Talk by Mary Beth Rosson (Penn State)

Title: Helping Users to Design and Build Their Own Digital Living Artifacts
Prof. Mary Beth Rosson, Center for Human-Computer Interaction. Pennsylvania State University

Date: April 22nd, 2010
Time: 15:00-16:00
Place: Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Getafe Campus. Building 17. Room 17.2.75
Organized by: DEI Lab (Informatics Department)

The participation is free.


For over 25 years, user interface designers have studied and refined human-computer interaction techniques, hoping to improve human productivity and experience. But the target of these efforts, “the end-user,” is fast becoming a thing of the past. Computer users now build or tailor many computational artifacts for their own purposes – from email spam filters, to spreadsheet simulations, to interactive web applications. As people’s digital literacy has grown, and as information and computational tools have expanded, individuals without a programming background are increasingly building ad hoc solutions to support their own emergent digital living contexts. The bright side of this trend is that users can gain specific task support in a more timely fashion, leaving professional software developers to focus on complex or safety-critical tasks. The darker side is that digital artifacts created by non-programmers will almost certainly be less accurate, less robust, less reusable and more difficult to maintain. A more subtle issue is that the digital divide may now be taking on a new dimension, as not all end users are able or willing to articulate and pursue computational goals. In this talk I will survey recent initiatives that are studying and supporting end users who build software, and discuss the research issues raised by this emergent phenomenon.

Short Bio:

Mary Beth Rosson is Professor of Information Sciences and Technology at The Pennsylvania State University; she is currently a sabbatical visitor in the DEI Lab at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. She received a PhD in experimental psychology in 1982 from the University of Texas. Prior to joining the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State in 2003, she was professor of computer science at Virginia Tech for 10 years and research staff member at IBM T. J. Watson Research Center for 11 years. Rosson pioneered the study of psychological issues in object-oriented design, and spent many years developing and evaluating object-oriented tools and training for professional programmers. An abiding interest has been the interplay between human-computer interaction and software engineering. Recently she has been studying the tools and practices of informal software development. Rosson has a long history of professional service in ACM and IEEE, including general chair of OOPSLA 2000, CHI 2007, and VL/HCC 2010. She is an ACM Distingisheed Scientist and a member of the CHI Academy. She is author of Usability Engineering: Scenario-Based Development of Human-Computer Interaction (Morgan Kaufmann, 2002) and numerous articles, book chapters, and professional short courses.

Contact us

The Digital Living Initiative

Instituto de Cultura y Tecnología
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Calle Madrid 126
28903 Getafe, Spain

E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: +34 91 624 9456
Fax: +34 91 624 9129