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.

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