Work With Display Units - International congress series on work with computers

WWDU is a series of international congresses organized by a group of scientists. The first Work With Display Units event in 1986 has attracted about 1200 participants from 35 countries.. From the very beginning, the focus was on people and their work, not the technology. At this time, a broad interest in radiation issues existed, propelled by the nuclear accident in Tschernobyl. The patron of this conference was the King of Sweden.

Although the first conference answered some questions about the health effects of display screen work, the main result was an explosion of interest in the topic. An International Advisory Committee was formed to organise future conferences. ERGONOMIC Institute has been involved in the organization since 1987. We have discontinued our own national conferences related to this topic, held in 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1985 in Berlin.

The second conference was organised by Louis Berlinguet and Diane Berthelette in Montreal in Canada in 1989. It also covered a wide range of issues from vision and lighting and musculo-skeletal problems, through pregnancy concerns, skin irritations and radiation issues to work organisation and standards. More than 800 participants from 30 countries took part and media interest was intense. The patron of this conference was the Federal Ministry of Labour, Canada.

Moving back to Europe in 1992, the third WWDU was organised by Holger Luczak and Ahmet Cakir in Berlin. By this time, WWDU was designed to meet the needs of a diverse group from pure scientists, who want to learn about the latest scientific research to applied scientists, who want to solve a problem in the world of work with display units. Again, the conference attracted more than 700 delegates from 33 countries. The conference included a display of various assistive devices for computer use. The patron of this conference was the Federal Ministry of Labour, FRG.

The fourth WWDU took place 2 years later in 1994 in Milan, Italy, and was organised by the late Antonio Grieco and Bruno Piccoli. Not surprisingly, since the Institute of Occupational Health in Milan is the oldest clinic in the world devoted to occupational diseases, health was a major focus for this conference. Legal and regulatory issues were also discussed and the European Community Council Directive (90/270/EEC) on the 'minimum safety and health requirements for work with visual display screen equipment' was broadly welcomed not only for those within the European Community but also as guidance outside the community. The patronage of this conference included three ministers (Labour, Health and Industry) and a number of international organisations such as W.H.O. and I.L.O.

In 1997, WWDU moved east to Japan and the fifth conference was held in Tokyo in November, organised by Professor Noro and Prof. Miyamoto. This was a smaller, more technically focused conference, partly a reflection that there had been significant changes in the technology of displays in the nineties including the beginning of the trend towards flat panel displays, developed by Japanese technology companies. The patron of this conference was MITI, Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

By 2002, the WWW was becoming a major presence in the world of work and leisure and Holger Luczak and Ahmet Cakir reflected this in their second WWDU in Berchtesgaden, Germany with a focus on world wide work. There were also three virtual sessions with participants from around the world taking part in live discussions at the conference. This conference paid far more attention to cross cultural and organisational issues and took a far broader view of the world of work with display units. Several new themes emerged, for example e-business and commerce, computer supported cooperative work (CSCW) and usability as a growing distinct discipline. The patron of this conference was the Federal Ministry of Labour, FRG.

The WWDU group decided in 2002 that the title of the conference should change to reflect this broader focus to Work With Computing Systems. The WWCS 2004 conference was organised by Halimahtun Khalid and Martin Helander in Kuala Lumpur with a sub-title - bridging diversity at work. Again there were virtual sessions with participants from as far afield as Europe, Canada and South Africa sharing the virtual platform.

In 2007, the conference returned to Stockholm organised this time by Tomas Berns and Alan Toomningas with Bengt Knave as Honorary President and a sub title - computing systems for human benefits. Whereas the early conferences were mainly concerned with protecting people from the negative consequences of work with computers, WWCS 2007 was positive in outlook. It focused on how computer systems could promote health and effectiveness, how to make systems more accessible, and how to increase the users' involvement in the development process. The patron of this conference was again the King of Sweden.

WWCS continues to develop. The International Ergonomics Association has accepted the WWDU/WWCS Group as a Technical Commitee, and the next conference will be part of the IEA Congress in 2009 in Beijing.

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