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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Spring 2006

Book Reviews

The Encyclopedia of Human Computer Interaction

Jennifer Papin-Ramcharan
The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus

The Encyclopedia of Human Computer Interaction / Claude Ghaoui, editor. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Reference, 2006. 738+pp. $255.00 ISBN 1-59140-562-9 (hardcover)

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) as a field of study has been developing since the early 1980s. HCI is defined on page 503 of this encyclopedia as "the study of how humans interact with computers, and how to design computer systems that are usable, easy, quick, and productive for humans to use". HCI is multi-disciplinary and is based within computer science and system design/software engineering but draws on psychology, cognitive science, ergonomics, sociology, engineering, business, graphic design and technical writing.

The Encyclopedia of Human Computer Interaction captures well the multi-disciplinary nature of the subject by bringing together a collection of authoritative peer-reviewed articles covering many aspects of HCI including concepts, design, usability, evaluation, innovations and applications. The editor, Claude Ghaoui (Liverpool John Moores University, UK), has compiled 109 stand-alone articles each ending with a bibliography and list of author supplied "key terms" with definitions. In total there are over 830 key terms with definitions as well as more than 2,600 bibliographic references in some 738 pages plus 24 pages of indexes. Weighing in at about eleven pounds, this publication is certainly chock-filled with information on HCI.

The articles are written by over 120 international experts giving applications and perspectives on HCI that are truly global. For example, there are articles on HCI in South Africa, the development of broadband technology in Canada and details of a GIS application for the Bank of Jordan. The articles are very detailed, being an average of 5-10 pages long. The articles would be of interest to both the specialist and non-specialist in the field of HCI, e.g., there are articles on spam, ethics, software engineering, e-learning, health informatics, usability, city planning with GIS and even wearable devices. Many articles include black and white illustrations (Tables, Figures and Graphs).

As mentioned previously, definitions of key terms are supplied by the author of each article and given at the end of the article. Thus, there is no single list of definitions or glossary. It is therefore possible for the reader to be directed to several definitions of one term e.g., "Agent" is defined as a key term in three different ways at the end of four articles. Thus, "contextual" definitions are given allowing the reader to select the definition that fits their area of interest. Because of the excellent 10 page "Index of Key Terms" supplied at the end of the book, the key terms and definitions are just as easy to find as if there was one listed glossary. The Encyclopedia of Human Computer Interaction works well for the reader who is looking for glossary type information.

To find more detailed information on a topic (given in the articles) there is the alphabetized title list of 109 articles given at the front of the encyclopedia and also a 14 page topical index. A search of the topical index for information on "Cyberspace" directs the reader to two pages only in the encyclopedia, one is the first page of an article entitled "The Language of Cyberspace", the other the first page of the article "The Prospects for Identity and Community in Cyberspace". Yet, although the first page of the article entitled "The Culture(s) of Cyberspace" (p. 143) discusses and even explains the concept of cyberspace it is not listed in the topical index. Similar results occur when looking for information on Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). It seems that to effectively find all the information on a topic of interest in the encyclopedia the reader will have to use the index of key terms, the topical index and the title listing together.

For the reader familiar with experts in the field of HCI, an author index is given as a 4 page List of Contributors and their affiliation at the front of the encyclopedia which works well for the finding of articles by author.

Libraries purchasing the print encyclopedia are given electronic access for the life of the edition at no extra charge. Searching the electronic version of the encyclopedia hopefully will make accessing information by topic or subject easier than using the indexes in the print version. This added electronic access also makes the $255 price tag seem a little more reasonable.

The Encyclopedia of Human Computer Interaction is an authoritative, thorough and well researched reference source that manages to present both breadth and depth of coverage of HCI. This publication has done a good job of compiling the traditional basic information expected in an encyclopedia as well as research and applications. It could prove particularly useful for the lecturer wishing to direct students into deeper research in the field because of the detailed articles and comprehensive bibliographies. It is an excellent reference for contextual definitions of HCI terms. Despite some difficulties in using the indexes as access points in the print version, the Encyclopedia of Human Computer Interaction is recommended for academic and special libraries which support teaching and/or research in HCI and its related subjects.

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