[SIGCIS-Members] Ph.D. scholarships in history of User Interfaces at IT University of Copenhagen

Anker Helms Jørgensen anker at itu.dk
Mon Mar 16 08:03:12 PDT 2009

Dear Colleagues.

Please pass this announcement to relevant parties.

Thanks – Anker Helms Jorgensen, IT University of Copenhagen.

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At the IT University of Copenhagen (ITU) a considerable number of  
Ph.D. study scholarships are offered in a broad range of areas within  
IT, among these User Interface History.

The PhD will last three years and will commence in the fall 2009. The  
scholarships are fully funded. The applicants are expected to submit  
a max. 5 page research proposal. The application deadline is April  
16. For further detail see below.

User interface history

To the best of my knowledge, no historians have yet embarked on user  
interface history, although user interfaces are as old as digital,  
electronic computers. So far only researchers from Human-Computer  
Interaction and Media Studies have addressed their history. This PhD  
call aims at attracting applicants with a degree in history of  
techology or history of computing.

ITU and history

ITU offers the PhD scholarships although ITU does not have a study  
program in technology history. The reputation of ITU in this area is  
limited, but history is considered important at the ITU. The PhD  
student will be supervised by me (Anker Helms Jorgensen) who in  
recent years has done research in history of user interfaces.  
Although being a relative newcomer in history of computing, I have  
substantial experience in PhD supervision as I have supervised 11  
PhDs - at the ITU and University of Copenhagen - in HCI, virtual  
worlds, and video games.

My approach to user interface history

The background to my interest in user interface history interest is  
threefold. Firstly, my activities in HCI as researcher, teacher and  
practitioner for three decades. As time passes, interest in the past  
often surfaces. Secondly, user interfaces are coming of age and I  
find that the time is ripe to address their history – just like the  
history of computers and computing has been addressed for several  
decades. Many papers and books address selected aspects of HCI  
history and user interface history – some in great depth – but only a  
handful of papers address user interface/HCI history in general.  
Written mostly by HCI scholars, their historiographic genre must be  
considered internalistic - with a few exceptions. Thirdly, the  
generation growing up seems to have very little knowledge about  
historical aspects of user interfaces - and computing for that  
matter. I would like to help remedy this by creating more focus on  
user interface history.

My aim is to adopt a contextual approach as this seems timely and  
most beneficial. My recent paper “Context and Driving Forces in the  
Development of the Early Computer Game Nimbi”, appearing in the July  
issue of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, illustrates this  
approach. The key point is that early gaming was far more than  
entertainment and invoved organisational and social aspects such as  
educating the general public about the potential of computers.

In addition, my approach to user interface history is “history from  
below”. This  contrasts current studies, most of which address the  
development of the predominant graphical user interface and the  
influence of early visionaries such as Vannevar Bush, Douglas  
Engelbart and Alan Kay, i.e. a “history from above” approach.  
Examples of “from below” projects are plugboard programming,  
portraits of user interface designers of the 1960s, the role of the  
pervasive IBM 3270 display protocol, and the user interface of  
WordPerfect (a loved and hated word processor of the 1980s).

Further detail

Applicants are expected to submit a maximum 5 page project proposal.  
I’m more than willing to help potential applicants write a convincing  
project proposal.

We expect that successful applicants have earned a MA in Technology  
History, History, or similar.

The deadline is April 16 at noon Danish time.

For further detail please visit



Please don’t hesitate to contact me for further information:  
anker at itu.dk, phone: +45 72 18 50 20.

Anker Helms Jorgensen
Associate Professor, PhD
IT University of Copenhagen
Rued Langgaardsvej 7
DK-2300 Copenhagen S  Denmark
anker at itu.dk  http://www1.itu.dk/sw4489.asp
+45 72 18 50 00

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