>Mental models have already been defined at at a high level by Don Norman. See the Design of Everyday Things, p. 189-90.
I think it's great that Austin (and others) aren't content with a definition
that's a couple decades old...it's how we're going to create a better
understanding of our work.
More to the point, Norman doesn't actually define what makes up a user's
mental model in POET - he just says it's "what the user develops to explain
the operation of the system", and goes on to say that the designer and user
only communicate through the 'system image' and that the user develops their
model through interaction with the system. But is that all there is? The
user brings nothing to the table, they're in a state of some sort of newbie
tabula rasa, just waiting to be imprinted by the system?
Norman's model, as it's presented in POET, is designer and system centric -
it doesn't acknowledge what the user brings to the table, via expectations,
goals, culture, past experience, etc. Austin's model shows that there are
things going on in the users' minds before system interaction.
I'm not unbiased myself - I think that 'Expectation' is an incredibly useful
concept for discussing mental models.
Most interesting for the "we've been there, done that" point of view is that
Don Norman started talking about "Expectation Design" at last year's NNGroup
tour. (snippet from Peterme's blog)
Expectation Design: The Next Frontier
Good designers already know how to make products attractive (visceral
design) and how to appeal to self- and brand-image (reflective design). Good
behavioral designers know how to make products usable and
understandable--indeed, that's the focus of most of this conference. It's
time now to turn our attention to pleasure and fun. Here, the challenge for
designers is behavioral design, where expectations drive emotions. This is
where hope and fear, and satisfaction and anger reside. Deliver on positive
expectations and people experience pleasure. Deliver something different
than expected, but equally satisfying, and people have fun. Fail to deliver,
or leave people feeling out of control, and you get a wide range of negative
Expectation-driven design marks a new dimension for our discipline and
provides a new framework for design. It shifts the emphasis from pure
function to an emphasis on designs that both function well and offer people
pleasure, enjoyment, a sense of accomplishment, and yes, even fun.
nForm User Experience www.nform.ca