Pragmatic language theory and usability theory...same same or what?

10 Aug 2009 - 7:44am
6 years ago
2 replies
673 reads
William Hudson

Soren -

It is a useful distinction - there is a lot more to usability and user
experience than just language. Also, those of us focussing on
user-centred design tend to be more concerned with what influences user
behaviour rather than theoretical semantics.


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> -----Original Message-----
> From: new-bounces at [mailto:new-bounces at] On Behalf Of
> Soren Weimann
> Sent: 10 August 2009 3:39 AM
> To: discuss at
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Pragmatic language theory and usability
> theory...same same or what?


10 Aug 2009 - 9:39am
Brian Sullivan

Hi Soren --

I have an MA in English Literature. I see a lot of parallels myself.
For example, the Communication Triangle described by Kinneavy in a
Theory of Discourse is concept that (to me) really applies to usability.

I really think the issue is that most usability folks are NOT really
tuned into the communications field. And, I think an argument could be
made that the communications field has started to take some steps. For
example, the Society for Technical Communication has a SIG on Usability.

I see a lot of parallels:

- Personas
- Storytelling
- Patterns
- Metaphors

Am I talking about thinking about communication theory, studying a
novel, working on a web design, or doing a usability project? The
answer is, of course:

"It depends." (This is really saying....CONTEXT).

For me, I have always thought it would be interesting to use some ways
to analyze a work of fiction, but apply it to the design and usability

- Post-colonialism (think social media here)
- Bibliographic codes (building components over time--ex: shopping cart)
- Historical context (ex: social media, iPhone, Google)
- Post-modernism (ex: gaming theory, emotional design, making meaning)
- Themes and motifs (ex: design patterns)
- Freudian (ex: Gestalt principles, anyone)

I do think there are a lot of connections to be explored. I do not
think people are making the connection because there are few people out
there with the background in both areas.

Finally, I would also say that usability and web design can also be
considered part of the creative process. Buffalo State University has a
wonderful program teaching Creative Problem Solving (CPS) method. I see
a lot of parallels in the early design process with this method, too.

Stake a claim. Make a name for yourself. Make that connection.


-----Original Message-----
From: new-bounces at [mailto:new-bounces at] On Behalf Of
Soren Weimann
Sent: Sunday, August 09, 2009 9:39 PM
To: discuss at
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Pragmatic language theory and usability
theory...same same or what?

Being a product of the school of pragmatic language theory it have
always puzzled me that (some) usability folk are very eager to
distinguish their field from language and semiotic theory.

Honstly I don't see a big difference. By removing themselves from
language theory, they are cuting themselves of from several hundreds
of years of research on which they could be building their branch of
communicative theory.

- it's all about communicating
- it's all about receivers
- it's all about context

What am I missing?

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10 Aug 2009 - 8:00am
Kopano Ramaphoi

Its a bet confussing bcoz the explanation seems to be more close to
the definition of Interaction Design, so how about you put it into
defferent percepctive?

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