Encounters with HCI Pioneers: A Personal Photo Journal
Ben Shneiderman, September 15, 2015, Updated March 7, 2016

Introduction: I have had the pleasure of meeting and being inspired by many of the MARCUS-BEN-964[1]SM5researchers and innovators who contributed to the emergence of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). They were memorable for their thoughtful research, innovative systems, energetic lectures, passionate discussions, and personal warmth. This Personal Photo Journal is intended as a tribute to these individuals and as a celebration of their contributions to HCI. More profiles will be added as time and resources permit.

HCI Pride: While the advances in technology brought about by Moore’s Law continue to have a dramatic impact on computing, so to have the remarkable contributions of HCI. The astonishing success of 7 billion users of mobile devices is due to the devoted work of user interface researchers and designers who enabled participation by novices and experts, children and older adults, as well as users with diverse language barriers and a variety of disabilities. Excellent design enables users to carry out life-critical tasks, to be effective in professional situations, and to enjoy games, media and better communication capabilities. Well-designed user interfaces support users in delivering better healthcare, safer transportation, improved education, and more. At the same time, advanced user interfaces enable skilled professionals to collaborate more widely, explore deeper creative possibilities, and make increasingly vital discoveries.

Goal: My goal in creating this journal is to celebrate the thriving research community that has propelled the HCI field and to make their work visible to a wider audience. I have written my personal appreciation for each of the luminaries, hoping to say something unique and descriptive of their impact. I think the social processes by which ideas are communicated are fascinating – some researchers proudly promoted their ideas to large audiences while others cautiously explain them and seek feedback from trusted colleagues. Big lectures, seminar-style gatherings, or personal dinner table discussions are all interesting to me, especially the participants’ facial expressions, body language, and hand movements. Capturing the transmission of an idea is difficult; ideas, like neutrinos, are invisible except for the effect they have on others.

Choices and biases: My choice of researchers and designers to include in this tribute was guided by my encounters at conferences, so there is a bias towards those who work on topics close to my own interests. There is likewise a bias towards those working in North American because that is where most of the conferences I attended were hosted. I used the CHI Fellow Awards page as further guidance to select researchers who have gained recognition from our professional community. My selections were also biased towards those I have worked with personally at the University of Maryland’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab.  I also included some influential personalities, such as Tim Berners-Lee and Jimmy Wales, who were outside the CHI community.  There are many other important contributors to the field who I have not photographed and many that I have not yet included – this is a work in progress and I hope to add more researchers over time.  I am solely responsible for the choice of who is included, and hope to include other contributors as time and resources permit.

Permissions: I believe that these photos were taken at public, professional events, so I have not asked permission to publish them on this site, but if anyone objects to having their photo included, please contact me to request its removal. We have tried to contact those profiled to give them an opportunity to comment and fix their profiles. These photos are freely available for personal use, though I appreciate a simple credit such as “Photo by Ben Shneiderman.” I reserve the copyright on these photos, so those interested in using the photos on the web, in print, in video, or other media for educational or commercial purposes should contact me (ben@cs.umd.edu).

Implementation: This list of HCI Pioneers is just a start, and the site’s design was limited by features in the basic WordPress service. It will be expanded and improved over time, based on feedback. We designed for viewing on common desktop, laptop, and tablet screen sizes (approx. 1000 pixels wide) and also on smaller mobile devices. We have tested the HCI Pioneers website using Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox. We worked hard to document the location, date, and people in the photos, as well as background information, but please help us correct any errors.

Team: The Encounters with HCI Pioneers website was built over the summer of 2015 by Catherine Bloom and Sarah Sexton. During the fall of 2015 and into 2016, Sarah Sexton and Gowtham Ashok continued the effort to add more pioneers. They worked hard to collect accurate historical information and write short strong summaries.  Earlier work on organizing and annotating my photo archives was done by Veysel Cetiner, Amanda Pirner, Walden Davis and Chelsea Clarke. I greatly appreciate all their work.  Thanks to Jennifer Preece, Catherine Plaisant, and Ben Bederson for their comments and guidance.


Catherine Bloom
Catherine Bloom

Sarah Sexton headshot
Sarah Sexton

Gowtham Ashok
Gowtham Ashok


Press Coverage: It’s been great to get widespread attention for this project:

Related: While this Personal Photo Journal focuses on Human-Computer Interaction Pioneers, for those interested in computer scientists and researchers in related fields, please see my photos of 22 Computer Pioneers, at the Computer History Museum website – four of those are included in this website.  There are other worthwhile resources, such as Tamara Adlin’s website on User Experience (UX) Pioneers and Brad Myers’s “A Brief History of Human Computer Interaction Technology”.

Technology: Around 2000, I received funding from the ACM SIGCHI to scan my paper prints and color slides, which became the core of the 3,300 photos at the 2001 project that produced the ACM SIGCHI PhotoHistory (see our paper on the project). The resolution of these early scans could be improved, but that remains a future project. The early prints and slides are in my office, but I am working on donating them to a major archive.

As I moved to digital cameras, the early images had low resolution, but over time the image quality improved.  I used a digital single lens reflex for special events, but often I just used a good quality pocket camera that was easy to carry.  By 2015 high quality smartphone cameras became good enough that even my pocket camera stayed home.  Of course, I like the higher quality images, but often the pocket camera and increasingly the smartphone camera was what I used to record fortuitous encounters.

The March/April 2007 issue of ACM Interactions has an 8-page portfolio of 100+ photos from the 25-year history of ACM CHI conferences. The MyLifePix archive (2007) of 12,000 photos (scanned and born digital images) are indexed by name, date, and location. I have long worked on photo management tools, presentations strategies, and websites, including development of the Photofinder and PhotoMesa tools, and the BRQ photo presentation tool.

My uncle’s inspiration: My devotion to photography is inspired by my uncle David Seymour (1911-1956), a world-famous photojournalist, whose biography is included in web sites that I helped design. The International Center of Photography hosts two of them (http://www.icp.org/chim http://www.icp.org/chim/bio), and a third web site has current information on exhibits and publications (http://www.davidseymour.com).