving break
12/1 Project presentations
12/3 Project presentations
12/05 End of Week 10: Research reports due by 5pm