If you haven’t seen Office Space, the joke may be lost on you or simply not as funny. I highly recommend the movie for anyone that enjoys Dilbert style office/cubicle humour. In case you don’t want to watch it, the script is here. Just search for “people skills” for the appropriate segment.
One of the questions I have the most difficulty answering is “what do you do?”. Within a corporate context, this is easier to answer because you have context to relate people to your job but try explaining it to your relatives or to somebody you are meeting at a party. I find I have different versions depending on who I’m talking to and what aspect they may be interested in. Most of the time, it’s a 10-30 second pitch so it’s either “I work with Computers” with a capital C (this answer is reserved for distant relatives or acquaintances) or sometimes it’s “I make thing user friendly”. If I have more time, I might give an example using an everyday appliance.
In work, however, defining your job may be more important. I have actually written down “I HAVE PEOPLE SKILLS” in a semi-annual self-evaluation form once because I realized how eerily similar part of my job was to the guy in Office Space.
It’s the middle of the holidays — KC is galavanting about Europe and yet he still had time to write an in-depth essay about how HCI people should distinguish their roles in an organization. Me on the other hand have barely pulled together enough (after eating too much holiday dinner) to post the comic.
I’m not completely sure why it’s been so hard for HCI people to define themselves. I don’t buy the creative aspect of the argument, since there are plenty of creative professionals who have clearly defined their roles. For example a video game might have character designers, set and background artists, level designers, etc. Maybe HCI is too young, or has been applied to too haphazard a fashion. Maybe because their are so few university programs which specialized in HCI, and virtually none who create a taxonomy of specialization beyond the umbrella “HCI” or “CHI” or “UCD” or “Human Factors” (wow, we got a lot of umbrellas).
Too much to think about tonight. Time to sleep. The readers can hash it out perhaps.