Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"The Three Paradigms of HCI"

I recently found the paper "The Three Paradigms of HCI" by Steve Harrison, Phoebe Sengers, and Deborah Tatar from CHI 2007. Strangely enough I have not seen this paper before, which is too bad. I very much like the basic idea of the paper and the way they describe three paradigms of HCI. I like it because they make definitions, categorize things, creates a conceptual map, that is, they theorize about theory in HCI. Something that needs to be done much more! And they do it in a way that makes me want to discuss the paradigms further and to continue to develop the ideas . These are signs of a good paper. There are of course arguments that I don't agree with, but that just makes the paper even more valuable :-) Find it and read it!!

Thanks to Kevin here is a link to the paper!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Good Design

The latest issue of the magazine "Metropolis" has the theme "What is good design?" with many interesting interveiws and articles. It is interesting to see what the aspects of good design they have chosen discuss, some of them are: sustainable, accessible, functional, well made, emotionally enduring, beautiful, etc. There are some essays (for instance by Bruce Sterling) and some interviews (among other of Don Norman). I have not read it all, but it looks good.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Reading news for confirmation

We are all experiencing a new world of news were we on our own, or within our communities, search for news using new interactive techologies. We are no longer fed news by some institution (commercial or public). Interactivity makes this "search and find" not only a possibility but a prefered way of getting news. It is fast, easy, and we get only the stuff we alreay know we are looking for and from sources we already trust and like. News becomes a personal confirmation system. I was reminded about this discussion by an article in an article in the New York Times today.

This is a case of a technological development where the technological development, experienced as positive small steps ahead, are seen as great and promising, but where we one day we may be asking ourselves "how did we end up here".

One of the most thoughtful books I have read about the relation between the new world of communities and news and information, is Cass Sunstein's book "the republic.com" and the new edition ("the republic.com 2.0"). Usually I am not pessimistic when it comes to technology, but when it comes to the topic of news, how news will be formed and delivered in the future, how we will "use" news, I am actually quite pessimistic. I am not sure that community technology is moving us in a good direction, but I hope I am wrong.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What theory in HCI is about II

My last post led to a number of really good comments and they are all helping me to sort this out. This is what I wrote in the last post

"I need to know what are the (common) categories of theories in HCI. So, this is where I need some help. I have decided that the categories should be based on what the theory is about, that is, defined by its object of study."

I also suggested three categories and have now received several proposals for other categories. First of all, to understand how I think about this, what I wrote above, that I want to "defined by its object of study" is important. There are several other ways of categorizing theories, for instance Jodi suggested that they could be categorized based on their "matureness", and Tanykim suggested that theories can be categorized along a dimension of micro-macro, or objective-subjective. These are all interesting suggestions and would probably lead to interesting and useful results, but I would like to stay with my criteria that theories can be defined by its object of study.

Shveta suggested a new category that has to do with how design relates to business and management. This is a good suggestion, but for me it is a sub-category to the design process category.

Bala suggested design history as a possible object of study, and I think that is a great suggestion, however, I think design theories of this kind can be categorized as falling within the existing categories. I suspect most of them are about the design process and lead to inspiration for designers. So, I think this is another sub-category.

Xythian suggested research as an object of study, and I think that might be a real one. Theories in HCI that are about HCI research (methods, approaches, etc) has probably a distinct enough object of study.

So, for now I have four distinct categories of theories in HCI. The four are:

The first category contains theories that has (human computer) interaction as the object of study, that is, theories that say something about the interaction between humans and interactive artifacts.

The second category of theories are those that have the design process as a core object of study.

The third category contains theories that address how interactivity and interactive technology changes society and environments, that is, theories that have the relation technology--society as the object of study.

The fourth category contains theories that have the HCI research process itself as an object of study.

I am still not sure how valuable this exploration is. I know that there are some other attemtps out there, for instance, John Carrolls edited a book in 2003 with the title "HCI Models, Theories, and Frameworks: Towards a Multidisciplinary Science". In this book there are about 14 theories presented, they all fall into the three categories of design process, interaction, and research.

Looking at these theories, it is also clear that it is possible to see these three categories as being sub-categories of each other. For instance, theories about interaction can be used to inform the design process. At the same time it is clear in Carrolls book that the selection of theories about interaction are overwhelmingly focused on the human side. Most theories are about how humans think and act. There are no theories about interactive technologies.

I think that a "map" of kinds of theories in HCI, based on what their object of study is, can help us to explore and exmine our field, and also help us to see where a lot of effort is already made and where we have big gaps.

Again I invite you to comment on this.......

I can also let you know that I will soon expand this categorization of HCI theories with a couple of more criteria, apart from "object of study" :-)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What theory in HCI is about

I am developing a theory of interaction (!). In the process of doing that, I am trying to categorize my theory. To do that I need to know what are the (common) categories of theories in HCI. So, this is where I need some help. I have decided that the categories should be based on what the theory is about, that is, defined by its object of study. As a first draft, it is possible to distinguish three kinds of theories with three distinct objects of study.

The first category are theories that has human computer interaction as the object of study, that is, theories that say something about the interaction between humans and interactive artifacts.

The second kind of theories are those that have the design process as a core object of study. Based on intuitive statistics (!) I think this is where we find the major part of theories in the field.

The third kind are theories that address how interaction and interactive technology changes society and environments, that is, theories that have the relation technology--society as the object of study.

So, what else? Any ideas?

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