Behaviour undone -- The fatal inversion in IxDs definition (was RE: PID: Personal Interface Definitions)
12 Sep 2004 - 11:39pm
10 years ago
Okay, I've snipped stuff, but you've really got to have
these two paras together to relish the dish:
Dave Heller wrote:
> Jef Raskin wrote: > > Monotony can arise in two ways: if there is one gesture > > for a given action, the system is monotonous for that > > action. If there are multiple ways of performing an action, > > but each is used in a different context by a user, then > > the system has been monotonized by the user. The important > > thing is that given a particular stimulus (which can be a > > complex of various elements) if the user has a particular > > response that he or she always uses in response, then the > > system is monotonous, and habituation is a consequence. > > This is the case where what is seen as the same action by > > the system designer is not seen as such by the user. > > You do not have monotony when, given the same circumstance, > > the user sometimes chooses one method, and sometimes another. > > I must admit I found the above a bit confusing. For the most > part I think I am in agreement with you. I'm not sure how > specific you mean by "same circumstances"? Circumstances are > never identitical at any given moment, so I'm not sure that > is every achievable. Let's go back to my example w/ the > "back" command in a web browser. I do this 4 different ways; > the button, the <alt>+<arrow>, the button on my mouse, and > the context menu. I do not think that the circumstances are > the same in each instance of use, but at what level of > predictable variability is it ok to have each of these methods > available. I'm asking a particular question. When should a > designer say, "Oh! This makes sense to be redundant" vs. > "This is redundant and a waste"?
Rarely does one receive a gift in one wrapping such as
these two paragraphs, if, that is, you're into delicious
irony. (See also , below.)
On one hand we have an individual describing behavior
as a human attribute. Barring one weakness, it's a
pretty precise instance of its kind.
And on the other hand, we have a description of behavior
as an attribute of a system. Barring one concession
to confusion, it too is representative of its kind.
In this forum, and in the IxD mission (even the précis),
we have a harvest of confusion in consequence of
advancing the latter framing. It is backwards, and
Which fittingly leads to the delicious irony that one
thinking from that latter (IxD) perspective cannot "see
through the mirror" to the perspective of the other side.
Further, to lard the bacon, it's the former framing that's
potent for contributing unique value from a profession
called interaction design, and for delivering usable value
to users and our sponsors.
The latter (IxD) framing sets up confusion in both the work
and the structure of the discipline ... witness in the most
recent incarnation of the "What's an IxDer" thread the
scurrying for other folk's business in which to meddle
(general business consulting, to name one).
As a key, if you're wondering:
 From this perspective it's the identity in the
human perception that makes all presented variations
within a particular "complex" the same.
To extend: If the result is monotony then one -might-
say the designer sought that result; if the result is
not monotony then one -says- the designer failed to
achieve that result, whether or not the designer was
aware of or attempted to design the system's functions
This, btw, is one/THE reason why designers pursuing
monotony (as opposed to, say, marketeers) have a
dedicated and focused fascination with unexpected
uses of their products where monotony 'broke down'.
 From this (IxD) perspective it's the variety in the
system's presentations that makes all variations
presented within the "complex" different.
. . . . .
 Oh, it's not the first appearance of this ironic
juxtaposition in a thread, though. Just never so neatly
bound in one email in two paras.
Here's a set that together offer another instance relative
to the definition of the interaction design field.
* Gerard Torenvliet's of Tue 07/20/2004 10:19 AM
(but especially b/c it offers advancing evidence from
both forward and reverse perspectives, and at least
two of each)
* Todd Warfield's of Tue 07/20/2004 06:33 PM
* Whitney Quesenbery's of Wed 07/21/2004 06:28 AM
A close reading of these *should* give you that queasy
through-the-looking-glass feeling of flatworlders
defending their view reinterpreting the abundant
evidence all around to the contrary. Here concerning
that fettish we might call "widget animism".
To get past the roots of confusion like we have at the
outset, and to find the core of IxD's opportunity ... the
problems, their elaboration ... and then to offer a unique
bit to the world, will require "unthinking" interaction
design as we've let it, unproductively, go into
We'll have to let go of some of our past, some of the
self-aggrandizing envisioned future, even some parts of
the domain we (unproductively) clutch so closely to
ourselves. To avoid becoming yet another general,
integrating, design discipline without sensible and
clear grounding it may even require an innovation to how
we pursue that objective.
One unique bit, plus a bouquet of questions are much more
powerful at this point.
And once we have that unique bit, that *others* recognize
as valuable and interesting, then the road forward (and
an appropriate defining manifesto) will be appropriately
I offer this as one good place to start:
"Behaviors are for people, not widgets*."
Not interfaces, not computers, not software ... people.
Now recast the entire IxD (and interaction design)