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Welcome to the hi:project’s interim website where we aim to explain the What?, the Why? and the How? We attempt all that on this page, with links to help you explore further.

What is the hi:project?

The hi:project is a nonprofit, free, open-source engineering program formed to create a more human-centric web, open and accessible to all. Endorsed by the Web Science Trust, we’re currently building a community of interested parties, preparing to develop a technical proof of concept to demonstrate the potential of our vision.

The project helps:

  • secure a citizen-centric Internet (redecentralizing)
  • solve personal data & privacy
  • transform accessibility & digital inclusion.

We do so by pioneering the human interface (HI), the successor to the user interface (UI).

Defining HI

Jef Raskin, a Human-Computer Interaction expert who conceived and started Apple’s Macintosh project, defines the interface as follows:

The way you accomplish tasks with a product – what you do and how it responds – that’s the interface.

The hi:project divides Raskin’s definition into three types of interface: the user interface (UI), the surveillance interface (SI), and the human interface (HI).

The way a machine or service helps you accomplish tasks with or through it, that’s the user interface.

What some refer to as the ’personal assistant’, we call the surveillance interface.

The way a machine or service surveils, records, interprets and to some degree controls as much as it can about your life to help you accomplish tasks with or through it, for the profit of the service provider, that’s the surveillance interface.

And we define our vision for a free, distributed, open-source human interface:

The way your software helps you accomplish tasks with other software, that’s the human interface.

How did we get here?

When we bring things into the digital realm, we digitalize the pre-digital – after all that’s all we’ve known. That’s how we went from mail to email, and from having desktops, files and folders to, well, desktops, files and folders.

Only after the passing of many years, and sometimes decades, do we discover and develop the unprecedented qualities of the digital era. For example, we’re now migrating from filing to instant search, and from email to all variety of social / sharing / collaborating / chat platforms and services.

The UI is presented by the machine to the user. That’s how it was for physical machines on the shop-floor back in the industrial revolution, and that’s how it is today for the machines that proxy for the organizations in our digital lives. But being non-physical, this needn’t be the case. An interface just sits between the human and the machine, and can therefore be up close to the human rather than the machine, up close to the entities that actually matter in all of this.

No UI

But hang on, you might say, isn’t the future of UI no UI? By this we mean non-screen based – haptic, automated, voice and ambient for example. Some artificial intelligence (AI) perhaps.

Such innovations, for all their awesomeness, do not change two fundamental facts: HI isn’t just about screens either; and we’re all unique.

We each have our own specific digital, numerical, information and visual literacy. We may have disabilities, and become disabled as we age. We each still need domain over our unique personal data, created in part by our unique interactions with our unique environs, and the facility to make sense of it to help in some way make sense of our unique lives. And many of us relish the opportunity to do that without intermediation, with unfettered personal agency, and appreciate from a societal point of view others having similar facility.

No matter then the technology or the biological senses involved, HI remains as relevant. HI is the open, distributed presentation and interaction layer that complements AI.

Comparing UI, SI and HI

Now those organizations and their machines can adapt to our interface rather than insist we adapt to theirs. In fact, there are some really intriguing differences, as summarised here:

User Interface (UI) Surveillance Interface (SI) Human Interface (HI)
50 year old construct fit for 20th Century computing for the pervasive digital environment of the 21st Century for the pervasive digital environment of the 21st Century
up close to the machine up close to the service provider up close to the individual
designed for an ‘average’ user designed to surveil the individual uniquely assembled uniquely for the individual
the organization’s the service provider’s the individual’s
the user must fit to the machine fitted to the individual fits to the individual
provides interactive information requires knowledge building by the service provider enables knowledge building by the individual
no AI intelligence (AI) is outsourced intelligence (AI) is supplied
degrees of awkwardness concealed, blackbox, so ‘disappears’ transparent, ideal, so ‘disappears’
largely static design dynamic, in the moment dynamic, in the moment
‘the interface is the product’ you are the product the product is the product
decentralized centralizing, eroding the Web We Want decentralizing, supporting the Web We Want

Why does the hi:project exist?

We want to help:

We’re inspired by the mission of the World Wide Web Foundation and aspire to play our part in “building a future in which the Web empowers everyone, everywhere, to take part in building a fairer world.”

For those academics and engineers dropping by here, one software researcher describes the hi:project as reshaping the problem space for privacy and accessibility.

Alice

Before we dive in, you should know about Alice.

It would be both confusing and inappropriate to call the individual served by HI the user, and simply substituting human in the singular sounds too detached and frankly somewhat odd. Therefore, we adopt the placeholder name Alice.

Alice is a citizen and a colleague. She is a friend and a relative. She lives next-door and overseas. She is a millennial and a retiree. She is highly educated and left school at 14. She has 20/20 vision and acute retinopathy.

I’m Alice. You’re Alice.

We’re battling for Alice with one project on three fronts. If one or more of these is important to you, please join our team. If you know others who consider these things important, do let them know we exist.

Citizen-centric Internet / decentralization

A citizen-centric Internet is a fundamental quality of a decentralized Internet. Decentralization means there is no centralization at any layer in the stack, and that must include the presentation and interaction layer.

A citizen-centric Internet of Things is one where we don’t rely on a third party to mediate our interactions with these Things, with this ambient computing environment assembling around us. You know … just like you never had a mediator for your surroundings ‘back in the day’.

hi:project IoT

Most people agree that an open and decentralized digital architecture has served us very well to date, and we’re intent on protecting and propagating that. We’d rather secure an Alice-IoT than a [insert brand name here]-IoT.

Relevant blog posts:

JOIN THE IoT TEAM

Personal data & privacy

We have a privacy crisis. The surveillance of Alice is so deep and pervasive it’s actually quite tricky to convey in a sentence or two here. We want to blind commercial surveillance. We want to avoid an omniscient, Orwellian state. Our democratic representatives increasingly recognize this problem, and many are reaching for the only tool in their tool kit – regulation.

The hi:project engineers privacy by design, giving Alice domain over her personal data and one place where she can express her privacy preferences. This is fundamental to Alice’s personal agency, to decentralization, and to the emergence of collective intelligence in sustainable living systems.

Relevant blog posts:

JOIN THE PRIVACY TEAM

Accessibility & digital inclusion

We all have different digital, numerical, information and visual literacy, and millions of people have one or more disabilities, yet UI/UX designers cannot cater to this variety. UI can never aspire to be just right for Alice, no matter how diligent the design team. HI at least aspires to this aspiration.

The UK Business Disability Forum says:

We believe the hi:project has the potential to dramatically improve interaction in the digital space for the many millions of people who are already disabled and the millions more who will become disabled as they age.  For some people in this group the benefits could literally be life changing.

JOIN THE ACCESSIBILITY TEAM

How will the hi:project work?

The technology is described in more detail here. It is a broad and deep but achievable challenge, and yet technology without the facility to get it out there is pointless …

How will Alice get herself some HI?

Attempting to get each and every Alice to download and configure HI is a hard slog, likely to fall way short of what’s needed for us to achieve our mission. Yet the hi:project is not blue sky thinking – we have identified the technical, social and commercial levers required to seed this capability with everyone with an Internet connection through the organizations that already feature in their lives.

Here’s the pitch to those organizations, likely starting with so-called challenger brands. National and local government may see similar appeal.

Would you like to give customers a far superior experience – one that builds participation, trust and loyalty, and secures market differentiation – with no loss of control, no capital expenditure, no intermediation, reduced risk and lower operating expense? And comply with data protection regulations?

We enable organizations to provide services through HI. An organization’s established suite of UI is more costly and more risky to maintain than adopting HI, and switching costs are less than an iteration of your current solution.

We’re first, we’re synonymous with this development, and all instances are linked by trademark. Once Alice has experienced HI we believe shey’ll demonstrate a preference for other products and services adopting HI. Alice becomes increasingly invested in her instance’s understanding and servicing of her needs and preferences.

OMG

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