Saturday, 26 April 2008

Designing Interactions: Chapter 1 - The Mouse and the Desktop

Bill Moggridge

Moggridge, B. (2006) Designing Interactions, MIT Press, pp 17-72.

"Design is where all the action is!" Xerox PARC slogan

Chapter 1
Although this chapter is all about "the Mouse and the Desktop" there are still items of note that are transferable beyond these two items. The desktop after all is a graphical user interface. In this chapter Moggridge interviews pioneers behind both. With interviews from Doug Engelbart (inventor of the mouse), Stu Card (development of the mouse's form), Tim Mott (inventor of the desktop) and Larry Tesler(participatory design) I found the following points useful.

  • Card states that the "core skills of design are synthesis, understanding people, and iterative prototyping";
  • Mott discusses "guided fantasies" a new conceptual methodology to record how users would want to do the task before them. From understanding this the design process was simplified and more focused;
  • Tesler talks about "participatory design" and usability testing. Through "observing people and seeing what the problem was" from their perspective he could fix it quickly making the experience simpler.

Designing Interactions: Introduction

Bill Moggridge

Moggridge, B. (2006) Designing Interactions, MIT Press, pp 3-14.

In his introduction Bill Moggridge discusses the origins of Interaction Design.

"I realized that I had to learn a new sort of design, where I could apply as much skill and knowledge to designing satisfying and enjoyable experiences in the realm of software and electronic behaviours as I had with physical objects. (…) Like industrial design, the discipline would be concerned with subjective and qualitative values, would start from the needs and desires of the people who use a product or service, and strive to create designs that would give aesthetic pleasure as well as lasting satisfaction and enjoyment."

Designing Interactions: Forward

Bill Moggridge

Moggridge, B. (2006) Designing Interactions, MIT Press, pp xi-xix.

"It's about shaping our everyday life through digital artefacts - for work, for play, and for entertainment."

So Gillian Crampton Smith sets the scene for the entire book. Her forward to this excellent book contains some really useful observations and points on what makes good interaction design. Designing for sociability is a fifth imperative when designing. Designers use a language of implicit meanings when designing interfaces. This adds a rich meta-communication channel over direct functional communication, that in turn enhances our modern everyday life. It is this aspect of sociability in an interface that needs to be considered alongside designing good usability, utility, user-satisfaction and quality communicative functions. These can be assured with the reassuring feedback that should be central to good interactive design.

Crampton Smith goes into some fundamentals of design such as consistency, before discussing intuitive interaction. Obviously qualities of interaction must be appropriate to the context in which it operates. If that interaction is intuitive it minimizes conscious thought to operate the interface allowing the user to concentrate on the goal they wish to achieve. To get to that goal we as designers need to design not just for the aesthetics but equally for the behaviour of the interaction. She raises the temporal dimension as a factor to consider within design, which I find really useful. Collaboration is equally important within the design process.

Finally she raises the notion of perceptual psychology and interaction design. Through perceptual psychology the limits of interactions between entities are becoming understandable. But the "level of mood and meaning, of sociability and civility" are areas that still need more work.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Distributed communities and nodal societies

Phillip H. Gochenour

Gochenour P.H. (2006) "Distributed communities and nodal societies",in New Media & Society Vol8(1):33–51, SAGE Publications

There are a few points within this paper of interest to me. References to MOOs, MUDs, bulletin boards et al in reference to online communities, to me, are so far removed from the formation of everyday experiences of non-nerds who form online communities, that they are unhelpful. This is notwithstanding the fact that if these hadn't existed the online experiences of 'non-nerds' would be very different. We acknowledge the arpanet as the progenitor of the internet, Babbage's counting machine as progenitor to the PC, but we don't have to understand these progenitors to explore their offsprings relevance. That said some points of note were useful:

  • "Rather than turning to the internet to become members of specifically online communities, they were using it as infrastructure to communicate with a geographically distributed network of friends and family."

  • "the typical experience of online community can also be seen in the rise of social networking applications (…)[that] use an overt network structure, in which each individual functions as node, to allow users to stay in touch with known friends, find connections to new ones, and to organize events. (…) these applications, (…) make no pretense as functioning as ‘civil societies’; rather, they provide linking mechanisms for individuals to form networks, which can then be leveraged for social, political, cultural, and economic purposes.”

  • “perhaps we should also begin talking about ‘distributed communities’, which suggests that the internet provides a mechanism for widely-dispersed individuals to interact with one another. And while discussion of online communities has often focused on the nature of the subject within the community (Bruckman, 1993; Donath, 1999; Ito, 1997; Turkle, 1995), discussion of distributed communities may enable us to see how individuals function in a polyvalent way outside of specific spaces.”

  • “community is always about the interaction of individual subjects with one another through some means of communication.”

  • “Flusser’s conception of the Self is one in which different lines are gathered together and contained. This is an idea that has been examined in some depth, especially in relation to online communities, most notably by Rheingold (1994) and Turkle (1995). In Life on the Screen, Turkle devotes considerable attention to the phenomenon of multiple online identities, and invokes such concepts as Lifton’s ‘protean self’ and Bruckman’s ‘identity workshops’ to arrive at the conclusion that online communities provide a space for the expression of multiple identities, and that the self is in fact a fluid identity capable of multiple expressions. As she puts it: ‘Today, people are being helped to develop ideas about identity as multiplicity by a new practice of identity as multiplicity in online life’ (1995: 260).”

  • "so long as humans are engaging in a process of recurrent communication, they are in a community, and it does not matter whether that communication is carried out through speech, telephone, handwritten letters, or typed words on a screen.

  • “There are numerous communities that have arisen as the result of being able to communicate with members who are widely distributed over a geographic area (…) I think it would be fair to say that many communities, defined in this way, exist today that would not have existed prior to the development of the internet”

  • “As we begin to think about distributed communities as communities, we must also begin to think about their rights as communities in a global world, and the rights of individuals to realize themselves within those communities.”

Beyond the ‘dazzling light’: from dreams of transcendence to the ‘remediation’ of urban life

Stephen Graham

Graham, S. (2004) 'Beyond the ‘dazzling light’: from dreams of transcendence to the ‘remediation’ of urban life', in New Media & Society Vol6(1):16–25, SAGE Publications

This paper is not entirely central to my research contextual review but does contain some interesting points that may have some indirect bearing on my eventual research. Graham is a Professor of Urban Technology at Newcastle University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape. It is in his exploration of new media and urban studies that he makes some useful points of reference for me. To quote some:

  • "Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin have called the ‘theology’ of cyberspace (…) based on a master narrative which suggested that new media transform ‘information from something separate and contained within computers to a space we can inhabit’ (2000: 180). (…) Thankfully, this situation is now changing dramatically."

  • "Since the late 1990s, high-quality theoretical, empirical and policy research on the links between new media and the changing nature of both urban places and life has emerged rapidly in many disciplines across the world."

  • “new media research needs to engage much more powerfully with the complex intra-urban and inter-urban geographies that so starkly define the production, consumption and use of its subject artefacts, technologies and practices.

  • “Above all, while there is no doubt that new media can act as ‘prostheses’ to extend human actions, identities and communities in time and space, it does not follow that the human self is ‘released from the fixed location of the body, built environment or nation’. Rather, ‘the self is always somewhere, always located in some sense in some place, and cannot be totally unhoused’ (Kaplan, 2002: 34).”

  • “As cultural geographer Denis Cosgrove suggests: The urban world networked by [Bill] Gates’ technologies strung out on the wire is not disconnected, abstract, inhuman; it is bound in the places and times of actual lives, into human existences that are as connected, sensuous and personal as they ever have been. (Cosgrove, 1996: 1495)”

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Interactivity: a concept explication

Spiro Kiousis

Kiousis, S. (2002) Interactivity: a concept explication New Media & Society, SAGE Publications, Vol4(3):355–383

Kiousis suggests that "interactivity is both a media and psychological factor that varies across communication technologies, communication contexts, and people's perceptions." The paper aims to generate new theoretical and operational definitions to bring a consensus across the disciplines.

What I have found useful in this paper are:

  • The definitions of interactivity;

  • The perception of interactivity;

  • The components and features that comprise the various definitions;

  • The variables associated with interactivity.
Additional to this is the literature review within which he uses a six-dimensional definition of interactivity based upon one supplied by Carrie Heeter from her 1989 paper "Interactivity in the context of designed experience". His definition is:
  • complexity of choice available;

  • effort that users must exert;

  • responsiveness to the user;

  • monitoring of information use;

  • ease of adding information;

  • facilitation of interpersonal communication.

He states 3 basic empirical rules for observing interactivity:
  • at least two participants;

  • the presence of technology allowing mediated communication;

  • possibility to manipulate the mediated environment.
In summary Kiousis defines interactivity "as the degree to which a communication technology can create a mediated environment in which participants can communicate (one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many) both synchronously and asynchronously and participate in reciprocal message exchanges (third-order dependency). With regard to human users, it additionally refers to the ability of users to perceive the experience to be a simulation of interpersonal communication and increase their awareness of telepresence.

Operationally, interactivity is established by three factors: technological structure of the media used (e.g. speed, range, timing flexibility, and sensory complexity), characteristics of communication settings (e.g. third-order dependency and social presence), and individuals’ perceptions (e.g. proximity, perceived speed, sensory activation, and telepresence)."

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Ludology Meets Narratology: Similitude and differences between (video)games and narrative

Gonzalo Frasca

Frasca, G. (1999) ‘Ludology Meets Narratology: Similitude and Differences Between (Video) Games and Narrative’, [online], URL:, [accessed 17/3/08]

This paper was useful in raising the notion of Paidea (sic). This concept is an attempt to differentiate between play and game. The term paideia (actual spelling) was proposed by Roger Caillois in 1967 as a term to represent "play", in opposition to "ludus" ("game"). Although this term is within the context of Games Theory I see it as useful to understand narrative architecture from a non-game perspective.

Frasca states that both games and play have rules, but the rules within play aren't focused on a pre-designated goal. This allows the user freedom to determine goals determined by environment (topology, objects and characters), actions and setting. He uses a quote from the 1987 edition of the Dictionary of Narratology by Gerald Prince to explain setting: "spaciotemporal circumstances in which events of a narrative occur."

This quote is very useful for my inquiry.

The Narrative and Ludic Nexus in Computer Games: Diverse Worlds II

Jeffrey E. Brand & Scott J. Knight

Brand, J.E. and Knight, S.J. (2005) ‘The Narrative and Ludic Nexus in Computer Games: Diverse Worlds II’, Diagra 2005 Conference [online], URL: [accessed: 17/3/08]

Brand and Knight take Jenkins' narrative architecture axiom and explicates the four forms of narrative. Obviously this is firmly in the context of Computer Game Theory and the conference paper draws the attention to additional interesting functions. Side-stepping the Narraotology vs Ludology debate, my interest lies in these additional interpretations that expand on narrative.

  • In regard to Evoked Narrative, Brand & Knight acknowledge the debate's invitation to still address whether the narrative architecture is determined by authors (writers/designers) or the audience.

  • They also see that Jenkins does see that Evoked Narrative has a polysemic dimension to it; where a coexistence of many possible narratives is dependent upon the competencies of the audience to see them.

  • In regard to Embedded Narrative they see that narrative can be decoded from cues and clues within a game, and a sense of story can then evolve temporally.

  • These decoded story clues and cues within Embedded Narrative can be invoked through the mise-en-scene, which in turn can infer past stories. These are what Jenkins describes as "traces on the landscape".

Brand & Knight do wonder whether there is need for more precision in the conceptualisation of Emergent and Embedded narratives. Some points they raise to address are:

  • Defining Embedded Narrative more narrowly as pre-authored spaces, objects, artefacts that are to be read.

  • How does the narrative transform with the "mark of visitation" (Jenkins) left by a player across the narrative architecture's "storyworld"?

They also consider issues such as environmental control; real-world time vs arbitrary time; the design and purpose (teleology) of time (especially the property of no clear winning state (does this correspond with Caillois' term paidea as cited by Frasca) and the mutability of control.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Game Design as Narrative Architecture

Henry Jenkins

Jenkins, H. (2004) ‘Game Design as Narrative Architecture’ [online], URL: [accessed 17/3/08]

This paper is theoretically placed within game theory and is cited as seminal by others within the narratology vs ludology debate. What I have found very informative from this paper is Jenkins' central idea of building an underlying narrative architecture (within computer games) through which four forms of narrative can be measured: evoked, enacted, embedded and emergent.

He proposes the concept of environmental story-telling. "narrative can also enter games on the level of localized incident, or what I am calling micro-narratives." (p7).

His proposition not only attempts to close the debate between narratology and ludology, but what I have found useful for my own research is the implication for spatial exploration over causal event chains. This is not story-telling. This has a capacity to set up causal events within an interaction through which the users actions can be explained or appreciated by themselves as a narrative, at least a micro-narrative.

Opposition to Jenkins' proposition:

  • Jenkins fails to define the contested concepts of games, narrative and stories (reading an even small amount of games theory literature covers these concepts adequately. Jenkins moves the debate towards a synthesis without the need to restate these concepts).

  • His proposition follows the comparative media studies strategy of reducing all media to story-telling assuming games tell stories (this is a ludologist opposition).

  • He ignores some important pieces of narratology and ludology literature (This may be so. I'll have to read the literature before commenting further).

  • His "spatial story" is a naive thematic construct (This is from a ludological viewpoint).

  • He is being pan-narrativist, seeing stories everywhere (I don't agree that this is what he is saying at all)

New sub-blog :: This is to be my (proposed) PhD's annotated bibliography

This blog will be used as an annotated bibliography for my (proposed) PhD. This is currently at application stage with ECA. To support my research into the literature I will use this blog to list my bibliography, entry by entry, accompanied with my notes distilling the main points.

It probably won't be a huge interest to others, therefore I am keeping my other blog to talk more about researching interactive design. That blog will be more about my understanding of the theory. This blog will be listing the sources.

I already have a multitude of sources I need to annotate for my own sake. I'll post soon my first annotated entry. Check back.