PhD Course  Program of the course "Human-Centered Computing Themes for the Future"

(Prof. Gerhard Fischer)


The course will explore different, but interrelated themes that are considered to be of fundamental importance in shaping human-centered computing in the future. These themes are described briefly.


Cultures of Participation

Cultures are defined in part by their media and their tools for thinking, working, learning, and collaborating. In the past, the design of most media emphasized a clear distinction between producers and consumers. The rise in social computing has facilitated a shift from consumer cultures (specialized in producing finished artifacts to be consumed passively) to cultures of participation (in which all people are provided with the means to participate and to contribute actively in personally meaningful problems). These developments represent unique and fundamental opportunities, challenges, and transformativechanges for innovative research and practice in human-centered computing as we move away from a world in which a small number of people define rules, create artifacts, make decisions for many consumers towards a world in which everyone has interests and possibilities to actively participate. The course will discuss theoretical foundations and system developments for understanding, fostering, and supporting cultures of participation grounded in the basic assumption that innovative technological developments are necessary for cultures of participation, but they are not sufficient. Socio-technical environments are needed because cultures of participation are not dictated by technology: they are the result of changes in human behavior and social organization in which active contributors engage in innovative design, adoption, and adaptation of technologies to their needs and in collaborative knowledge construction.

Slides: PDF



In a world that is not predictable, improvisation, evolution, and innovation are more than a luxury: they are a necessity. The challenge of design is not a matter of getting rid of the emergent, but rather of including it and making it an opportunity for more creative and more adequate solutions to problems. The course will discuss meta-design as an emerging conceptual framework aimed at defining and creating social and technical infrastructures in which new forms of collaborative design can take place. It extends the traditional notion of system design beyond the original development of a system to include a co-adaptive process between users and a system, in which the users become co-developers or co-designers. 

Slides: PDF


Social Creativity

The power of the unaided individual mind is highly overrated. Although society often thinks of creative individuals as working in isolation, intelligence and creativity result in large part from interaction and collaboration with other individuals. Much human creativity is social, arising from activities that take place in a context in which interaction with other people and the artifacts that embody collective knowledge are essential contributors. The course will discuss: (1) how individual and social creativity can be integrated by means of proper collaboration models and tools supporting distributed cognition; (2) how the creation of shareable externalizations (“boundary objects”) and the adoption of evolutionary process models in the construction of meta-design environments can enhance creativity and support spontaneous design activities; and (3) how a new design competence is emerging—one that requires passage from individual creative actions to synergetic activities, from the reflective practitioner to reflective communities, and from given tasks to personally meaningful activities.

Slides: PDF


Distributed Cognition

In the traditional view human cognition has been seen as existing solely 'inside' a person's head, and studies on cognition have by and large disregarded the social, physical, and artifactual surroundings in which cognition takes place. In todays view, cognition is best understood as being distributed in several different dimensions:

- being distributed across the members of a social group
- involving coordination between internal and external structures
- being distributed over time.

The lecture will illustrate the claim that distributed cognition provides an effective theoretical framework for understanding what humans can achieve and how artifacts, tools, and socio-technical environments can be designed and evaluated to empower humans beings and to change tasks. The framework of distributed cognition will be illustrated in different application contexts including:

- learning, education, and instruction
- social creativity
- cognitive disabilities and assistive technology

Slides: PDF


Context-Aware Systems

"The 'right' information, at the 'right' time, in the 'right' place, in the 'right' way to the 'right' person". This lecture will develop a new theoretical framework for context-aware systems to address this challenge transcending existing frameworks that limited their concerns to particular aspects of context-awareness and paid little attention to potential pitfalls. The framework is based on insights derived from the development and assessment of a variety of different systems that we have developed over the last twenty years to explore different dimensions of context awareness. Specific challenges, guidelines, and design trade-offs (promises and pitfalls) are derived from the framework for the design of the next generation of context-aware systems to support advanced interfaces for assisting humans (individuals and groups) to become more knowledgeable, more productive, and more creative by emphasizing context awareness as a fundamental design requirement.

Slides: PDF


Learning and Education in the 21st Century

This lecture will identify challenges for Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning at Work (CSCL@Work) by arguing that learning at work transcends our current understanding of learning as derived either from school learning or from current practices in adult education. The paper develops a number of themes defining a conceptual framework for CSCL@Work including the following: distributed cognition, integration of problem framing and solving, communities of interest, and meta-design, cultures of participation, and social creativity as approaches to learning when the answer is not known. It illustrates the framework with two narratives, identifies some trade-offs and barriers, and briefly reflects on the impact and future of CSCL@Work.

Slides: PDF

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