University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Crucible/Microsoft HCI Reading Group > Let's stop pushing the envelope and start addressing it: a reference task agenda for HCI

Let's stop pushing the envelope and start addressing it: a reference task agenda for HCI

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Alan Blackwell.

The paper we will be discussing is:

Whittaker, S., Terveen, L., and Nardi, B. (2000). Let’s stop pushing the envelope and start addressing it: a reference task agenda for HCI . Human Computer Interaction, 15, 75-106.

This paper is available online at: http://dagda.shef.ac.uk/is/people/stafpage/whittake/reference_task_hci2000.pdf

Original abstract: We identify a problem with the process of research in the HCI community an overemphasis on radical invention at the price of achieving a common research focus. Without such a focus, it is difficult to build on previous work, to compare different interaction techniques objectively, and to make progress in developing theory. These problems at the research level have implications for practice, too; as researchers we often are unable to give principled design advice to builders of new systems. We propose that the HCI community try to achieve a common focus around the notion of reference tasks. We offer arguments for the advantages of this approach, as well as considering potential difficulties. We explain how reference tasks have been highly effective in focussing research into information retrieval and speech recognition. We discuss what factors have to be considered in selecting HCI reference tasks and present an example reference task (for searching speech archives). We conclude with recommendations about necessary steps to execute the reference task research agenda, including both required technical research, as well as changes in HCI research community practice. The technical research involves: identification of important user tasks by systematic requirements gathering; definition and operationalisation of reference tasks and evaluation metrics; execution of task-based evaluation along with judicious use of field trials. Perhaps more important, we also suggest changes in HCI community practice. We must create forums for discussion of common tasks and methods by which people can compare systems and techniques. Only through this can the notion of reference tasks be integrated into the process of research and development, enabling the field to achieve the focus it desperately needs.

Rubric for the reading group: Everyone attending is expected to read the paper in advance. Please bring a copy with you, preferably annotated with interesting reflections. The format of discussion will be a brief invited introduction/critique by two members of the group, followed by general discussion and informal mixing.

This talk is part of the Crucible/Microsoft HCI Reading Group series.

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