Toward an Ordinary Citizen Interface to the National Information Infrastructure

Marjory S. Blumenthal


Marjory S. Blumenthal
Computer Science & Telecommunications Board
National Research Council
2101 Constitution Avenue, NW © HA©560
Washington, DC 20418
Phone: 202/334-2605
Fax: 202/334-2318

WWW PAGE (Academy complex) and (specific, but temporary)


Usability and User-Centered Design.


interface, usability, design, collaboration, multimodality, infrastructure


The spread of information systems and, in particular, information infrastructure throughout the economy and social fabric raises questions about the ease of use by all kinds of people, especially those with limited technical acumen or know-how and those with various disabilities. In response to a request from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board will bring together an interdisciplinary group (computer scientists and other relevant disciplines) to evaluate and suggest fruitful directions for progress in user interfaces. The project will involve a two-day workshop and produce a summary report with analysis derived from deliberations by the steering committee. A workshop will serve to bring together individuals from different disciplines, perspectives/schools of thought, and activities (research, product development, and so on) to identify and begin to narrow down the capabilities of desirable ordinary citizen interfaces (OCIs). It could determine the state-of-the-art of research in CS and other disciplines, identify the questions most important to investigate next [because they get us part way from where we are to where we'd like to be and are ripe for attack/solution], identify what is known from research on the longer-term problems that will aid in near-term human-computer communications design, and identify important long-term research issues. Further, there is a need to promote university-industry collaboration to provide reality-checks on the utility of research and to create theoretical bases for development, enhancing the application of research.


Selections from the CSTB portfolio, published by National Academy Press, Washington, DC:


The Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) was established in 1986 to provide independent advice to the federal government on technical and public policy issues relating to computing and communications. It is an operating unit of the National Research Council (NRC), which is the principal working arm of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine--three honorific entities to which distinguished experts in their fields are elected by their peers. Composed of leaders in the field from industry and academia, CSTB conducts studies of critical national issues that recommend actions or changes in actions by government, industry, and academic researchers. CSTB also provides a neutral meeting ground for consideration and focusing of complex issues where resolution and action may be premature. It convenes invitational discussion sessions that bring together principals from the public and private sectors to share perspectives on all sides of an issue, assuring that the debate is not dominated by the loudest voices.

Given CSTB's mission, composition, and institutional position, it is by definition cross- and interdisciplinary: it engages individuals and issues from across the disciplines of computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and other fields (e.g., economics and other social sciences, law, management) as appropriate to a given project. In this project the steering
committee and ultimately the larger group would draw from relevant subdisciplines from computer science (artificial intelligence, software engineering, data bases, decision support systems, networking, graphics, speech, virtual reality, user interfaces, etc.); human factors; anthropology; psychology and cognitive science; and design (industrial, architectural).


See project references above.


All--this project is cross-cutting and cross-disciplinary by design:

virtual environments, speech and natural language understanding, other communication modalities, adaptive human interfaces, intelligent interactive systems for persons with disabilities.


CSTB is also launching other projects that relate to interactive systems in the areas of untethered communications systems, more effective modeling and simulation systems for defense applications, and enhancing privacy and security in health care information infrastructure. Suggestions of individuals to consult or otherwise involve and useful resources would be most welcome.