[ExI] The Field of HCI
anders at aleph.se
Sat Feb 2 12:26:39 UTC 2013
On 31/01/2013 02:14, Natasha Vita-More wrote:
> Human-computer interaction is one field I am teaching two classes in
> (theory and prototyping) and I'd like to ask you all for any insights,
> suggestions, latest theories, methods, etc. that would be helpful to
> these undergrad students who want to their work at a master's level.
Hmm, HCI is tricky. When I took it it was heavy on cognitive science
models, which was frankly rather boring. At the same time it borders on
design and very creative topics.
I think a key skill is being able to critique designs. To actually take
something, play around with it, and then not just tell whether it feels
good or bad (useful/useless, easy/hard, whatever) but to articulate
*what* makes it feel like that. This is not just good for feedback and
commentary, but for discovering how things can be made better. Even if
you don't know how to fix a problem, by formulating it clearly others
can help - and often even formulating it tends to resolve what should be
Norman was my start too, he is good. I am also a great fan of Edward
Tufte (who isn't?), and since so much of the complexity of current
computers is about showing (or not showing) information he is quite
relevant to HCI. A lot of the wild and wonderful designs found in the
archives of http://infosthetics.com/ and http://benfry.com/projects/
ought to be inspirational.
Finally, something I think was totally lacking when I studied HCI and I
hope has become relevant now: motivation. Looking at the user interfaces
of Bryce or World of Warcraft shows something that would have failed all
the criteria discussed: too messy and idiosyncratic. Yet people learn
them, and become very good at using them. Why? Because they are
delightful to use, or the program itself allows you to do something
highly motivating. The work on gamification (and MacGonigals work on
ARGs) suggests to me that if you make the interfaces motivate users in
the right way the strangest interface will be learnable. So maybe the
core issue is not to fix the epistemic/perceptual aspects but the
emotional and motivational: if your software has the right built in
motivators (and demotivators) it will drive the right kind of learning
and use. But whether there is a good theory for this yet, I do not know.
Maybe the game design literature is worth a glance.
(Hmm, having an active wordcount in the lower border of a window might
actually be a simple gamification of writing, rewarding me with "points"
for writing... maybe it should also list the number of misspellings -
wordprocessing as a game!)
Future of Humanity Institute
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University
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