John Carroll is another pioneer who 'accidentally' ended up with two degrees (because he took so many courses to satisfy his diverse interests) and whose career was majorly influenced by having a year to kill. That one years...spent at Watson Research Center...turned into 18. How many other people, who describe themselves as having the 'soul of a psychologist,' can tell you stories about the very first times the 'user' became an interesting topic of conversation at IBM? How many have participated in the development of the HCI field from inside a major corporation and academia and the birth of a professional association? How many have worked with Noam Chomsky only to decide they didn't want to be a linguist? Well, at least one. And today, he's interested in all of the interesting challenges of teaching, which is awfully lucky for the students at Penn State. Confused about what you want to do with your life? Don't worry...according to John, it will all look simple once you get there.
I actually don't like the term 'user' very much at this point. I've gotten tired of it. It is homophonous with a "drug user". And it seems to make people passive and one-dimensional. I tend to try to pinch myself and replace it with person or something more interesting... But oddly, the term "user" with all its flaws, was very important early on. It conveyed to the technology people that the arcane software they produced eventually had to be USED. It was a focus for the emerging professional identity of CHI people.
There's a rough side to interdisciplinary - maybe you already know this - everybody disagrees about everything - they all came from a different place, they're trained in a different way; they have different values and so forth, so it's not like it's living in heaven. But it is very interesting. It's very rich. And it's not so narrow and alien the way it would be, I believe, if I had gone into that engineering college with my colleagues.
John M.Carroll is a founder of human-computer interaction, the youngest of the 9 core areas of Computer Science identified by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). He served on the program committee of the 1982 Bureau of Standards Conference on the Human Factors of Computing Systems that in effect inaugurated the field, and was the direct predecessor of the field's flagship conference series, the ACM CHI Conferences. Today, he is a faculty member in Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology. He is the Edward M Frymoyer Chair Professor and the co-Director (with Professor Mary Beth Rosson) of the College of IST's Laboratory for Computer Supported Collaboration and Learning. He is also the Director of Penn State's Center for Human-Computer Interaction.