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Preece et al ch3 and Harper et al pp10-63 June 1, 2009

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Interaction Design (chapter 3)
This chapter focuses on understanding users (hinted at by the title of the chapter, “Understanding users”) and their cognitive abilities.

  1. Cognition

    • Attention
      “the process of selecting things to concentrate on, at a point in time, from the range of possibilities available” (Preece et al).  Attention uses both visual and auditory senses to focus ourselves as well as our goals and the information presented to us.  Our Goals:  It is much easier to focus when a person has a predefined goal (i.e. a deadline on a paper, looking for a certain word, listening for a name).  Goals, however may not be direct and require taking other steps to get there (like the restaurant example).  Information Presentation: The structure or format of data/information presented has an impact on one’s ability to focus on information (refer to page 96, fig 3.2).  A gridded list of information is easier to search than a block of text and a pie chart is easier to see differences than a list of percentages.
    • Perception and recognition
      “how information is acquired from the environment, via the different sense organs…and transformed into experiences” (Preece et al).  People perceive different things different ways, but there are some basic rules that help (i.e. the use of white space and the use of contrasting colors vs. gridded lines to distinguish information).  Designers must keep in mind that not all people can use all of their sensory organs at the same level, if they can use an organ at all.  If multiple kinds of media are being used at the same time, they must be synced in order for perception of things going on to process correctly
    • Memory
      “recalling various kinds of knowledge that allow us to act appropriately” (Preece et al).  No one has truly perfect total recall and memories can be forgotten.  If more attention focused on something, it spends more in the processing phase and is later stored better as a memory.  Context also plays a major role in memory recall, as trying to remember something out of context can be harder than remembering it in the same context it was stored.  As people are required to remember more and more items (Memory Load) more and newer forms of personal information management must be created (i.e. better search methods and file systems).  Remembering uses two systems: recall-directed (remembering something right away) and recognition-based scanning (a fallback where one looks through a list until something that looks familiar is found.
    • Learning
      “how to use a computer-based application to understand a given topic or using a computer-based application to understand a given topic” (Preece et al).  People learn better by doing, like using GUIs and direct manipulation, instead of just using a set of instructions.  The more interactive a learning system is, the better.  Using dynalinking has proven to be very effective, especially teaching children (i.e. Pondworld example).
    • Reading, speaking, and listening
      “three forms of language processing that have similar and different properties” (Preece et al).  Peoples’ strength in these areas vary from person to person.  Reading allows information to be taken in more than once and can be quicker than the other two methods.  Listening doesn’t take as much effort to process.  Spoken language doesn’t have to be completely grammatical.
    • Problem-solving, planning, reasoning, and decision-making
      “processes involving reflective cognition” (Preece et al).  The mind is able to compare various scenarios and pick what is the best approach to a problem.  A person’s approach to a problem depends greatly on past experiences and what kind of information is available.
    • Cognitive frameworks

      • Mental models
        People don’t have to know exactly how a system works to be able to use it (think of how many people have no idea how a computer works, but still use them).  Analogies are made to find parallels between a new system and a previously experienced system (i.e. physical desktop and virtual desktop).  Incorrect models are very common and provide enough information for the user to get by, but not if a problem happens to the system they are using.  Transparency gives a user more options to operate a system, but too much transparency can result in confusion
      • Theory of action
        Norman’s theory of action was commonly used to predict human action: establish a goal, form an intention, specify an action sequence, execute an action, perceive the system state, interpret the state, and evaluate the system state with respect to the goals and intentions.  This is flawed because is relies on things running sequentially.  Menus, icons, dialog boxes, GUIs, etc. can give people feedback and guide them along a certain action (i.e. Office Wizards).  However, different feedback methods are better at supplying feedback than others.  Gaps between the user and an interface can be demonstrated by Norman’s Gulfs of Execution and Evaluation.  Using this model has allowed developers to create better debugging environments and has also given rise to other frameworks.
      • Information processing
        Several different models for processing information in the mind have  been created over the years, one of which is the human information processing model.  This model uses processes that happen only in the mind and can figure in reaction time, information overload, etc.  The problem with this is that much of cognition happens external to the mind (next section).  Decisions can be made my using much less information (i.e. via scanning).
      • External cognition
        Memory load is reduced by using calendars, PDA’s, etc. to remember dates and password managers for username and password combinations.  The processing load is taken off of the brain by using things in the environment to solve problems (i.e. using a paper and pencil to do math instead of just doing in in one’s head).  Annotations can be made to external objects (i.e. crossing off items from a grocery or to do list) and tracing can be used to better figure out letter combinations  in Scrabble.
      • Distributed cognition
        This involves a user interacting with other users, artifacts, and models to solve a problem.  Splitting the cognitive workload can reduce the time needed to solve a problem or accomplish a task.  Cognitive activities must be tracked through everything and everyone involved in a system.

    Being Human (pp10-63)
    Being Human focuses on how computing has changed in the past and where it may be going by the year 2020.

    Our Changing World

    • GUIs to Gestures
      New ways of interacting with computers are on the rise.  New materials for thinner, more flexible, and more versatile screens and sensors are beginning to replace the classic mouse and keyboard combo with stylus- (tablet PCs, PDAs), touch- (iPhone, etc), and gesture-based (Wii, DSi, eyeToy) interactions on the small scale or CCTV and GPS for movement on a larger scale.
    • VDUs to Smart Fabrics
      OLEDs and newer displays and smaller, more efficient electronics are bringing us closer to wearable computers without bulky interfaces.  BlueTooth is being embedded in more and more objects (i.e. Nike shoes) to broadcast telemetry data and RFID is enabling one’s medical stats to be checked wirelessly.
    • Handsets to the World in our Hands
      This section touches again on how phones are going from “the brick” to pocket sized and from just a phone to pocket-sized personal computers, allowing people to do almost as much via a phone as they could do with a desktop/laptop pc.  A second highlight to this section is how the diversifying of features on phones (internet access, cameras) is giving people new ways interacting with both the real and virtual world via image recognition (i.e. shopping and price comparison) or audio recognition (think Shazzam on the iPhone).  The mention of sending a friend a music gift brings to mind current game services that allow gifting like the Wii Shop and Steam.
    • Simple Robots to Autonomous Machines That Learn
      Robots are becoming more widespread as tools for civilians (Roomba, other iRobot products) and the military (minesweepers, BEAR, BigDog).  Besides being tools, more and more are becoming companions (i.e. Kismet and Keepon from class, Pekoppa, Aibo) with facial and voice recognition abilities.  As far as learning, the cloud could eventually allow robots to network together to share “experiences” and what they have learned to assist in fine tuning and speed up machine learning, a major roadblock for AI development.  Less tangible robots (i.e. spam filters and GPS guides) are touched on as well, mentioning how interaction with machines, especially GPS, can’t be followed blindly and need to be able to communicate back and forth.  Think of how many stories there are of peoples’ GPS system’s directions being off and sending them into a tree, lake, etc.  Could this result in a new class of Darwin Award?
    • Hard Disks to Digital Footprintsbig_brother[1]
      More and more of our lives are being saved digitally, both on and offline.  We can catalog almost everthing about ourselves and others (for example, there are 155 pictures of me on Facebook alone and none of them were posted by me) and be as big of a digital packrat as we want as hard drive prices fall and storage in the cloud gets cheaper (Microsoft SkyDrive currently offers 25GB for free and Amazon offers backup services for a somewhat reasonable rates).  Our digital footprints/shadows are left behind by all kinds of services and electronics we use (IP address, the shows we watch, GPS coordinates, etc).  CCTV and phone/internet tapping also adds to our digital shadows and allow governments to keep tabs on their citizens for security or other purposes. *side note:  I can’t find it right now, but there is a story of a professors that was falsely accused of terrorism due to the US watchlists and has since fully disclosed every aspect of his current life.  If I can find it, I’ll post it here.*
    • Shrink-Wrapped to Mash-Ups
      A combination of people creating more and more of their own content and more non-user created content is becoming available in a digital format, allowing both companies and users to integrate data in new ways (i.e. Google Earth with links to Flickr albums for sites, BrightKite using GPS data, pictures, and text, or even this blog’s ability to upload pictures, video, music, polls, etc).  All of this user participation is what brings the web from 1.0 to 2.0.  Nearly everything is customisable (think iGoogle homepages or Facebook).
    • Answer Phones to Always-On
      Always-on internet access has allowed people constant access to the web, etc, but also resulted in the expectation that things will be tended to immediately.  However, as the overload grows, communication addiction becomes more of a problem.  The current ways of communicating are changing (i.e. phones being used less for talking and more texting, video conferencing instead of in-person meetings, etc.).
    • Changing Societies
      Governemnts and their peoples’ interactions are becoming more complex due to newer technologies.  It’s easier for goverments to keep an eye on their people (refer to above), but those same people are also using technologies to coordinate themselves for politcal reasons (the book mentions the G8 summit demonstrations and the voting-out of Pres. Estrada in the Philippines).  Part of this is due to nearly 1/3 of the world’s population having mobile phone access.  Copper landlines and computer access is less important as cheaper mobile technologies proliferate and introduction new technologies to previous non-users.

    Transformations in Interaction

    • Human Values in the Face of Change
      This section chiefly recaps the values touched on in section one of the book, but also adds that despite our advances in technology, we still are humans with our own sets of values.  Tech and human need to integrate and not oppose each other.
    • The End of Interface Stability
      Wearable technology is blurring the lines of humanity and computers.  We are able to augment our abilities (i.e. hearing via hearing aids) and add to our vitality (i.e. pacemakers).  Interaction with technology is a default, but how people want to interact both with that technology and each other varies from person to person.  Also, the changing physical shape of technolgies affect our interactions (think of stories of a person from the past in the future and learning how to interact with everything, such as Fururama’s suicide booth mistaken as a phone booth).  It’s impossible for us to accurately predict how all technologies will be used and interact with each other, or what will happen to other technologies if they are dependent on another that fails.
    • The Growth of Techno-Dependency
      With each generation, people are more and more dependent on technology.  When technologies fail, people realise their dependence on their technologies, like with the recent wifi problems at Informatics.  Our skills also change with our dependencies, both for better and worse.  Different people rely on technologies in varying degrees, causing another design problem.  While people become more dependent on technology, technologies are becoming more independent of people.  The suggestions they give are increasingly more helpful (i.e. Amazon suggestions).  People have to be able to trust their technologies in able to be fully dependent on them.
    • The Growth of Hyper-Dependency
      Being always connected blurs the line between work and play.  Etiquette is changing as well, but not at a uniform rate for all groups.  Location is no longer a problem for being able to take care of requests, but creates the problem of making oneself available all the time (refer to above).  Constant connections are shifting communities from segmented physical groups to segmented online communities, bringing the world together and dividing it at the same time.  Viral media can spread worldwide in a very short time and people can be brought to attention at the push of a button (a bit machine-like?).  Everyone has a voice, but it brings up the question as to whether or not many of the voices are just the vocal minority.
    • The End of the Ephemeral
      Digital footprints are expanding due to many different sources (refer to above) and are becoming increasingly hard to manage and require new views of privacy.  Peoples’ digital “memories” don’t degrade or shift over time like physical brainmeat-based memories do.  People are monitored whether the know it or not creating a sort of digital Panopticon thanks to many people having camera phones, digital cameras, CCTV systems, cookies (the web kind), etc.)  Security and privacy oppose each other and societies have to figure out how to manage them both.
    • The Growth of Creative Engagement
      Can computer models be reliable enough to solve real world problems and convey what needs to be known for others to help solve these problems?  We should hope so since Informatics relies on this.  A combination of participitory culture and easier to use and more readily available tools allow people to create and distribute their own content much easier (YouTube, SourceForge).  Focuses shift from designing a product to designing toolkits for others to make the finished product.

    Looking Forward

    • The Way Forward
      To cope with the rapid change in technology and computing, people, especially in HCI will need to create new metaphors and definitions to fit the changes.  People are using computers less to solve problems and more for their own interests.  To support this shift, design needs to be more user-centric and rely on human values (entire groups, not single users) and context (think Vista’s network settings for Home, Work, and Public).  Not all technologies are exactly what they seem on the surface and may have alternate uses.
    • Extending the Research Design Cycle
      This section is basically a rehash of what we covered at the beginning of class except that the author splits what was our “Understand Users” stage into “Understand Users” and “Study.”  One thing that seemed lacking in the book’s model was the ability to jump back to a previous step when the need arose and instead followed a regular cyclical pattern.
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    Comments»

    1. seanryanconnolly - June 1, 2009

    Great job, Kurt. Keep up the good work. It’s nice how you’ve kept your mind on the practical, but kept your eye out for the future.

    2. seanryanconnolly - June 9, 2009

    In addition, you do a very good job of summarizing the readings. And there is some of your own input, but give us more of the personal insight and connections. Everyone has read the material, and you do an excellent job of summarizing that information. But not everyone has the same subjective experience with the material. What in the reading strikes you as most important? Take one or two of those subjective responses and really extend it to make some connections to the assignments and the lectures.


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