4 min

What is Human-Centered Computing and Why It Matters

Human-centered computing (HCC) is the study of how to better bridge the gap between computing systems and humans.

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What is Human-Centered Computing?

Human-centered computing (HCC) is the study of how to better bridge the gap between computing systems and humans. This field includes software, hardware, the digital workspace, and any other computing system intended for human use. HCC seeks to center the process of computing system design around human needs and the augmentation of our abilities.

Individuals involved in the field often come from disparate disciplines in support of better human-computer interaction (HCI), including computer science, sociology, psychology, and graphic and industrial design. HCC incorporates human factors in computer system design and computing practices, such as social and cultural factors, and leverages a multidisciplinary to solve challenges rather than a purely technological approach.

The Challenges and Benefits of HCC

Traditionally, computing technologies have been developed in isolation from their societal and cultural contexts, and HCC seeks to shift this paradigm. According to Human-Centered Computing: Toward a Human Revolution, HCC can help humanity in wealth distribution, environmental sustainability, and access to education and healthcare services for individuals who may not otherwise have these opportunities by making computer systems easier to use and more accessible to the average user worldwide.

The time for change is ripe with decreasing computing costs and greater worldwide accessibility to the Internet. People who learn and adapt to technology have greater opportunity in today’s world, and HCC seeks to help users of all cultural backgrounds benefit from access to computing resources, eliminating barriers to access such as language and education.

 “Today with privacy issues, exchange of data, and with health and safety regarding social media and augmented reality the field needs to maintain a sort of ethical perspective in not only understanding how humans and machines interact but also in how people might be treated inhumanely by the systems we design.” – Andrew Wasowicz, Senior UX Product Designer at CDW

HCC Examples and Scope

The US National Science Foundation lists the following HCC topics of focus:

  • Developing systems for solving problems with users in distributed environments, like Internet-based systems, sensor-based information networks, and mobile/wearable tech

  • Multimedia interfaces that people use to communicate with one another, including images, videos, speech, text, graphics, gestures, and any other form of human communication like haptics and brain-computer interfaces

  • Human-centered multimedia (HCM) is further broken down into the following categories:

    • Production – the creation of media
      • Example- how color and music convey story elements and how that differs across cultures
    • Analysis – the automatic analysis of HCM to provide structure to content
      • Example – data mining social media or search engine data informing what content/ads are shown to users
    • Interaction – helping humans interacts with computers (and ultimately with each other) in natural ways
      • Example – VR meetings in the metaverse where you can make eye contact with other attendees
  • Computer animation

  • Augmented and virtual reality

  • Creative computing, including video, audio, text and multimedia used to assist in creative expression

  • Assistive/adaptive technology to help users with physical, cognitive or social impairments access information. This includes the study of individual, social and cultural factors and their impacts on computer system usability

  • System design, or the transformation of different forms of computation to better respond to the needs of humans

  • Domain-specific HCI for sectors such as healthcare and education meant to boost HCC

Comparing HCC and HCI

HCI is an aspect of HCC. HCI address the need for user-friendly interfaces and usability engineering, while HCC covers a much wider domain.

According to HCC Interdisciplinary Consortium at UC Berkeley, HCC is “conceived as a theme that is important for all computer-related research, not as a field which overlaps or is a sub-discipline of computer science.”

HCC considers many factors HCI does not, including social/cultural awareness, the consideration/augmentation of human abilities, and the incorporation of applied learning, social and cognitive sciences into its approach.

Why is HCC Important?

The shift from technology-centric to human-centric system design can further unlock the ability of humans to leverage technology to their advantage and provide greater cohesion with one another. With the explosion of available data comes the need to harness it and use it to our advantage, but as the technology develops, we need to make sure it is to the benefit of humankind and not to the detriment. CDW can help your organization harness a sea of data and produce valuable insights from it through our business intelligence and data management solutions.

Contact CDW to attend a virtual workshop with our Analytics team to better understand your data landscape and learn more about operational analytics and how it can benefit your organization.