Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The lack of literature in HCI and design theory

I got a question from a student today asking for good readings in the "foundations of HCI and design". The student is working on a project and needed inspiration for how to address a large and complex HCI design problem. The student already know the works by Rogers, Dourish, Margolin (and me :-), but want more. The student want that can help him reflect upon and actually approach his very real design challenge. I realized that I cannot come up with any good list of readings. There are a huge number of "how to" literature, there are a substantial number of "methods" literature and research out there, there are an endless number of specific product (design) experimentations, but almost nothing that could be seen at addressing the foundation of HCI and design, that is, how to think about the role of HCI, the way to address a complex problem , the nature of design, theoretical broad perspectives, etc. And even worse, there are no discussions or debates between different intellectual and theoretical schools thought or perspectives. This situation is not good. Frequently I meet students, Master and PhD, in the field who really want to, or need to, know much more, who struggle with questions on that level.

If anyone want to discuss this situation or argue that there are actually book that do address this level, please comment or let me know.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My first podcast...

Well, earlier this fall I was invited to the interaction design company Namahn in Belgium to give a presentation. The owner of the company Joannes Vandermeulen also interviewed me and the interview can now be heard on a Podcast.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Practice and Research in HCI

In the last issue of ACM Interactions, Avi Parush writes about the "gap between HCI research and practice". It is an interesting text that tries to make the case for research that is both practical and theoretical. The argument is basically correct and is based on the old truth "there is never anything more practical than a good theory". It is however from my point of view a text that comes from the perspective of HCI as "science" (wich is all well and a valid perspective). But to me there is also another perspective and that is when we approach the "gap" from a design perspective, or with Nigel Cross' notion from a "discipline of design" instead of a "science of design". When we accept design practice as a true designerly activity, the notion of what research is and should be also changes. I will not here go into this longer discussion, instead end by saying that Avi Parush's text is a really good starting point for anyone who would like to discuss HCI research and its overall role and contribution. It is a well argued text with a taxonomy that can and should be analysed and evaluated. This is a valid challenge for any HCI researcher.

(BTW, I also think that putting "usability" at the top of the "pyramid" in the text is not really satisfying, I would like to have a another "designerly" pyramid with design instead of usability, design critique as a major form of inquiry, etc, but that is again another post.)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Without language barriers

Even though it has been around for a long time, translation "machines" are now here for real. It is quite fascinating with a tablet that you can speak to in your own language and then the tablet translates and speaks back in another language. Travel anywhere and make yourself understood. We are getting closer to the vision which always has been a precondition for every science fiction story. i.e. total mutual understanding among all creatures!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Interact with the vast universe of data

Being involved lately in the planning of a research institute with a focus on data and search has made me more aware and fascinated by really large sets of data. It is amazing how fast we (humans) are creating enormous amounts of data. Sensors are automatically producing dynamic and streaming data flows. From an interaction point of view this is exciting. These vast amounts of data becomes the material we (users) want to engage with, interact with, reach and manipulate, touch and sense. The challenge is to find interactive approaches that let us in an intuitive and productive way interact with this growing universe of data. Interaction design has to accept the challenge posed by the new world of digital data - the bitpool. Do we want to search the data, explore it, browse, or how do we want to relate to the material - to the bits? There is room for new thoughts, new ideas, new visions, new theories.

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