Human-Centered Computing: A New Degree for Licklider’s World – CACM
I am on the editorial board for the Viewpoints section of Communications of the ACM, and I take care of the education column. Occasionally, I write the piece. For the most recent CACM, I wrote a piece that is explicitly about our Human-Centered Computing PhD and implicitly about computing education research.
I wanted to write about how our HCC PhD is different than a CS PhD, and I realized that I could tell the story best in terms of the HCC PhD students who informed my understanding of computing education: Mike Hewner, Betsy DiSalvo, and Erika Poole. I struggled with the overall story, until I learned that Licklider’s degrees were mostly in psychology. I realized that if Licklider were studying today, he probably would get an HCC PhD, and that became my story.
In the 1960s, J.C.R. Licklider described his vision for the future of computing, which is remarkably like today’s world. He saw computing as augmenting human intelligence, and for communications among communities. He foresaw cloud computing and the Semantic Web. Licklider’s background was different than many of the early computer scientists. He was not an electrical engineer or primarily a mathematician—his degrees were mostly in psychology.
To predict today’s world took a combination of computing and psychology. It is not surprising that understanding today’s world of ubiquitous computing requires a blend of computing and social science. The phenomena of social computing are not primarily about technology. What is interesting about our modern computing milieu is the blend of technology, humans, and community. Human-centered computing is a new subdiscipline of computer science that prepares students for studying our socio-technical world.