martes, 10 de diciembre de 2013

HUMAN COMPUTER INTERACTION (HCI) Assignment 2, Seventh Module

This was a review of a review that I had just made last semester for the publication of my article on regulatory patterns of the internet. I specially consulted the works or early visionaries such as Licklider and Taylor, and this was exactly why I decided to take part of this course and approach the discipline with more dedication. My assessment included a section on historic developments that leapfrogged or at least urged changes in regulations or their patterns, so I had observed the evolution of technology in general as Utterback proposed, and compose a text on that context. If interested in the article, "google" my name with the same keywords, regulatory patterns internet, and it will be available. For the concept map I used the article suggested (It was very hard to complete the video because of numerous technical difficulties and restrictions, could have this been the experience to all?), but had read plenty of more accounts in the past, mostly written by lawyers that view the same process in three different (I added a fourth) phases: Restricted and specialized, the comercialization and googlization of the internet and the personal computing, mine is the digital living in full, when a device turns into an extension of our identity in every way possible and connects us with other people, devices and the environment in a diversity of ways. These technologies do not support life (we are not nourished or kept alive by them) but soon, the meaning of ur existence will depend of is no longer science fiction.
A  fascinating subject, course that unfortunately ends too soon, after merely scratching the surface of amazing possibilities. I am eager to continue studying with you and integrating disciplines as the whole of the materials on the field keep suggesting.


lunes, 2 de diciembre de 2013


This module concerns formal visualization languages applied to events. Alternative languages, and graphic visualization are some of the topics that concern me the most, and will influence my future research. State transition diagrams and Petri diagrams are similar in that they communicate complex proceses and the system these support, using symbols and schemes. The latter has a more strong foundation in mathematic languages which expands its functionality but also complicates its readability for the uninitiated. While they both can be analogous to concept maps, outlines and flow charts, or a combination of them, according to the materials revised, Petri also facilitates mathematical formulations and applications to the system it depicts. For this section, I had to consult a diversity of other articles, and eventhough it is easy to understand the merits of Petri´s proposal, I still feel unable to fluently read and understand complex diagrams. They are powerful tools to describe and evaluate systems but communicate to a restricted audience with certain level of expertise.
I would recommend to instruct this chapter in person, and practice, during a meeting, the translation of different real-life scenarios (systems) into these languages. Otherwise the topic would seem a bit neglected. Some good examples could be the service at a library, the security control processes in airports, closing a mobile application such as the hassle that Growtopia or Candy crush Saga impose, purchasing milk in a supermarket, etc.

domingo, 24 de noviembre de 2013


From the begining of the course we have been implicitly assessing issues of efficiency towards effectiveness, or heading to their recognition in the context of modelling and design. In previous post some reflections already expressed concerns about these concepts. Efficiency has to do with speed and practicalities, more on the logistic side of a strategy (design), whereas effectiveness is a descriptive quality of an outcome that is well balanced and stable: a goal is acomplished as fast as possible, within the capacity of the device combined with the abilities of the users (quantifiable, as we have learned in past modules, and reminded to in this one). Not only there is a limit to efficiency, where increments are no longer possible, that is 100%; but also there are many factors that play important roles in proposing a good interactive/interface design. Kiera´s article empasizes again the importance of trade-offs and introduces the notion that even when a system does not "seem" to be too efficient, it must enable learning through experience, so the user who is not familiar with the methodology can gain competence with a continuous use. I believe tha is is the risk that every innovation has to run when demand for it does not match an excess of supply for newer or more sophisticated products, in general.Once again the supporting literature is illustrative onhow to quantifiy and calculate numeracally human behaviour. These indicators are what information science is all about, but require for their interpretation a very serious interdisciplinary qualitative expertise and approach. None of the existing models or tools is fail proof, or can succeed to be comprehensive. Sometimes it may seem a waste to invest so much time, considerations and effort designing systems and objects that might be obsolete in very short time. Duration has to be an element that nowadays should influence design, because never before have objects (including interfaces; virtual and analogous; interactive or not; on any field) been so short lasting. One could take any example, for instance on computer applications or software. They are constantly changing, and not necessarily because of efficiency (granted that efficiency is not everything, but assuming that usability is a multifaceted feature). Pinterest just introduced a "new" capacity to "help" people collect and access information about places, systematically. This mapping possibility could be more interactive, but this tweak is not a very welcome facility for frequent pinners. Pinterest is useful and efficient the exact way it is and needs not to begin complicating its use. It is hard not to feel that one spends too much time on it already, and these sudden offers are a wake up call for many of us who realize the more they offer they more one gets hooked, and as a resut would spend (unnecessarily) a nincreased amount of time on their site. Efficiency on what is not necesary is also innefficient, in other words.

jueves, 7 de noviembre de 2013


On the Human Processor Model (HPM) and Fitts' law. This module calls strongly for interdisciplinary cooperation and this is what I can highlight of the whole the most; Card, Moran and Newell in the article suggested for this session, that common mental tasks can be improved and analyzed with the support and assistance of collateral sciences, such as cognitive psychology. This is true in terms not only of prediction and understanding but also engineering and planning, designing  as we are concerned about as well. To the same extent the law on movement we studied and in general the chapter seemed very limited and contradictory so, since the background message I got was the expansion onto other fields, and integration. The limits I perceive are those regarding the very narrow aspects studied by Fitts while its context is so vast. The realization that time needed to complete a cycle between cognition, recognition, decision making and action is far too mechanical and equalizing. What about variables affecting that activity or rather behaviour? Emotions (one could be in a bad mood and disturbed, confused, annoyed, tired, etc. affecting also one's performance), free will (training, determination, etc.), special skills (being stronger, sharper, with longer fingers, etc.), and other facilitators/obstacles (the lights are dim, a neuralgia, improper settings, bad postures, lack of interest, distracting stimuli, etc.) could play a determining role on those. Moreover, some are factors a designer could not possibly control outside an experiment, so I wonder if sometimes we do not waste time when focusing on the not-so-important bits; or maybe a timing response and accuracy are priorities set for the design of interactive environments and interfaces, and I have not yet known it. Three variables, therefore, do not seem enough. I would consider the data of course, and it is always valuable, but contrasted with a multitude of other studies, In this one, I would suggest mentioning the error factor affecting the calculations, at least I did not find reasoning on that.

miércoles, 23 de octubre de 2013


This is a challenging and important topic that invites many more thoughts and research, than those explicit of the task below. Considering the type of interest I have in the sort of "relationships" we establish with technology, this chapter has been informative and intriguing. Some of the comments I have annotated on the texts will be included later on the book review at the end of the semester and concern the "knowledge" reflected on actions. The illustrative instances of slips that I could think about are some of the most common that people experience on everyday life, just as the examples that our readings have presented:
1. Capture based error: Starting the computer to check emails and getting into Facebook instead.
2. Description based error: Placing unwashed silverware on the drawer tray instead of into the dishwasher.
3. Data driven error: Calling my youngest son by every name on the family, male or female before using his own.
4. Associative activation error: Using the words on the top of my head to designate any object, because that is what I am thinking about. Say Coffee (which I love) to offer a beverage to my son (tea or juice, which he drinks).
5. Loss of activation error: Making a massive effort and going out to the shop because we need milk and returning with everything else but milk. Reading a link on the website of the course and straying from the main article by looking up words or new data that needs expansion further loosing focus and continuing with a different task such as collecting references for a paper I am writing.
6. Mode error: Trying to retrieve information from a site by using the back button and risking loosing information that has not been saved or will not be recorded. Now this is fixed by cookies and prompts that check on my desired action: "Do you want to save document 111"?

viernes, 11 de octubre de 2013


This section of the book suggests the way in which design could become more strategical, following the pattern of actions that human behaviour does, in a way that could really be made in support of effectiveness over efficiency, without disregarding the last. This is to say that a goal and its accomplishment should be the north of a project whereas the efficiency or the ways to reach the goal (tasks, as important as they are), should not remain the only concern. I would imagine that more important that they separately considered (tasks vs. goals) is the consistency between the two, so they match. At least this this the application of the observations on how actions are performed with a purpose based on experience and information (I differ from Norman on the belief that this is about any sort of knowledge, but made the Cmap using his terminology anyway). 
Sometimes, however, a design is already a prototype of good function that allows only adjective improvements precisely in connection to tasks and efficiency. The innovation cycle (Utterback) explains it well. Breakthrough/dramatic innovation is not always possible or even desired. We should distinguish therefore whether to talk about processes that have to do with emerging artefacts and completely new products or derivative/corrective design. Then the task becomes a goal on its own.
Management theories have researched strategic planning for long and many models could have been used and applied to the design process. This is not to trivialize the contribution by Norman, and his check-list  but merely to say that we tend to develop too many models before using to the full extent those that exist already. Interdisciplinary outreach tries to correct this, and I approve this approach to sharing theoretical resources.
It is noteworthy that when discussing the cognitive process, the chapter departs substantially from the ontological theories that prevail and are of wide acceptance in regard of merging of the mind and an the objective reality. Psychology does not really explain this (what knowledge is) as well, so Norman´s book seems light on this respect. On the other hand it discusses the paradox of technology, a topic I would attribute much greater attention. After all one could say it shows the distance between technical and socio-economic development in any given society and also can measure, according to my own research levels of satisfaction in as differing areas as business management and politics. 
The post on the course blog poses a confusing statement also present on the book: " Despite less-than-perfect knowledge, precise behaviour is still possible as much knowledge is not in the head but in the world. This is so because behaviour is determined by combination of knowledge in the world and in the head." It is difficult to accept that knowledge and information (and/or the recount of it -memories-) are the same, or that it exists in the world per-se. At least it does not seem plausible or theoretically founded that knowledge is on itself and has any entity in disrespect of a human being. Further it continues with an implication on that we need not to actually know as long as we can decide on the right action of usability, or so it seems to be implicit by the following: " The implication is that high precision of knowledge in the head is unnecessary as we only need knowledge to be precise enough to distinguish the right  behaviour from the others possible." This would in logic lead to a conclusion most peculiar that the cognitive process, is actually less relevant than what Norman aimed to demonstrate, at least for users, not designers, placing the former in a very disfavouring light, like objects. Maybe what Norman was really analysing is about accuracy (people err, in addition make attribution mistakes often imagining causalities that do not hold true in reality) and what theory has described as tacit knowledge with the implication that we can induce the acquisition of similar content (knowledge) on users? In such case, these ideas would make more logical sense and once again we could be using developments that other academics have discussed for many years and of course develop them further, applying them to the usability and HCI contexts. Why Norman states that memory is knowledge on the head when memory can be faulty and mistaken? Is not it simply information stored? Knowledge thus, is a term I think he could have avoided considering how much philosophy has dealt with it already. In my opinion scholars have more or less done the same things in their confined territories, focusing on their own fields, instead of integrating entirely compatible observations to create a full view of the big picture on Human potential. I am also intrigued about the ways in which Norman would comment on activity theory. In p.60 he states that central to his book is what happens when someone does something. Its seems a lot connected. 
The question posed to prepare the conceptual map this week was: What is the relationship between the seven stages of action and knowledge? Although I tried to stick to this, I had to give relevance to other notions, some of which seemed to me even more important. It appeared to me that the gulf of action, for example should be coherent with the gulf of evaluation to be able to discuss factors such as efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency could be said to look into procedure too (fast, clear, unambiguous, inexpensive), while effectiveness to outcomes (satisfaction of needs and interests). 

Is not the tacit knowledge some sort of conventional wisdom? a default though culturally determined set of understandings (rather than knowledge), what the designers need to take advantage for creating simpler solutions? I would not give to any of these the rank of "knowledge" indeed. Knowledge in ontology means so much more than that: the being, the truth.

miércoles, 25 de septiembre de 2013


As suggested, this conceptual map generates from a question on the general topic. The module was an introductory one on some of the fundamental concepts in HCI. It seemed to add coherence to this chapter, to make associations, thus the initial question was: How these fundamental concepts relate to one another? This way, the Cmap below would have a readable flow, without excess information, and rather than being a descriptive net of words connected awkwardly, it can really reflect processed thoughts. If necessary, with a more refined understanding of the subject it can also be amended and completed, so this version is short, I choose to aim for clarity, simplicity and consistency. I also added some keywords for my own references rather than to re-formulate any theory.
Hints on the the strategic planning of the design were left for last on the module, despite their importance in the design process. The result of a conscious development of ideas should be what is called a conceptual model. To better implement user friendly interfaces, and efficient, practical objects, the model must be conceived first, and here is where my concept map begins. A model could serve as a guideline for the implementation of a design that should convey the intent of its producer (a designer who has been observing and analizing potential users, so I am assuming the things that will be created respond to needs or interests instead of mere whimsical ideas) and communicate to those who implement the manufacturing stage, the capacity of an artefact, I would say also its extent to relate to users and the other way around. If a good conceptual model is successfully translated into a finished product, it may be that the mapping of possibilities is implicit on it, but also that it requires additional elements to inform users, depending on what the object is, to exploit efficiently its potential. Labelling, in this context should not be considered a negative feature, when appropriate. It seems specially necessary for an interconnected, culturally diverse world. We no longer create for our peers but everything that is being materialized nowadays has global reach, even if through an electronic image, to say the least. I find it very hard to go to an anthropological level where our minds all meet and react towards objects in only one way. Most of what we intuitively do is learned, for example the direction to push opening (to the left). Babies do not know this. Some conventions are very difficult to read even to adults. In my case, it has never been clear what toilets are for men or women by the visualization of a triangle. That is not enough data for me, and I fail to remember the many explanations people have given me on this respect. I wait outside until I can verify who enters or exits those rooms. Sometimes, I have to ask.
In times, mapping are the most meaningful part of the design, because in the absence of signs/clues for logical relationships between things and -what must/should not/can/can´t- people -do with them- the functional attributes of such objects get trivialized or ignored. If articles that are really needed, then they turn into a hassle, like the very common examples of graphic signs, doors and knobs that are more puzzling than anything else.

The properties of an object are visible when obvious; Affordances are functional allowances, no matter how objectively or subjectively they are judged to be (real or perceived), whereas constrains represent the opposite: limitations that the design imposes to the user. If these last rely on consensus or cultural conventions, logic indicates that affordances should too. Constrains should also be real and perceived following the same reasoning. Some activities are acceptable for specific groups and they should be able to relate to objects in their surroundings in manners that other people could not even imagine. All of this beyond culture, for example at the level of subcultures. A smoker in some countries might see on an empty cup of coffee the perfect ashtray while a gardener/artists a creative way to display plants, and a collector a beautiful piece of history. In Finland, it is common to find old shoes lined up on top of fences with live flowers growing inside. In contrast, in my country, old shoes are the ultimate horror, they would not easily be connected to gardening and ornamental arrangements. These are the two sides of the perceived concepts (Affordances and constrains) on the same objects.
It all must become much more practical if designers have the opportunity to solicit, receive and process feedback, test model objects, etc. A good practical object needs to pass the test of usability or else it would remain a theoretical, distant piece of science fiction, or junk. This, I guess would correspond to its market value, if to talk in economic terms.