Contribution of Prof. Costabile to Human-Computer Interaction in Italy
With her scientific work and her commitment to organization of events at both national and international levels, Maria Francesca Costabile has played since the early 90's a major role in the development of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) within the Italian communities of Computer Science and Computer Engineering. In 1992, with Stefano Levialdi and Tiziana Catarci of Sapienza University of Rome, she conceived and organized the workshop on "Avanced Visual Interfaces" (AVI), the first international event on HCI issues promoted in Italy by computer scientists. It was so successful that they decided to organize it again. Since then, the AVI conferences are held every two years and have become well appreciated by the international community. The 1994 edition was organized in Bari and, thanks to Professor Costabile’s contacts with ACM, AVI proceedings started to be published by ACM Press and are available in the ACM Digital Library. She was also Co-Chair of the Program Committee in the editions of 1996 and 1998, chaired the 2004 edition held in Gallipoli (LE) and has been in the steering committee up to 2010.
In order to spread the interest on HCI, she proposed a Chapter of ACM SIGCHI, the Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction. She managed and submitted the request, which was approved by ACM in May 1996. It was the first time that ACM approved a nation-wide SIGCHI chapter, i.e. a chapter which included members of a whole country, rather than of a limited area. But this was the only way to start a chapter in Italy, since only 14 researchers in the whole country had signed the request for the Chapter, indicating that at the time HCI in Italy was at the very beginning. Professor Costabile became the first President of the Italian Chapter, called SIGCHI Italy, and remained such until 2000. During that time, on request of ACM SIGCHI, she participated in a "task force" for studying how to make the SIGCHI activities more international. In 1998, the Executive Committee of ACM SIGCHI asked her to organize in Italy a meeting of the Committee, which was held in Rome on July 31 and August 1 1998: it was the first meeting held outside the U.S.A. She got recognition of service awards by ACM for her commitment in SIGCHI and in AVI conferences.
At beginning of the 90s, there were no courses on HCI in Italian Universities. She has put a big effort to change the status quo. Tiziana Catarci, Stefano Levialdi, Piero Mussio and her organized and taught short courses for PhD students. For example, in 1994 she held a series of lectures on "Interaction Models" for the PhD course in Computer Science Curriculum at Sapienza University of Rome; she was also a teacher of the seminars on "Usability of Interactive Systems" for the PhD course in Computer Science Curriculum at the University of Brescia. However, she insisted to teach HCI at undergraduate level. Finally, in the academic year 1995-96, she taught HCI for the Computer Engineering Curriculum at the University of Lecce. It was the first time that an Italian University had offered a Human-Computer Interaction course in a curriculum of Computer Science or Computer Engineering. The first course on HCI in an Italian University had been taught the year before, in 1994-95, by Sebastiano Bagnara, for the Communication Science Curriculum of the University of Siena.
She taught HCI at the University of Lecce for three consecutive academic years, for the Computer Science Diploma of the University of Bari during next three years, and since 2001-02 for the new Computer Science Curriculum in Bari. 2001-2002 is the Academic year in which HCI was finally introduced in most Italian Universities.
In February 1999, Prof. Costabile and Fabio Paternò (of CNUCE-CNR, PISA) chaired HCITALY'99, the first Italian conference organized by ACM SIGCHI ITALY, whose purpose was to bring together both scientific and industrial communities with interests in HCI. The HCITALY'99 program also included a panel on teaching HCI in various university curricula. This panel involved both professors of Computer Science (E. Astesiano, S. Levialdi, F. Turini) and professors of other disciplines (S. Bagnara, A. Del Bimbo, W. Gerbino). The panel and the whole conference were largely successful, emphasizing the increasing importance of HCI in Italy. Since then, SIGCHI Italy Conferences (now called CHItaly) are held fairly regularly every 2 years.
The collaboration with Fabio Paternò in order to promote HCI activities in Italy has continued in the following years. In 2002, with him and Stefano Levialdi, Professor Costabile proposed the IFIP Committee to organize the 2005 INTERACT conference, the most important international event in HCI after ACM CHI. INTERACT was thus held in Rome from 7 to 11 September 2005 and has been a pleasant recognition for the Italian community of HCI. Costabile and Paternò were Program Co-Chair and editors of the proceedings, which were published in Springer's digital library for the first time.
Since 2000, other international conferences have been organized on HCI topics in Italy, but the most significant event has certainly been CHI 2008, which was held in Florence, 5-10 April 2008. The proposal had been carefully prepared and presented to the Executive Committee of ACM SIGCHI by Maria Francesca Costabile, Tiziana Catarci and Fabio Paternò. The event takes on even greater importance considering that the CHI conference has been held every year since 1984 and that the edition of Florence was the fourth that took place outside North America, preceded only by the editions of Amsterdam (1993), L’Aia (2000), Vienna (2004). Maria Francesca Costabile was paper Co-Chair of CHI 2008, Tiziana Catarci was Short Paper Co-Chair, and other Italian colleagues held significant roles in the scientific committee, reflecting the international value of Italian researchers in HCI. The conference was held with great success, with a participation of about 2400 people.