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Archive for the ‘Readings’ Category

The Design of Future Things (D. Norman)

In Readings, Week 3 Readings on February 3, 2010 at 9:04 pm

The design of future things pertains to the importance of having some sort of feedback designed into objects. The design of objects has changed over time; people often opt to create silent devices for elegance or a quiet home or workplace. However, according to Norman, this has led to the development of objects that no longer give us the feedback that old devices used to. For example, a person may miss an elevator because it’s entire operation is quiet, and the old noises and chimes of an arriving elevator were no longer there to cue the individual.

According to Norman, a device must provide feedback, which is essential for reassurance, progress reports and time estimates, learning, special circumstances, confirmation, and governing expectations. For example, when driving a car, the sound of the engine could provide feedback for how many rpm it is running at, or if it is breaking down.

Ultimately, Norman contests that when a user fails at using an object, the object is at fault, not the user. He argues this point with the Apple Newton, a handwriting recognition system in 1993. The system was “released with great fanfare,” but ultimately was difficult to use and failed.

Norman goes on to suggest designs that give feedback to the user that requires almost no thought, or, rather, only natural thought from the user. These include natural signs, such as varying distance between two hands to signal a driver how much space they have between the car and a wall; and natural mappings, such as knobs on a stove in the same shape as the burners (as opposed to in a line).

Ultimately, Norman suggests that design of “smart” machines should follow six rules:

1. Provide rich, complex, and natural signals.
2. Be predictable.
3. Provide a good conceptual model.
4. Make the output understandable.
5. Provide continual awareness, without annoyance.
6. Exploit natural mappings to make interaction understandable and effective.

In the second portion of the reading, Norman plays the part of one interviewing the machines, and produced the following design rules for “machines to improve their interactions with people”:

1. Keep things simple.
2. Give people a conceptual model.
3. Give reasons.
4. Make people think they are in control.
5. Continually reassure.
6. Never label human behavior as “error”.
(copied from reading)

From “The Design of Future Things”, Ch 8, by D. Norman

Physical Interfaces in Electronic Arts- Bongers

In Readings, Week 2 Readings on January 27, 2010 at 5:40 pm

,In Physical Interfaces in Electronic Arts, Bongers talks about a couple different ways of interaction between electronics and the audience. He speaks more about audio than other systems, but it can be translated to all electronics. Bongers goes on to talk about about three different ways of interactions in music. The first is a system interaction which is a musician playing his instrument. The second interaction is a system-audience which is an installation art. Lastly, we have a performer-system-audience interaction which makes it a two way process between performer and audience, through the system.

In chapter 2, Bongers talks more about the mechanics of digital sound and different sensing technologies and how human output is the starting point for information. Some examples of human output are muscle action, blowing, voice, blood pressure, and heart rate. Two muscle actions that Bongers talks about are isometric(pressure sensors and switches) or movement(displacement).

Week 2 Reading : Chapter 6

In Readings, Week 2 Readings on January 27, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Starts off talking about difficulties of describing tasks in terms of design.
When discussing interface design, 2 main problems with theoretical design models.
1. Laborious and Time Consuming.
2. Theory-laden and beyond the scope of a typical HCI designer.

Tangible computing has 3 related ways of connecting activities and space in which they’re carried.
1. through the configurability of space
2. through the relationship of body to task
3. through physical constraints

Much of interaction involves communicating realistic data.
Additionally, users tend to actively improvise while operating within the set virtual reality.

Design changes to support improvised action by giving users control over management.
Support improvisation by making the dynamic situation visible to the user.
Generally common expectations, meaning, systems, based on this operation. Relates to how mind works.
Means we need to pay attention to how users’ behavior evolves around technologies over time.

Six Design Principles Explored:

Computation is a Medium
This basically means that we are modulating our behavior and that the computer translates it via computation.
The computer is not relevant unless we look at how it is computing.
We modulate based on how the computation works.
Therefore we must look at how computation affects modulation, which in turn affects meaning and defining.
Focus not on capability of technologies per se, but how technology embeds into set of practices.

Meaning Arises on Multiple Levels

objects carry meaning on multiple levels.
on their own right, as signifiers of social meaning, as elements in systems of practice, etc.
creating and managing meaning cannot simply be up to the designer.
Items have iconic and symbolic meanings.
Items also vary between items of object to items of action.
We have to revise this

Users, not Designers, Create and Communicate Meaning
Users, not Designers, Manage Coupling

There is the artifact, and how the artifact is used.
Designer cannot completely control how people use an artifact.
Need to be alert to how systems may be used.
Need to be aware of how it operates within a set of existing practices.
Designers can only suggest coupling of meanings.
Ultimately the users and perception of how things are used determines coupling.
Designers stance, or conception of what he is doing.
Stance needs to change to operate as the user, not as a dictator to the user.
Different set of issues need to be seen.
This can be done by looking at a user and acting with and through them instead of for them.

Embodied Technologies Participate in the World they Represent

Meaning arises from engaged action.
Embodiment doesnt mean physical reality, it means parcipitative status.
Creating a language through engaged action requires participation in existing schema.
In roller example, it’s about the rollers and how they integrate into human interaction.
Not about the rollers. Not about interaction.
Representation and participation are important considerations in system design.

Embodied Interaction Turns into Meaning

Relationship between action and meaning is central to embodiment.
This is within the perspective of reality and the rest of the world.
Didn’t really understand this last section.

Week 2 reading : Interactivity, Public Art & Architecture [Reiser]

In Readings, Week 2 Readings on January 27, 2010 at 8:48 am
Reiser’s article focuses on the emergence and innate fabric of (interactive) public art infused with architecture – what it is, how it came about, and where it is heading towards.
While giving a brief philosophical account of the public art space, Reiser mentions the different perspectives of the ‘virtual domain’, or _simulacra_ as it is more popularly called in philosophers’ circles. Baudrillard’s perspective is different from that of Deleuze’s in the sense that the latter states that simulacrum circumvents authority by the inclusion of the spectator. He supports the latter’s claim by citing the works of the famous proejction artist Krystof Wodiczko (of the swastika projection fame).
In digging up the origins of this domain, Reiser stumbles upon the disturbing distance between the ‘artist’ and the ‘architect’, and he is certainly surprised by the fact that some of the famous public art works that use notable architecture as canvas have actually been produced by trained artists. Reiser’s discomfort also extends to the fact that the technology used for public art work today isn’t very different from what was used 70 years ago. Rauschenberg’s concerted yet frustraing attempts at public installation art being thwarted by limitations of technology is used as an example to support his claim.
Our notion of ‘appropriate content’ has come a far way, and Reiser employs the user of examples like Jochen and Gerz’s work and Hayden’s Arc en Ciel – very contrasting slices of end-goals and working methods of public art. Reiser identifies the power of the _public_, whether it be utilizing teir techno-fear, or their love of dynamically appearing colors and sounds. Taking this to the next level, he mentions that this leads to Haptic Interfaces with the different projects of Jeffrey Shaw and Hoberman being used as examples.
Reiser then moves on to explain the point of fusion between public art and architecture. Materials play a very important role in this coming-together of two domains, and he laments the fact that very little has been achieved in actually combining digital technology with architectural materials, which if achieved, would undoubtedly usher in a wave of new creations in this domain.

Week 2 Readings

In Readings, Week 2 Readings on January 27, 2010 at 5:08 am

Tangible Bits (Ishii & Ullmer)
This reading introduces the various HCI experiments of MIT Media Labs as well as past experiments at Xerox PARC. The goal of each experiment was the bridge the gap between “the worlds of bits and atoms,” or to make the Graphical User Interface (GUI) into a Tangible User Interface (TUI). Many different kinds of non-visual feedback are discussed. For example, mapping manipulation of virtual objects with physical “bricks,” thus allowing a more physical interaction than a simple keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Physical objects can also represent forms of data, exemplified by the marble answering machine, for which a voice message is mapped to a specific physical marble, and playback or returning a call can be done by simply placing the marble in a slot. Another example of physical representations of data is the barcode scanning of blocks that represented URLs to whiteboard notes and information.

Audio can also be used as a sort of feedback. In MIT’s ambientROOM, a toy car model could represent the website of that specific car company, and audio feedback in the form of raindrops represent the amount of traffic the website is currently receiving. Sporadic drops of water could mean the website is not advertised very well, or a loud downpour could represent a huge amount of traffic.

The reading ends with a digital computing object, the abacus, as having both physical and digital uses and representations. 2-year-old Ishii recalls using the abacus as a musical instrument, make-believe train, and a backscratcher; but it also doubled for his mother as a digital calculator, and its sound provided feedback for when she was busy and unable to play. In the same way, the idea of “tangible bits” is to make an object multi-purposed in computational media.

Understanding Playspaces

In children, elements, playspaces, Readings, senda, stages, systems on January 20, 2010 at 3:28 pm

In Play Structure: Design of Play Environments for Children, Senda details the main characteristics of a playspace, identifies certain elements that are quintessential in the making and understanding of playspaces. Even though the essay has been written from a Japanese perspective, with a focus on what is lacking in the playspaces of Japanese children in the late 90s, it serves as a credible basis for students like us trying to design and construct a playspace.

The essay lays out some basic information that we are supposed to know and respect when it comes to creating playspaces. For instance, it clearly states that a playspace has four basic elements – the time for playing, the space/location for playing, friends to play with, and different methods of playing. Of course, when children play, they don’t actually take a scientific approach to see whether or not these elements are all present and only then proceed to play. Instead, they have a more unconscious approach which nevertheless incorporates them seeking out these elements in ways that they don’t realize.
So, in a way, it is the prerogative of the playspace designer(s) to ensure the children have ample access to these elements so that they have a good experience while playing. The essay when written in 1998, relates to the phenomena of children staying indoors more than they should. And its no secret that the situation has only grown worse 10 years from then until today.
The essay then goes on to detail the different types of playspaces. Such a characterization enables us to understand the positives and negatives of each type of playspace, especially when it comes to aspects such as safety, fun, age-groups it caters to etc. Senda also suggests that the act of designing good playspaces can spill over to the city as a whole, affecting multiple urban spaces that are connected to the playspace.
One of the more interesting things that the essay noted was the different ‘stages’ of play. Starting with introducing a new playspace to children, how do they interact with the environment, and immerse themselves in the experience? Functional Play stage is the first, where the children first try to identify the functions and purpose of the playspace and equipment involved. It is then followed by Technical Play stage where they proceed to perform some ‘moves’, and that is followed by the paramount stage of Social Play where the initial function of the equipment has less focus, and social actions take centerstage in the same setting. Clearly not all playspaces and accompanying equipment take children through these multiple stages in the best way possible. When it doesn’t cater to a certain stage enough, the playspace fails to provide a complete play experience to the children.
The paper also describes Play Systems where the innate nature of the game(s) is discussed. Some games that children play might have a defined start and end point, while some could be ‘circulatory’ in nature, with the game being continuous even though different goals are achieved regularly. Play Spaces are also detailed in this context, with an architectural flavor to the description. The open or closed nature of a building/space can make a world of difference to what is played, and how much fun is derived from the game that is played.