Five Lenses: Towards a Toolkit for Interaction Design

21 Mar 2005 - 5:21am
11 years ago
1 reply
608 reads
Welie, Martijn van

Well, I am not sure how valuable such very abstract essays are. It sure
doesn't help most practitioners in their daily work. I'd even doubt that the
'theorists' have much to gain from this essay. A lot of this kind of
'de-constructionistic theories' (not sure of that is proper English...:-)
lead to a 'analytic view on (a part of) the world' and they are only in some
cases useful for the 'construction' of new things in the world of
'interaction design'.

In other words, what is the problem that this essay addresses? That there
isn't a unified theory for interaction design? Do we need one? Don't no...


> While you're all wasting your time discussing memetics and
> "selling" of
> your methodology, Tom Erickson does it again with an
> insightful (and I
> think, profoundly controversial) essay
> Five Lenses: Towards a Toolkit for Interaction Design


21 Mar 2005 - 4:16pm
Welie, Martijn van

Peter Merholz wrote:

> That's not the problem of the essay; it's a problem of your perception.
> And why should I care how it works, "for you personally"?

Please let's keep this a 'decent' discussion....

> Yes, it's high-level. But you've got to have high-level. You can't
> build a discipline by simply cobbling together lots of little parts.
> I'm dismayed by the sentiment against theoretical thought often
> displayed on this, and other, practitioner lists. I encourage folks to
> be willing to Think Big. You might be surprised by what you find.

I have absolutely nothing against theory, not even against high-level
theory. I have spent many years reading and learning from theory. There
is a lot of good stuff but there is also a large amount of 'lesser
stuff'..... Theory is not necessarily valuable simply because it is
theory. Even theories require a critical stance. Worse even, what some
consider valuable, may be considered less valuable by others....That is
why there is a thing such a peer-reviewing for scientific papers.

In this particular case I felt the essay described a view that reminded
me a lot about what I had read already in stuff that is very known by
now e.g. the Contextual Design stuff etc. I'd say it is a natural
reaction to ask yourself what this particular essay adds to what is
already out there. In your point of view it could serve as a foundation
that can be used to explain/compare other exisiting stuff.
Scientifically speaking, I'd say that remains to be seen.....the essay
is too short for that and doesn't go deep enough to investigate such a
claim. Erickson himself is extremely careful in his essay and states
specifically these the list of lenses may be I
remain critical, his views are definately not wrong and they make sense
but I am not sure what it adds to the existing theories. If I had to
peer-review his essay I'd ask him how his theory of lenses relates to
existing work that tries to explain interaction....and how we could know
if we are missing lenses....and if each of the lenses are equally
important for design...and whether interaction between people through
artifacts can be mapped directly to 'digital interaction'? And so on....

The building of a discipline indeed requires theories, but it also
requires processes, techniques, decades of experience and grounding in
practice/reality, ....with time we develop a track record and get the
acceptance we desire/deserve! Many practitioners are probably most
interested in processes and techniques because that is closest to their
everyday life. Nonetheless, I think they will be interested in 'good
theories' but not necessarily in 'theories' per se. Good theories are
the ones withstanding empirical validation and succesful applications,
up to the point where they allow for correct predictions. It is
therefore appropriate to ask what the applicability of a theory is......

I apologize for bluntly questioning the theory's value. I simply meant
to take a critical attitude...

....and this is of course my 'personal' view on the role of 'theory' in
our feel free to disagree!

Best regards,

Martijn van Welie

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