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23 OCTOBER 2014

Describing social and material interactions through formal methods

"To some extent, Formal Methods sit uneasily within interaction design. Human beings are rich, complex, nuanced, engaged in subtle and skilful social and material interactions; reducing this to any sort of formal description seems at best simplistic. And yet that is precisely what we have to do once we create any sort of digital system: whether an iPhone or an elevator, Angry Birds or Facebook, software is embedded in our lives. However much we design devices and products to meet users' needs or enrich their experiences of life, still the software inside is driven by the soulless, precise, and largely deterministic logic of code. If you work with computers, you necessarily work with formalism.

Formal Methods sit in this difficult nexus between logic and life, precision and passion, both highlighting the contradictions inherent in interaction design and offering tools and techniques to help understand and resolve them.

In fact, anyone engaged in interaction design is likely to have used some kind of formal representation, most commonly some sort of arrow and sketch diagram showing screens/pages in an application and the movements between them. While there are many more complex formal notations and methods, these simple networks of screens and links demonstrate the essence of a formal representation. Always, some things are reduced or ignored (the precise contents of screens), whilst others are captured more faithfully (the pattern of links between them). This enables us to focus on certain aspects and understand or analyse those aspects using the representation itself (for example notice that there are some very long interaction paths to quite critical screens)."

(Alan J. Dix, 2013)

Dix, Alan J. (2013): Formal Methods. In: Soegaard, Mads and Dam, Rikke Friis (eds.). "The Encyclopedia of Human–Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed.". Aarhus, Denmark: The Interaction Design Foundation. Available online at https://www.interaction–design.org/encyclopedia/formal_methods.html

TAGS

abstract system models • Alan Dix • arrow and sketch diagram • context awareness • context-aware interfaces • design methods • design products • deterministic logic • dialogue models • digital devices • digital interactions • digital system • executable models • formal abstraction • formal analysis • formal description • formal design methods • formal methods • formal notation • formal representations • formalised principleshuman-computer interactioninteraction designInteraction Design Foundation • material interactions • notation • physical context • physical interactionphysigrams • product design process • product development methodologyrepresentationrich descriptionsrich user experienceshaping our relationship to the material worldsocial interactionssoftware modellingspace syntax • specification language • state machines • state transition network • structured approach • system behaviour • tangible interfacestechnology affordancesusability testinguser experienceuser-based evaluationworld around us • world representations

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
20 AUGUST 2013

An improved method of studying the user/search process in user-system interactions

"A major 'user/search process' limitation identified by Kinsella and Bryant (1987) is the inability to isolate and characterise individual users of on–line systems in order to describe the pattern of their use. Users' perceptions of their searches are not recorded, transaction logs cannot measure the information needs that users' are unable to express in their search statements (input), and they cannot reflect users' satisfaction with search results (output). As Kurth states, '[the fact] that transaction logs are unable to address such cognitive aspects of on–line searching behaviour is a true limit of the methodology' (Kurth, 1993: 100). Supplementary research, such as questionnaires, protocol analysis and interviews, must be undertaken in order to build a fuller picture of searching behaviour, success and satisfaction."

(Griffiths, J. R., R. J. Hartley, et al., 2002)

Jillian R. Griffiths, R.J. Hartley and Jonathan P. Willson. (2002). "An improved method of studying user–system interaction by combining transaction log analysis and protocol analysis." Information Research 7(4).

TAGS

2002 • characterising users • cognitive actionsdata collectiondata gathering instruments • electronic information resources • end user studiesend-users • information needs • Information Research (journal) • information system evaluation • information-seeking • information-seeking behaviourinterview (research method) • Janet Kinsella • Jillian Griffiths • Jonathan Willson • limitations of quantitative methodologies • Martin Kurth • online systems • open access journalpatterns of usepeer-reviewed journal • Philip Bryant • protocol analysisqualitative dataquestionnaire • Richard Hartley • search and retrieval • search behaviour • search logging • search process • search results • search results satisfaction • search statements • searchersearching and browsing • searching behaviour • searching for information • success and satisfaction • supplementary research • system requirements • talk-aloud comments • think aloud (research method)transaction log analysis • transaction logging • transaction logging datatransaction logsusability testing • user search process • user-based evaluation • user-system interaction

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
08 MAY 2011

Design Research: Building a Culture from Scratch

"Conference description of the topic: A 2005 education survey by Metropolis Magazine showed no consensus among practitioners or educators about what constitutes design research; limited access to research findings from professional practice; nascent use of students as interns in the research process; and great confusion about what design issues deserve the greatest attention by researchers. Organizers of the 2007 conference of the International Association of Societies of Design Research reported that only 10% of the paper submissions came from Americans, demonstrating that the US is behind other countries in the generation of new knowledge.

Despite this confusion, there is ample evidence that research will play an increasing role in the future of professional practice and that the typical usability testing in labs and focus groups will be insufficient in informing large–scale communication strategies and technological development. Further, it is apparent that design practitioners consider research to be proprietary and that any large–scale dissemination of new knowledge must come from academic institutions.

It is clear, therefore, that much work is yet to be done in building a research culture. Traditionally, undergraduate 'research' activities have been defined in terms of existing information retrieval on the subject matter of the communication, the wants and needs of the client, and the technical demands of message production and distribution, little of which is transferrable to other projects. Further, in many programs there is limited curricular distinction between the research behaviors expected of undergraduate and graduate students, leaving the majority of master's graduates unprepared for the scholarship and knowledge generation demands of current faculty positions in research–driven institutions."

(Judith Gregory, Deborah Littlejohn et al., 10 October 2010)

Moderator Judith Gregory and writer Deborah Littlejohn have a report on Design research: Building a culture from scratch

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TAGS

2007 • academic institutions • academic programmesart and design conference • building a research culture • communication strategiesconceptualisationconferencecurriculumdesign educatorsdesign practitionersdesign researchenquiryfocus groups • from scratch • graduate studentsInternational Association of Societies of Design Research • Judith Gregory • knowledge generation • masters degree • Metropolis Magazine • new knowledgeprofessional practicerequirements gatheringresearch • research findings from professional practice • research process • research-driven institutions • researchersscholarship • technical demands of message production and distribution • technological development • the wants and needs of the client • theory building • transferrable • undergraduate researchundergraduate studentsusability testing

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
19 JANUARY 2011

The Fountainhead: parodying the absurdity of easy empiricism

Peter: "What do you think of this building? I'm taking a poll of the guests..." Dominique: – "A what?" Peter: "– A poll of opinion about it". Dominique: "What for? In order to find out what you think of it yourself?" Peter: "We have to consider public opinion, don't we?"

[After approaching Dominique Francon at the Enright Building opening – Peter Keating makes the assumption that Dominique Francon shares his faith in polling for deciding the worth of design.]

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TAGS

audience reaction • audience response • ballot • customer satisfaction • DCD • design by committeedesigner-centred design • Dominique Francon • easy empiricismend user studies • group opinion • impromptu straw poll • investment in mediocrity • limitations of quantitative methodologiesmediocrityopinionopinion pollsPatricia Neal • perpetuating mediocrity • Peter Keating • pollingpollspower without responsibilitypublic decision-making • public opinion • reinforcing prejudice • seeking approval • simple evaluations • straw poll • straw vote • testing perpetuates mediocritytesting processThe Fountainheaduninformed opinionuninformed perspectivesunqualified opinionusability testinguser testinguser-based evaluationwhat I reckon

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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