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Aug 4, 2005 7:13am

acd, hcd, etc

There's an interesting thread going on at SIGIA-L right now. After Don Norman's latest doe-eyed essay ("Human-Centered Design Considered Harmful") was posted, a mostly-illuminating discussion about the role of the designer in unintended consequences ensued. I was initially swayed by Don's essay, but I don't really have the same background in the relevant literature, and I've since come to view Norman's essay as somewhat deceptive.

From the article:

One basic philosophy of HCD is to listen to users, to take their complaints and critiques seriously. Yes, listening to customers is always wise, but acceding to their requests can lead to overly complex designs. Several major software companies, proud of their human-centered philosophy, suffer from this problem. Paradoxically, the best way to satisfy users is sometimes to ignore them.

This quickly started moving in the direct of Intelligent Design, a topic that needs its own Godwin's Law.

Anne Miller:

How many purposes does a telephone directory serve? I use one to jack up the height of my PC monitor. This is a function of characteristics of the technology (phone book), my desktop environment (desk/chair/monitor heights) and my need for a higher monitor (my physical capacities) and my ability to 'see' the phone book as a solution to my problem.


Again, these may be interesting use cases that are relevant to an anthropologist, as it were. But there's absolutely no reason for paid designers to go out of their way to consider your usage of a phone book as a monitor stand. The fact that you did doesn't inform the design process in a meaningful way.

Eric Scheid:

Designed for driving nails into wood, (the hammer) has been designed with a simplicity that it affords many other uses (driving in wooden plugs, driving in screws, breaking bricks, cutting wire, opening bottles of beer). It's easy to imagine some designer being tasked with "design me a tool for driving in nails" and coming back with some device that does that, but has no affordances for anything else.

Meanwhile, O'Reilly posts topics for this year's Emerging Technologies conference, one of which is "Externalities, Affordances, and Unintended Consequences":

Affordances, usually associated with human-computer interaction, industrial design, and environmental psychology, is here seen as the flipside of externalities: one person's externality is another's affordance.

If I can get a proposal together in time, this should be a hell of a gathering. Antoher interesting topic is "Data as Platform":

How can data visualization use our cognitive preattention to assimilate data quickly, rather than just paging through a database view. Will remixing always be a hack, or are there ways to offer stable commercial services around remixed applications? In other words, what's the path from hack to product for remixing?


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