Updates from HCI – Welcome to Fall 2023

=== ChatGPT, the Bee Gees, and HCI

When the Bee Gees sang in 1968 that “It’s only words, and words are all I have…,” they weren’t thinking about ChatGPT, but it could be a reasonable description. Our HCI world has been recently filled with language. In a recent class, students brainstormed 20 different *categories* of apps in which language is a key component. 

In the 1920s linguists like Benjamin Whorf argued about whether the language you use determines the way you think and make meaning of the world. And now with tools like ChatGPT, we have something new: a fluent language models that has no internal concept of meaning. This novelty gives us an opportunity to reflect on the role language plays in our daily lives as well as the intricacies of designing good language-based technology. Should your next app talk to people?  Write to them? Accept written input? What about the large population that don’t speak your language? How about people for whom reading text isn’t a great way to communicate? Or people who have a hard time listening to detailed spoken content? What about accents? And should your next app reflect the culture of your users? If you want to internationalize an American English app for the UK, it’s more than just translating crisps to chips. 

Consider the words and language used by technology around you, and I’d be curious to learn what you notice about how it affects you. 

=== New HCI policies regarding PhD students 

In the past year, the HCI Supervisory Committee made two decisions that affect HCI PhD students. 

1) There is now a PhD residency requirement that puts us in line with other programs at ISU. PhD students must complete a majority of their program at ISU in Ames. The exact language of the requirement can be found in the HCI Handbook

2) PhD students must be advised or co-advised by a faculty member with a doctoral degree. Again, the exact language can be found in the HCI Handbook.

HCI Handbook: https://canvas.iastate.edu/courses/83066/pages/hci-student-handbook 

=== Enrollment Keeps Rising (Keep telling your friends!) 

Overall our enrollment in Fall 2023 is 11% higher than in Fall 2022, which is great. Keep telling your friends! The more students we have, the more great instructors we can hire to create great new courses for you. Our currently registered HCI students comprise:  

  • 55 PhD
  • 61 MS of HCI (thesis, creative component, or capstone project)
  • 76 Master’s of HCI (course only)
  • 4 Certificate 

=== CycloneSupport and TAO (for your well-being)

The Student Affairs groups at Iowa State University have done a great job consolidating many resources into a one-stop-shop website: https://cyclonesupport.iastate.edu/ 

Also, ISU has subscribed to TAO Connect, a website with videos that can help address loneliness, anxiety, and other mental health concerns, It’s free to all members of the ISU community. Just use your iastate.edu email to register. 


I encourage everyone to try both of these websites; good mental health is so important, and life can get complicated pretty quickly sometimes. Talking to a therapist (like my dad was) can be so powerful, and these tools can help as well. 

And of course you’d want to analyze the usability of the tools along the way…

Have a great semester,