industrial design and hci

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

what i thought this panel was going to be about:

what it was about:

why the difference matters:

interesting snippets:
difference between design and engineering – design looks at the whole picture of a product and decides what to build, engineering figures out how to build the actual pieces.

jesus endorsement site

are they saying we should become industrial designers? is it more about the impact of hci on id?

yeah, they’re talking about thinking about how interaction designers have to think like product designers because products are becoming the interface.


got that one.

but what about the dialogue with industrial designers?
i should have listened more closely to the kodak guy. i think he was talking about that.

An Islamic Perspective On Inter-Faith Dialogue – Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid, Edinburgh Central Mosque, 27 November, 2006

Monday, November 27th, 2006

thought-provoking talk
very interesting man
made points about how the q’uran teaches that creation is diverse, and that it is not up to human beings to decide what is true, only to live in accordance with the teachings of the prophet and allow judgement to be passed in time.
the q’uran teaches honesty, respect for others, and the inclusion of minorities, so interfaith dialogue follows from this naturally, in his opinion.
faith is needed, and what matters is that we understand that each person needs to find their own way of understanding, it is not our place to presume to know what is right for everyone, we should focus instead on figuring out what is right for us and then finding what we can agree on with others and working from there.

that’s my overall summary in retrospect, though i’m sure it’s affected by my own interpretations. during the lecture i struggled with the idea that one way of seeing the tolerance he was suggesting was as a kind of test for the faithful – “hey dudes, it doesn’t matter if they get it right. just focus on knowing that YOU got it right, and be nice. if they don’t get their shit in order in time, that’s their problem.”

in the end, these reservations were lessened a good bit during the q&a, when dr. sajid got the chance to give a more nuanced description of what he means by respect and how fundamentally he holds the contention that we can’t really pretend to know the whole truth. but the questions from the audience suggested that the deeper struggle is still with the seeming paradox of believing in The Truth and being respectful of other opinions, so i think there is still a mental leap to make before we really grok the interfaith cooperation thing at a cultural level.

here are the notes i took during the session:

“to believe that everyone is deserving of respect, and to focus on finding a common ground.

but beneath this, do we believe that our understanding of truth is the correct way, and it simply isn’t our job to convince others, it is only our job to live well and let them make up their own minds? so our tolerance of other beliefs is kind of a test of our own faith, but we still have a deeper belief in our worldview, and its kind of like “too bad” for people who don’t get it?

the ends achievable through these means seem very powerful, but what does it mean about our conception of truth? is it possible for us to not only believe that we should tolerate other wrong beliefs because such tolerance is a part of the right beliefs, but to actually believe that there is more than one sort of rightness? what if the truth is actually impossible to comprehend from any one perspective, so we have different religions and philosophies because they transform the truth into contextualized metaphors that are most likely to lead us to right behavior? so the real belief is in right behavior, and the respect for other perspectives comes not from a belief that tolerance of inaccuracy is a test of faith but because any path to right behavior is deserving of respect and admiration and genuine interest. so debates over points of religion are not about what is true and what is false, but about how well a creed or perspective leads to right behavior.

so under that, there is a belief in right behavior. the difference of opinion comes in regarding where that rightness comes from.

what we have to decide is whether we are more committed to getting to a place where we all believe the same things or a place where we all agree on what constitutes right action.
i’m saying that the mental leap is to understand that different beliefs are the only path to similar actions, because we are all living in different contexts.

so the separation of church and state is different than the separation of faith and state.

what we agree on is that there is some force compelling us to right action, and we may believe that our way is right, but we can’t say that the existence of multiple paths is not the only want to reach a common destination.

the danger is in confusing our own personal revelations with The Way It is. we know that we need to figure things out, but we should be comfortable with the idea that our own truths do not need to be everyone’s truths in order for them to be valid. all that matters is that they direct us to do good. ”

i think these are pretty good notes, and they felt good at the time in terms of getting stuff out of the head and onto the page, but they’re still rather scattered and susceptible to the “sounds a lot more obvious than it felt” phenomenon.

a lot of these things relate to stuff i’m thinking about in general regarding the quest for the certainty of purpose that i need to pick a project and stick with it, and the motivation to kick my work into a higher gear once i’m there.

or, at least, i Made them relate to those things, and the illusion was heightened because i had the gift of two chats with erik tonight, both before and after the talk, and even though we did manage to discuss a range of things, the larger arcs still fed these same fires as if they were scripted for the task. while that is probably partly because we really are dealing with some similar shit, i am sure that it is also partly just that i was in one of those “whoa! everything relates to this!!” kind of moods, so i only hope that the relevance to what erik was actually saying and thinking was not entirely in my mind, and therefore i didn’t completely commandeer the conversations to serve my own ends.


anyway, i don’t know how much of it is my mind just grasping for answers to some of the questions i’ve been grappling with of late, but i do know that, in the meet and greet after the talk, and on my walk home, i felt a sort of clarity. it felt easier to look people in the eye and actually listen. it was easier to smile at strangers on the street and really mean it. i felt ready and excited to talk about things, and more capable of really believing what i always tell myself – that changing my mind is an exciting victory in the cause of better understanding, rather than a referendum on things i should have known all along.

i felt less defensive and more ready to just work, which is the real goal i have been seeing lately, because i think that a lot of people are afraid of different ways of thinking because they feel that their own way of life is threatened, and the only way they know how to react is to lash out and claim theirs as the way of truth and light. we are stuck in a mindset where things need to be one way or the other, even as we spout rhetoric about honoring diversity and try to believe it as long as it isn’t really threatening us. but it’s hard to really wrap our minds around, and we need to get cracking if we are going to survive in our new world of thinner borders.

and whether i have been able to articulate it or not, tonight i had a glimmer of a moment where i could actually see it, and that’s something to celebrate.


convivio lecture 6 – alan munro

Monday, August 21st, 2006

alan munro – cognitive psych -> social psych -> sociology -> anthropology -> design
ethnography and interaction design
this relates to design for people vs. design by people – there is a difference between studying for the sake of cultural understanding and studying for the sake of design. i guess i question how much we can ever really understand from the inside. but really, i’m not questioning that there is a role for professional designers; i’m just suggesting that there is a much larger role for DIY design. and beyond that, that Looking at homebrew design can be a good way of learning about what people need.
ethnography as inspiration – an installation to remember a girl who died.
this kind of design is much more artistic, imho, but that’s the art/science discussion for another time.
i’m not paying good enough attention to this lecture.
he is talking about interesting things, but they are things like blogging and flickr, and i don’t need summaries of those things, and am having a hard time picking out his central themes.
i have been putting up my previous notes and trying to catch up with my blog, which i didn’t do yesterday, as i had intended to.
let me focus for a minute and see what hits me.

his slides are confusing. he is not reading from them, but they have cues that don’t make much sense until he talks about them, and so they don’t do much to help with understanding as you stare at them.
it might be easier if there weren’t so many topics on each slide. i’m having a hard time finding the common thread.

he’s talking about the ways that people represent and change their identity in virtual space, and the way that understanding this might change our vision of what computing is going to become.
“not where computers are doing our thinking for us, but where the command line is still used, to hack our surroundings, create mashups…”

shows a scenario of a smart ubiquitous system with a table that recommends wine and then serves as a workspace during lunch – “some of it’s ok, but a lot of it’s a bit daft.” :) i love the word ‘daft’.
i feel like we all have to go through this learning curve right now to think past technology as this sci-fi vision of replacing everything and learning how it can actually fit into our lives.

compares the scenarios of “oh! what is that shiny new device you are using?” to porn – it just gets to the action as soon as possible, sometimes in rather forced ways. “sorry, it’s a bit warm in here. let me just take off my shirt…” :)
dumb technology – an answering machine:
“did someone phone?”
“yeah, someone phoned.”
how much do we really need it to tell us?
playing with the other side helps us figure out how to keep our demands simple.
instead of the system learning who we are and doing it for us, it can give us the information that we need to make sophisticated determinations ourselves?
a ticketing map that shows where seats are filled, and nothing more.  it is a good use of technology to give us an updated view, but it keeps it simple.  so what about a wine list that gives a scent? a media review that shows opinions in a variety of contexts?
this is the takeaway point of this lecture – how do we decide what information people need in each context, understanding that people and contexts both change? rather than making the system smart, how do we capitalize on the intelligence of the people and let them build what they need?
at least, that’s what i’m taking away. that’s very much in line with the vision i have of building flexible systems that let people design the details themselves.

convivio lecture 5 – joi roberts

Friday, August 18th, 2006

design is everywhere
experience designers are renaissance designers
diagram from brenda laurel
which path should a budding experience designer choose?
academia – you get to think about interesting things just because you can, develop new methodologies and ideas, dig deeply into one or two areas, influence people.  but your ideas will probably not be “productized”, and you have to deal with the politics of the academy.
design firms – you get to work on developing visionary design solutions, work with talented multidisciplinary teams, work on a variety of projects, and get high visibility.  there are fewer politics to get people to accept work because you are being paid for it, but you are doing work that other people select, jobs are few and far between, your work may or may not actually be productized, and it is high stress.
consultancies – you have a methodology that the whole company buys into that you get to use in a variety of situations and really learn deeply, you work on a variety of projects, and become adept at communicating and justifying your design decisions, because the argument is often what people are hiring you to create.  work is driven by what clients want and your methodology, and work can come and go.
big business – you get to build real things that go out into the world, and see your impact on what people use.  you look deeply at users in specific market segments, work with a variety of people, learn about business and marketing, and have the benefits of a strong company.  design is not always a strong part of company culture, however, and there are a lot of politics.  you often have to convince and educate your colleagues about the importance of design before your work is taken seriously.

how to prepare:
build a toolbox
develop a portolio
keep up with blogs and articles
-ixda, idsa,, hcibib,
attend meetings
find a mentor – contact people who do things you are interested in, have a cup of coffee with them, ask them 20 questions, email them from time to time.

“design right now is the new black (sexy, hip, strategic), but i believe that, where we are headed next, it will be the new green (social change, sustainability).”

convivio lecture 4 – dk arvind

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

the lecture today was given by dk arvind, who is my atelier leader, and it was very, very similar to the lecture that he gave us on the first day of the atelier.  it gives a basic overview of speckled computing and shows some examples.  it’s an ok lecture, but it’s hard to sit through it twice, especially when the internet has just begun working.  so i’m not feeling much inspiration for notetaking, but i guess it’s a good time to give a basic summary of speckled computing, which is the paradigm that we are going to be using for our design project in my atelier.
speckled computing is so named because it is about “specks” – small (down to 5mm x 5mm) chips that consist of a sensor, a processor, a battery, and a radio transmitter.  the sensor on each speck only detects one kind of thing – temperature, light, pressure, orientation, etc. – and the processor on each type of speck takes the input from the sensor, processes it according to its program, and transmits it so that it can be picked up by other specks and other computers.  the idea is to use a collection of specks, with a variety of sensors, to build a “specknet” – a network of sensing and processing power that you can distribute in the environment – building it into clothing, objects, buildings, furniture, whatever.  other computers would then have to be used to store and display the information, and to perform any processor-intensive computation, but the specks provide the means for a pervasive sensory network.
in many ways, the specks are similar to phidgets, but they are different in a few key ways:
they are smaller
they have their own small processor
they are wireless
they have networking capability
these differences are potentially very exciting, because they allow for applications where the specks can transmit data among themselves in response to environmental stimuli (a chain of specks could light up to point the way through a building or along a street, for instance), and they also allow for the networks to be trained according to neural net algorithms.
the specks themselves, right now, are still at an early stage of development.

the cool factor of vangelis’s glove
the interplay between experimentation and design

convivio lecture 3 – anxo and nina

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

i didn’t get very detailed notes of the lectures today, largely because i was incredibly tired. the first lecture was also spectacularly boring. it covered good stuff about strategies for creative ethnography and prototyping for pervasive projects, but it wasn’t new to me, and the presentation was all text. all courier text. on a blue screen. it was frightening to anyone with memories of the blue screen of death.
the second lecture was very good, but it unfortunately involved turning the lights out and watching a story, and i couldn’t stay awake. the topic was a specific sort of storytelling in regions of india that involves a small wooden temple with stories painted on the doors. storytellers use the temple as a prompt, and the stories are commissioned by people in gratitude for wishes they have made, which figure into the stories. nina is studying these storytellers and the stories, and it was fascinating, and she also shared a story that she herself had made for her father, and turned into an animated short. that was what made me fall asleep, which i did regret.
so no specific notes, but i did get some thoughts that were triggered by one thing or another, mostly relating to user needs in the first lecture, and then design and art in the second.

Paparek, Victor “Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change.”

there seems to be an assumption that “quality of experience” = “proven user need” i challenge this. i can really enjoy a lot of things that i wouldn’t say that i need.

new technology enables new creativity, which can be used in powerful ways, but that does not mean the technology was needed. that’s just what people do with new things. so my question is – are there real and pressing needs that we can address through design in a direct manner? it seems obvious that we can, but then how do the impacts of that design (which seems somewhat prescriptive) compare to the unpredicted ripples of forward-thinking new tools? many great innovations were accidental repercussions of something else, but it doesn’t seem very sporting to just count on that and not look for great things to do with fewer levels of remove. but real change depends on impacts at several levels, and i wonder how realistic it is to expect ourselves to be able to see that much? is that the choreography of interaction design? it seems somewhat bigger. it is the political foresight that erik and i talk about. it is the responsible use of power. but is the seat of that power shifting? getting too babbly…

i am interested in whether there are separate schools of design that we haven’t yet been able to clearly delineate. i think the reason that the difference between art and design so interests me is that i don’t think they are as clearly separable as many people seem to. i think we can try and create a science of design, but it will be reductionistic, and it will lead to design that is devoid of some of the emotional insights that mark the best work. i think that we can also have a rather pure art of design, but it will lead to designs that are too often too narrow or abstract to be of much use. so the true designer is both a scientist and an artist.
and maybe the true scientist is, as well. :)
but that’s another question.

how does a hierarchy of needs map on to a hierarchy of design? do i believe in a responsibility to focus on more fundamental needs first? the principal motivator for a lot of the human-centered design work that gets the most lip service is something like “deepening the human sense of community”, which is a need, and a rather fundamental one really, but it is multifaceted, and it often focuses on communities that have other needs satisfied.
i sometimes feel drawn to building community between areas rather than within them, because this nongeographic sort of community seems a strength of the digital medium, but what is it based on? if i think about this more, i should write to kevin.

art and storytelling are some of the tools of interaction design, so knowing when to use them and how and who to ask is important, but it is the shape of the experience that is the work of the designer. nina’s story works well because of the personal details. is it helping people to give those details life that is the task of design? many types of expression that used to be available to pros are now more widely possible, and sometimes i think that designing to put these tools into people’s hands is a large part of what appeals to me.

convivio lecture 2 – irene mcara mcwilliam

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

summary:  her own overview said that the presentation was about exploring the different sorts of contexts in which technology is used (not just geographical or temporal, but psychological, cultural, social, etc.), and then presenting her idea of interaction design, particularly why and how it is different from other areas of design.  the first section was interesting but very abstract, and more like a literary criticism lecture.

“the technological imaginary” – proposals of the future
it’s interesting to me that the idea of imagining technology is seen as synonymous with imagining the future
talks about the way our hopes and fears are projected into the technological imaginary.  i applaud that insight.  that new movie about the people using the internet to come back from the dead makes me fall on the ground in hysterics.
she talks about the relationship between the technological imaginary and the reality of what is developed, saying that our ideas are influenced by what we see in art, and i say of course.  but it seems more interesting to me to think that the same underlying cultural forces are working on both artists and technologists, so of course there is a dialogue between them, but a) it is a dialogue – what technologists imagine impacts what artists imagine as much as vice versa, and b) it is not coming from nowhere.
she uses the idea of the impact of the imaginary to frame a point about the impossibility of neutral design, saying that it is the designer’s job to identify assumptions.  she is talking about understanding the full context in which design takes place.
disposable camera study
[tuned out to think about the idea that what i need most right now is a string of projects that are taken from inception to production, so maybe i should apply at ideo? or smaller places like that one where josh wanted to work.  thinking there are a few pieces – the architecture piece, the knowledge of how things get made, the design of the annotation interaction]
she is saying interesting things about the idea of the home, and the office place, and where things are really going to be used, but i am not sure what to write about. her points do not strike me as novel, though they are good. rather broad, though, or something… “think about important things when you design”  thanks, cap’n.
write about the relationship between personal and professional design.
she gives an example of a lightshow and calls it user-centered because it was designed from the perspective of the viewer.  this reminds me of arvind’s comment yesterday about the music glove being user-centered because it was designed with the hand in mind, and our discussions in the speckled group about the idea of using the specks as an art installation.  this makes me feel like it is important to make a distinction between “human-centered” in the sense that things are designed with the psychology and biology of the human species in mind, and “human-centered” in the sense that designs are motivated by existing needs or desires that grow from observations of or discussions with a group.  interaction design is definitely a powerful foundation for artistic expression, but this, to me, is a different sort of design than the user-centered design that i have spent the last two years learning to value.  maybe here is the line between art and craft that i always wanted to bicker with marty about.  and maybe this is the difference between interaction design, in the european sense, and hcid, as the school of informatics are attempting to define it.  so what parts of our training overlap and where do they diverge? i should write more about this.
[coffee break]
now a more concrete discussion of her theory of interaction design
“ID is the design of the dynamics of the relationships between system and user(s)”
the word dynamics is what signifies a new type of design, because it means we are dealing with time and timings, rather than exclusively the form or shape of a material.  “so actually you are all becoming choreographers.  you are making products dance.”  that’s a very nice metaphor.
so the designers job is to imagine the space in which the system will be used, and design the affordances and aesthetics to suit that space.
i like the way that involving time as a part of the medium makes it easier to explain the difference between a static interface and the full space of interaction.  i think erik would say that the digital material interacts with time differently than other materials, so it is the work of the i designer to understand that, but the metaphor of choreography across time is very helpful.
she refers to the “digital material” as synonymous with code, and lists it an element of interaction design.  so a piece of the dance, along with the media, the interaction modalities, the locations, and the users.  but the overriding “material” of design is time, or better put, spacetime.  so it is not just finding the material, as erik strives to do, it is realizing that the material stretches across more than 3 dimensions.  “it is about things that change.  we are looking at design through a different axis.”
it sounds so simple.  i think it is mindblowing.  it ties together a lot of ideas that i’ve been unable to phrase.  w00t.
the digital material allows us to design in an additional dimension.  programmable interactivity is the key.  so we are stepping into a new space.  the digital paint works because it is timed to coincide with events that we personally control.  the digital layer of objects is possible because we can control behavior through time.  “i want this object to have this property at this time, or at the time that it resides in this space, or near this person.”  it makes objects malleable across contexts.  but it’s not actually the digital that does this, is it.  we could make time-release objects, keyed objects that change in different hands upon authentication, weather-driven objects… the digital is a particularly useful resource, but it is not the only one.  it is the only one that can exist in more than one place, though? i think so.  maybe that is the shift that has pushed us to define a new profession.   spanning locations enables networking, which produces possibilities for interactions that would be impossible with isolated objects that changed over time.
it’s stepping up to a higher level of design, along with a step up to higher levels of information.  are there more levels?  i’m not sure i can imagine them.
irene’s design philosophy: moving from ‘automated dreams’ (‘smart’ homes, ‘intelligent’ machines, ’emotional’ computing, computer ‘memory’) to the social construction of technology.
(where and how do we think of our metadata now?  can computers manifest our existing metaphors rather than creating new, shining abstract ones?)
her final points really resonate with me – using technology to leverage human strengths rather than make machines smarter.  she speaks of tools, which is language that has drawn me from day one, and “promoting cultural and cognitive wellbeing as the dominant ‘technology'” is interesting.
so how does the artistic perspective fit with that.  is it the artistic conscience rather than the industrial?  i still feel like i don’t fully understand the dance between art and practicality.  art has purpose, and motivates.  i believe this deeply.  but i still see design as broader than art.  i think there is a different responsibility.
the example of the chairs and buildings that light up to indicate activity.  or the light up wallpaper.
these are things that improve the quality of life, but only within the bop.
is that my reservation?
her comments on design vs art – not done in galleries, not done alone, the output is multiplied and distributed into the fabric of everyday life
an understanding of aesthetics is one important aspect of design, but it’s not just about aesthetics
but i don’t think art is only about aesthetics, which is the root of my old complaint i guess.
but underneath it all are the questions that drive you to design, that define the design space within which the aesthetics are applied.   these goals of supporting community and making social spaces more engaging are very interesting, and the potential implications of a wider sense of community engagement are not something that i want to underestimate or dismiss.  but they exist for the most part in a space of privilege that is not my greatest motivator, and their potential for wider impact does not seem to be that often realized.  we are exploring, and prototyping, and visioning, and that is good.  but in the meantime there is a lot of shit happening in the world to which touch-sensitive lighted wallpaper doesn’t really bring much to bear, and so i think that i want my design space to be defined somewhat differently.
but how?
by the degree to which i can help people build ladders.

convivio lecture 1 – michael smyth

Monday, August 14th, 2006

“artefacts, place and interaction design”

starts by confessing that he doesn’t really know what hci is.
good icebreaker, charming, leads into a discussion of the importance of hci.
has us draw a computer, guessed that it would like a desktop, uses this as an example of why hci is important – because when we think about computers, we think about the means of interaction.  but hci is broader than we first think.  check.
[listen halfway as i sort my desktop]
it is still fascinating to me how much this initial setup of hci seems to be viewed as necessary even with proclaimed practitioners.  it’s a sign of how young the discipline is, and i think our experience at iu is not typical.  it would be good to have a better understanding of the typical experience, and of the difference between the american and european (and other) perspectives.  i should read more of the history of interaction design around the world.
[tune in more as he discusses mcluhan and the impact of different media]
michael’s comparison between a digital document and a drawn document is that the digital document looks more finished.  it doesn’t capture uncertainty, or history.  that’s a more interesting way of looking at the difference than what i’ve heard before about it just Seeming more formal and thus influencing the way we think as we write, because i am more and more convinced that everyone does not feel this way, particularly younger people.  but the history and scribbling points are the ones that keep me going back to paper, but it seems like those are rather easily retained.  i have long thought of just better ports of freehand writing as an answer, but it is interesting to think about other solutions.  wait, is that what he’s talking about now?
[tune back in, and then out again as i format these notes]
talking about architects and their use of prototyping – why and how simple models are used at early stages of the project.
physical models gave a sense of context that sketches didn’t, and were more easily manipulable – allows architects think with their hands.
so what is he getting at?  trying to get us to think about pervasive computing?
cites lakoff
you should write a short paper – ‘things i take for granted about hci that i really shouldn’t’
another note on the history lost with digitization – opening a book and finding the most popular article because the book falls open to it.  the notes in the margin.
we think of the ideal of technology as pristine, but we learn a lot from the patterns of use and the trails they leave.
this relates to the annotation thoughts that i have every time i start reading or taking notes. if i’m starting to talk about my interests as something like pervasive metadata interaction, with a goal of helping people organize, track, and share their ideas, how do the annotation of information that we are processing and the annotation of information that we are creating intertwine?
[yep, he’s talking about shared surfaces now.]
it seems like there are two parts – the annotation itself and the organization of the information once it is created.  i am interested in where the twain meet, but i need to focus on a specific area to make it something real, and lately i’ve been drawn to the ideas that are lost, on the backs of napkins and in the minds of everyone we meet.  but back to that later.
[back to lecture]
“interaction has lost it’s grounding in physicality”  and woodrow, the professor from virginia tech, interrupts – “but it’s changing”, and he acknowledges yeah, it is in some places, and they namedrop dourish and hutchins.  but then he gets back to the lecture, and the main point, which is that we need to think more about haptics and broaden our conception of interaction design.
so what are the people in this room doing who haven’t thought about before? what is their hci?  what is the hurdle between the two?
i guess i know some answers to these questions, but i don’t think about them very much in terms of the hci that is being taught right now, to my contemporaries, and that’s naive, i guess.  it seems like there’s a danger, in thinking about embodied computing, to dismiss the learning that we still can do very well with, um, disembodied? computing.  or not?
[hee! he said disorientated. that is one of the funniest language differences between british and american english.  it just sounds like a nonword to me.]
when i visited the lighthouse in glasgow, i was struck by thoughts on my place in the world of design.  these things that michael is talking about blur the edges between digital and physical design as a part of interaction design, and i realize that i do believe that, but the training program is so different, the ideology… what is happening?
talking about skating’s relationship to the urban space.
recommend dogtown and the z-boys to erik – skateboarding and embodied cognition, and the uses of space that are not always envisioned by designers
the thing we don’t fully grok is that the digital can be just another layer of any object, and impact the other layers in deeper ways than previously imagined.
it’s true that i keep thinking about the metadata question in a more traditional sense.  maybe the answer really is impossible on a screen. maybe that shift has to go hand in hand with a shift to more embodied computing.

CHI workshop: faceted metadata for IA and search

Monday, April 24th, 2006

flexibility, previews, meaningful organization, support for expansion and refinement
none of these speak to the conception of location
talks about the difficulty of classifying in more than one location, and offers the faceted approach as a solution to this problem.
rather than finding the place for items (the right category), facets allow us to attach descriptors to the items where they are.
cooking method: stirfry, ingredient:chicken, course:main dish…
this is pretty much just like what i was calling genres, eh?
facets make refinement simpler from a UI perspective – what is relevant is determined on demand.
handling facet similarity/synonymity
adding facets is done separately from assignment to items?
makes me think about how my idea of merging annotation and search parallels the wiki movement’s build as you go philosophy. there are strengths and weaknesses to this

claims that it could make automatic categorization easier, so i’m not the only one wondering about that…
“themes” as a name for groups of facets, ways of capturing larger ideas like “japanese internment during wwii”
facets are shown independently in the interface, attributes still exist, but are associated with individual items.
labels are the names used within the facets, not the facets themselves.
this is a lot of names for things…
the ebay example she gave for attributes is shipping rate, tax, etc. couldn’t this be grouped into a facet? right, but then all of those things wouldn’t be shown on the main page. but, in my view, they Would be accessible in a detailed view of the facet itself, not just on the screens of the detail results that contain the attributes.

the lists of facets in the nobel prize example still feel overwhelming to me.
there is a lot of learning required to understand to affiliate the colors of each faceted section with the meaning behind it.
so what?
well, it also takes up a lot of screen space.
and for the halo to be powerful in a wide range of contexts, i am pretty sure it’s going to have to fade into the background pretty well.
how should i test that?

a few years since the last usability study?!!
fairly or unfairly, this triggers my wariness of the academy. i am more and more convinced that i need somewhere that encourages me to make shit fast and put it in front of people immediately. i already naturally resist this out of shyness, or perfectionism, depending how you look at it.

she talks a lot about the goal of helping people not feel lost, but none about the sense of location. the main wayfinding aid seems to be breadcrumbs. and the general sense of relevance that comes from seeing the multiple facets. and yeah, that’s huge, but is something lost from not making the new location metaphor a bit more explicit? if not, maybe i should give that up. but i should think about it.

all shared facets of a selected facet are already “or”s – allowing people to start with the most obvious first step by making the process of choosing subsequent steps less overwhelming. this is a good point.

key points i see to make/clarify in incorporating these thoughts into my capstone:
help finding “nearby” items
location as constellation
merging annotation, search, and exploration
facets and genres
spatial consistency for key facets? iconic representation to speed absorption at a glance?
and/or/not filtering easier if we think about the filter as a place?
facets/genres support hierarchy And multiple categorization. this is huge.
ebay could provide interesting examples.

assumptions about personalization

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

it’s not just that people like to personalize their systems; it’s also that they learn how to use it through personalization. not in terms of color and font, as much, but in terms of workflow. there are enough small variations between people’s work styles that all systems will be improved by an ability to adjust to these variations. this is why i am starting to believe that we should focus on improving the building blocks of interaction so that users are more able to basically build their systems themselves. i challenge the assumption that it is better design to assume what users want and try to cover all the bases. you never will.