Friday, November 1, 2013

"Not a math person" in HCI

"Math is the area where America's 'fallacy of inborn ability' is the most entrenched."

"I'm not a math person" is an unfortunate sentiment that lots of kids echo when they're grumbling through homework, explaining bad grades, or choosing majors. Other people (like the above) have pointed out why this is Not a Great Thing more eloquently than I.

HCI kind of lives between CS, Design, and Psych/Cognitive Science. It's so new, nobody's totally clear on what the whole scope of the field is, and indeed, maybe that's a dumb question. It's also so broad; anything where humans and computers interact. What's submitted to UIST will be totally different than something submitted to CSCW. As a result, everyone (at least at CMU) is an HCI student, but also (and sometimes primarily) a computer scientist, a designer, or a psychologist.

Point: this influences people to stay in their "major", rather than approach problems cross-disciplinarily.

Counterpoint: well, we humans need to categorize things somehow, in order to understand, for example, what certain professors or students work on.

Point: Fine, I guess. But be very clear when you're pigeonholing people, and do it as rarely as possible.

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