MSAI 330: Human Computer Interaction



Core MSAI course


Human computer interaction (HCI) is a broad, interdisciplinary field that studies how people and computers interact in the world. These interactions can be studied at the individual scale (e.g. how intuitive an app or website is to a particular user) or in relation to larger social / cultural phenomena (e.g. how social media influences the way people shop, communicate, or access information).

HCI draws on knowledge and expertise from many different disciplines and domains (e.g. computer science, engineering, the social sciences and humanities, and more). Within computer science, HCI tends to focus on how to design and build useful technologies that solve problems and enable new possibilities, given a domain and a problem space. This involves:

  • data considerations – how and why data are constructed from real-world phenomena, the strengths and limitations of particular models, and the conditions that must be satisfied in order for a model to function in a particular context.
  • design considerations – understanding the problem space and user needs; applying research-informed methods and principles for designing accessible, intuitive, and useful interfaces; and exploring how emerging technologies could be applied in novel ways.

HCI also extends beyond designing and building new technologies. In fact, much of HCI involves taking stock of how computing infrastructures interact with individuals, institutions, and society more broadly – across a wide range of human experiences (relationships, mental health and wellness, politics, fairness and accountability, sustainability, and so forth). In other words, describing, reflecting, critiquing, and debating the role of computing in society is also an integral part of the HCI discipline.