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Ben Shneiderman
professor of computer science at the University of Maryland in College Park, founding director of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory, and co-inventor of Nassi-Shneiderman diagrams

The promise of a universally used World Wide Web will not materialize from well-intentioned statements. Fundamental technology research breakthroughs are needed to ensure that every user can derive the full benefits of information access, social support through communication and fulfilling self expression that are possible in a Web environment. We have the opportunity to promote creative contributions from young children and older adults, from struggling novices to proficient experts and from low literacy to multi-lingual users. Human diversity is a strength and accommodating this diversity is a grand challenge that we should enthusiastically embrace. It will enrich our technology, advance our basic research and bring the greatest benefits to the greatest number.

Ensuring Universal Usability has at least three baskets of challenges:

  1. Technology variety Support broad range of hardware, software and network access. Enable users with small screens, slow networks, or older technologies to have successful experiences.
  2. User diversity Accommodate users with different skills, knowledge, age, gender, disabilities, literacy, culture, income, etc. Designing for a wider range of users improves the quality for all users.
  3. Gaps in user knowledge Bridge the gap between what users know and what they need to know. Even experts are novices in some domains, so they need well-designed user-controlled strategies for learning terminology, concepts and processes, which all lay the basis for participation, collaboration, discovery and creative contribution.

Innovation, discovery, exploration and composition are potent concepts that could inform the design of future user interfaces for knowledge management, information visualization, web-based search and collaboration technologies. These creativity support tools would also aid in music composition, literary contributions, or artistic endeavours. A small number of cognitive and computer scientists, information systems researchers and industrial designers have begun to develop theories and software tools that may have widespread benefits, but their work could be dramatically accelerated. At the same time there is a long history of collaborative projects between technologists and artists, musicians, poets and writers that are inspiring new tools.

The potential for enhancing human creativity has often been a theme of some visionary writers who provide useful intellectual foundations concerning motivations, strategies and assessment for human creative work. Now, designers can extend this work by focusing on software tools that promote, accelerate and facilitate human creativity. There are compelling opportunities for applications in the sciences, engineering, medicine, knowledge work, humanities, arts and beyond. Creativity has been rightly recognized as a key to economic growth and social transformation. The goal for the next decades could be to make more people more creative more of the time.

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