Information Interaction

Hallelujah! Ambient Findability is finally in-stock at Amazon. I received my copy on Friday. It's the first full-color animal book, and the images came out great. Plus, it's about the same size as Don't Make Me Think, which must be a good thing. But it didn't feel real until today when the words "Usually ships within 24 hours" appeared on Amazon.

So, in celebration, here's a brief excerpt:

In 1995, Nahum Gershon coined the term "Human Information Interaction" (HII) to denote "how human beings interact with, relate to, and process information regardless of the medium connecting the two." Since then, the term has been widely adopted by the traditional information science and retrieval communities. Gary Marchionini of the UNC School of Information and Library Science explains "the IR problem itself has fundamentally changed and a new paradigm of information interaction has emerged." [1]

This paradigm is characterized by highly interactive interfaces, user-centered methods, and a sensitivity to the dynamic, multi-channel nature of information seeking behavior. Researchers in Human Information Interaction draw insight and inspiration from the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) while recognizing they face unique challenges. As Elaine Toms suggests, "(the) unstructured, complex problem-solving task (of information seeking) cannot be reduced in a predictable way to a set of routine Goals, Operators, Methods, and Selections (GOMS)." [2]

In other words, the complexity of information interaction is not expressed well in typical models of human-computer interaction. HCI approaches are optimal for software applications and interfaces where designers can exercise great control over form and function. HII approaches are optimal for networked information systems where control is sacrificed for interoperability. In such environments, users may find and interact with information objects through a variety of devices and interfaces. The emphasis shifts from interface to information.

Incidentally, I've been invited by Peter Pirolli and William Jones to participate in a proposed panel at CHI 2006 to debate whether we need a separate field of human-information interaction. Given the venue, things could get interesting!

Correction: Ambient Findability is the second full color animal book. Web Mapping Illustrated was first. But Ambient Findability is the first with a color animal on the cover.

I'm glad to see that GOMS has a replacement. I learned it in college just as I was starting to learn about surfing the net to find things and it was oh so clearly the wrong model for that activity.

An interesting perspective on this is not to consider the human in isolation with the computer at the other end, but to look at the problem solving behavior and skills and tools needed to successfully do the three party person-person-computer exchange, e.g. anything from two people sharing a keyboard to look through Google like I was doing this morning, all the way to computer-assisted phone operators answering call center calls.

Congratulations on the book!

I mused about this a while back, and didn't realise that anyone else was thinking it, so now I'm doubly interested in reading the book: