Theory Where that ACD thing fits

15 Nov 2008 - 11:02am
365 reads
James Page
2008

Peter,

I agree in what you are saying.

Where we are now is very dangerous. The practice that we are is not a
pure aesthetic discipline (and there is loads of theory there anyway but it
matters less), but one that is making a claim that by using it it will lead
to more usable software, or a better experience of using machines.

That would put it in the realm of Scientific method. Are we a pseudo science
or real science? What side of Scientific Philosophy people use, (Kuhn,
Simon, or Popper) matters less than people understand that there
are differences of approaches.

I don't know if the answer is that everyone gets grounded in theory -- that
> can be stultifying. But there's no way to get anywhere with these
> methodological discussions without appreciating the theory underlying them.

I think that people would benefit getting some basics in the
different Philosophies. Most Art Degrees here in Europe has some theory
taught. HCI claiming to be science should have
some Scientific Philosophy taught as well .

We need to make a strong argument to our clients that good interaction
design can help them. But at the moment we do not know how to argue our
point.

HCI has taken many techniques from other disciplines. For example
Ethnography from Anthropology. But a very narrow one based upon "Grounded
Theory" which has many limitations.

Then on this argument about "Activity Theory" is very hard
to penetrate unless you read it from a Marxist standpoint. "Activity Theory"
is about the sociality of work, members of the system, working division of
labour, and artefacts. (get out your Marxist Theory for Dummies [I do :-)])

More people knowing more about theory would help move the discipline
forward, as people would know the trade-off between the
different approaches.

James

On Thu, Nov 13, 2008 at 6:33 PM, Peter Merholz <peterme at peterme.com> wrote:

> This discussion on UCD/ACD has been both frustrating and enlightening. The
> single biggest thing it demonstrates to me is just how thin our
> understanding of theory is, and the impact that theory has on how we work.
>
> What do I mean by theory? Theory is a robust conceptual framework that
> undergirds a practice. In the discussion of ACD, I was surprised how long it
> took for someone to mention Activity Theory, because talking about ACD
> without talking about Activity Theory is like talking about biology but
> neglecting evolution.
>
> Now, Activity Theory is an extremely robust conceptual framework for
> considering how people work, and their relationships to elements in their
> environment. Activity Theory is not about "looking at activities" and
> designing for them.
>
> User-Centered Design is predicated on a cobbled together set of theories,
> most of them coming out of the HCI community, which has been heavily
> influenced by cognitive psychology. So you have things like distributed
> cognition, perception, information processing, etc. Since the dawn of the
> Web, there's also been significant inroads by the Library and Information
> Science community (Information retrieval, metadata, etc.).
>
> I think it's problematic that so many people are working in the context of
> these theories and don't even realize it, because folks then don't know how
> these assumptions are coloring their approaches. I don't know if the answer
> is that everyone gets grounded in theory -- that can be stultifying. But
> there's no way to get anywhere with these methodological discussions without
> appreciating the theory underlying them.
>
> --peter
>
> On Nov 13, 2008, at 3:13 AM, Jared Spool wrote:
>
>
>> On Nov 12, 2008, at 5:56 PM, David Malouf wrote:
>>
>> If I were designing it from a UCD perspective, I do care, or that the
>>> person is elderly and needs large print, or any other demographic type
>>> information.
>>>
>>
>> Just for the record, properly done UCD wouldn't care about demographics.
>> It would care about behaviors.
>>
>> It doesn't matter what age someone is. If they need large print to
>> complete their objective, they need large print, independent of age (or
>> income group, geographic location political persuasion, gender preference,
>> dental history, dislike of sushi, . . .)
>>
>> Jared
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