Not Signed-In
Which clippings match 'Approaches To Ambiguity' keyword pg.1 of 1
06 APRIL 2014

Limitations of the Decision Cycle Model of Interactive Interfaces

"One central idea missing from the decision cycle model is the notion that goals are often not fully formed in an agent's mind. As anyone who has ever tried to write an essay knows, we do not always act by moving through a decision sequence where we have a clear idea of our goal. Often we explore the world in order to discover our goals. We use the possibilities and resources of our environment to help shape our thoughts and goals, to see what is possible, and we have no clear idea of what we want to do any more than we always have a clear idea of what we are going to write before we begin the process of writing. This is a different orientation than the classical Cartesian view that we know things internally and just communicate fully intact thoughts in external vehicles. In this more dynamic interactionist view, the action of externally formulating thoughts is integral to internally formulating them too. We do not have a clear and distinct idea in mentalese awaiting expression in English or French. The very action of putting 'thoughts' in words helps to formulate them. If this is generally true about many of our actions it means that the goal of an interactive interface is not merely to allow users to do what they want to do, it must also allow them to discover what they want to do. ...

The overhaul I propose to the decision cycle model begins by noting that the way we cope with badly formulated goals and plans is by relying on two facts: we tend to operate in the same workplace over time, and we are usually clever enough to figure out on-line what we must do next. If one observes most creative activity it is apparent that there are both planful and improvisational elements to it. Creative activity is improvisational because agents are opportunistic -- they pursue ideas and possibilities as they emerge regardless of whether those ideas or possibilities have been anticipated. Creative activity is planful because the skilled agent tries to prepare the environment so that he or she has the greatest chance of stumbling on excellent ideas and possibilities. Thus, although an agent may not know, in advance, what he will create, he knows that by doing certain actions, or by arranging the environment in a certain way, or by laying out certain tools, he is doing the best he can to put himself in a position to recognize unimagined possibilities. This setting up the environment to facilitate on-line choice and improvisation I call preparation. It is a key component of skilled activity. There are others. To accommodate them in a decision model requires adding new forms of action, and new forms of interactivity throughout the decision cycle."

(David Kirsh, 1997)


1997active learning • agent-environment-agent loop • approaches to ambiguitycognitive sciencecomputational complexity • David Kirsh • decision cycle model of interaction • discovery through designDonald Norman • dynamic interactionist view • ecological approach to cognition • educational constructivism • Edwin Hutchins • environment maintenance • environment preparation • event cognition • explanatory concept of engagement • exploratory actions • human computer interactionimprovised method • interactive interfaces • interactive learning environments • James Gibson • Jim Hollan • John Bransford • learning environment design • mental processes • mentalese • naming process • perception is interactive • personal exploration of phenomena • reshaping the cognitive congeniality of the environment • Robert Shaw • sensory feedback • theory of interactivity • visibility and recognition


Simon Perkins
02 JANUARY 2013

Facing ambiguity differently across design, business and technology

"team[s] of students of mixed disciplines worked together to understand and map a problem–space (identified by the client). They then defined a solution–space before focussing on a particular opportunity outcome. The range of projects included incremental innovation opportunities represented by the Lego and Hasbro projects through radical Philips work to truly disruptive work with Unilever. The studies confirmed stereotypical view points of how different disciplines may behave. They showed that design students were more (but not completely) comfortable with the ambiguous aspects associated with 'phase zero' problem–space exploration and early stage idea generation. They would only commit to a solution when time pressures dictated that this was essential in order to complete the project deliverables on time and they were happy to experiment with, and develop, new methods without a clear objective in mind. In contrast, the business students were uncomfortable with this ambiguity and were more readily able to come to terms with incremental innovation projects where a systematic approach could be directly linked to an end goal. The technologists, were more comfortable with the notion of the ambiguous approach leading to more radical innovation, but needed to wrap this in an analytical process that grounded experimentation. Meanwhile, the designers were unclear and unprepared to be precise when it came to committing to a business model. "

(Mark Bailey, 2010, p.42)

Bailey, M. (2010). "Working at the Edges". Networks, Art Design Media Subject Centre (ADM–HEA). Autumn 2010.



2007ADM-HEAambiguityambiguity and uncertainty • ambiguous approach • analytical processapproaches to ambiguitybusinessbusiness modelclear objectivesclient needscollaboration • core competency • Cox Reviewdecision making • design outcome • design teamsdesign thinkingdisciplinary culturesdisciplinary knowledge • disruptive work • Dorothy Leonard-Barton • end goal • grounded experimentation • Hasbro • idea generationincremental innovationinnovation practice skillsinterdisciplinarityinterpretive perspective • learning cultures • LEGO • multidisciplinary design • multidisciplinary teamsNorthumbria Universityopen-ended process • pedagogical cultures • phase zero • Philips Researchproblem-solvingproblem-solving • problem-space • project deliverablesproject teamsradical innovationrequirements gatheringsolution-space • sub-disciplinary specialisation • systematic approach • T-shaped individuals • T-shaped people • T-shaped skillsthinking stylesUnileverworking methodsworking practices


Simon Perkins

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