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Paul T Kidd's User Centric ICT Home Page

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User Centric ICT

Experts know best—this is one of the core values of people such as scientists, engineers and technologist. And they are wrong—very wrong! No where is this more apparent than with Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in circumstances where there are people who experts call, users. User-centricity is a heresy that puts users at the centre of the development of ICT, not as people to comment on proposals and test prototypes, but as co-developers. And this is not just about the design of interfaces, but also about functionality, i.e. what the computer does, and who decides, and the nature of the relationship that is created between people and computers by virtue of the details of the design (e.g. which algorithms are used).


Engineers and technologists often do not know how to cope with this, for the user-centric process is one of power sharing with people who are not experts. To those with a techno-centric mind-set, this idea is often seen as a sacrilege. Yet it is only a heresy to people with feet and minds firmly planted in the past industrial age (now long over although many engineers, caught up as they are in hierarchical command and control thinking, are not aware of this!). User centricity is a one of the values of knowledge era, and also a part of sustainability concepts (see our pages on sustainability), because it is part of the philosophy of ordinary people taking responsibility for their world and not allowing those with power to continue with their destructive approaches.


Paul T Kidd has been involved with user centricity since the mid 1980s. It is one of those issues that keeps cropping up from time to time, under varying names: human-computer symbiosis, human-centred technology, anthropocentric technology, skill-enhancing technology. Few however seem to be able to satisfactorily embrace it. This is because it is one of those issues that challenges people with feet and minds firmly planted in the past, but is a natural and obvious process for those who have fully embraced the knowledge age. Saying that technology should not be developed to replace people, but to work symbiotically them, whether as individuals or as groups, also goes against hundreds of years of western scientific, engineering and technological thought, which does not value human beings.


Cheshire Henbury is a partner in a thematic network (supported by the European Commission) which is addressing user centricity in eGovernment. Cheshire Henbury is interested though, in its wider application, across ICT, including so called Smart Cities, and other areas where user and citizen participation is essential (e.g. sustainability). This is also seen as a stepping stone to the development of a different approach to technology, leaving behind the past, and moving forward towards a different type of civilisation where people truly matter, rather than the contradictory one of the present where it is claimed that people matter, but where this is not reflected in important aspects of contemporary civilisation, which in this case is engineering and technological design and development methods, and the thinking of those who use these methods.









Some of Paul T Kidd's Books

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