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Human-Computer Interaction

Aarhus University

About

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) researches the design and use of computer technology, focused on the interfaces between people (users) and computers at all levels, from interfaces tailored towards ‘one user, one computer’ to interfaces for collaborative and large-scale societal use. The unique hallmark of Aarhus HCI is to take users seriously and empower them, both through the design process and by providing alternative technological possibilities. A large, interdisciplinary group has worked with this research focus from the early 1980s onwards.

Recent IT successes and not least failures demonstrate the significance of critical and constructive research into the human aspects of computation in all areas of work life, culture and society. Aarhus University has a unique position, internationally, in addressing the opportunities and challenges concerning how people design and use computers.

History and Legacy

Aarhus University has played a major role in the development of the field of Human-Computer Interaction since the early 1980’s, primarily across the departments of Computer Science, Information Studies and Psychology. HCI at AU has hence been an interdisciplinary stronghold across Art, Psychology (BSS) and Science with a long and continuing tradition, where developing technology for, with and by users has been the focus, rather than technology as the sole object of study itself. In addition, the department of Engineering has, in the last decade, merged with a group from the Aarhus School of Architecture that also does research in this area with a basis in design.

Rooted in the earlier work on Participatory Design research in the departments, Aarhus left a mark on HCI internationally. In the 1990s, the group a.o. had a Danish National Research Foundation (In DK,  Grundforskningsfonden) basic research center together with Risø. More recently the groups have shared the AU interdisciplinary center on Participatory IT (pit.au.dk). We have current funding from many sources including ERC, Horizon 2020 and the Innovation Fund Denmark.

Research wise, the unique hallmark of Aarhus HCI is taking users seriously and empowering them, through the design process and alternative technological possibilities. This was the starting point in the 1980s and remains a profound perspective that we are recognized for world-wide. The overall agenda is to make technologies useful and meaningful in everyday practice. This calls for theoretical, analytical, empirical and design-oriented research. We address human command and control over technology at all levels from use and operation of particular artefacts and interfaces to infrastructuring and design processes. We address understandability and critical reflection. The research comprises building explorative technological solutions, that are explored with users, to inform wider research concerns as an overall method. Our research gains further importance as the humanities are becoming more design-oriented, and we have a very strong focus on this in our groups.

Over the years, the group has had numerous international visitors, both junior and senior researchers. The group has trained numerous PhD students, many of which have gone on to international academic careers. We have attracted prestigious national and international funding. HCI people from AU have played leading roles in organizing many major conferences in the field, and several of these have been held in Aarhus. The group has a strong tradition of creating an innovative conference in Aarhus every 10 years, the most recent edition being held in 2015 (http://conferences.au.dk/aarhus2015/).