So after re-reading Jeff’s Interaction Criticism: How to Do It and his Constructing the User of Maeve, I am trying to do some deconstruction and match work with the goal of demystifying the unknown and hopefully would get some insights on how to do it on my own.

As I was reading the How-to, I wrote down the questions that  I wanted to answer from the Maeve one. The questions are,

  • what are the associations that Jeff is building?
  • where is modeling the expert reading by Jeff?
  • what is resonant with Jeff?
  • how did Jeff do his close reading of the interaction? can I distinguish the points?
  • what ‘s the particular direction of the theme in this critique?
  • what is his own dispositions and who are the audience?

After reading the Maeve one, I think I have found the answers to these questions. Here is what I found,

First of all, this is a User-Centered Criticism, because Jeff was explaining Maeve as a prompt and analyze its cause on the experience of the user.

How did Jeff do the close reading of Maeve

Jeff identified diverse elements in the third paragraph under the basic characteristics of Maeve’s user section, as he said, “Its cool color palette, swirling large-screen displays, embodied and tangible interaction, use of collectable cards, mixed media dynamic presentation…” and all these individual elements as a whole created “a sci-fi aesthetic popular to many-especially middle class, well educated, male users.” [By the way, I think the mention of “Minority Report” and “made-for-Hollywood interfaces” are all the resonant messages Jeff got personlly from looking at the Maeve interaction.]

Jeff also identified how Maeve “want” the users to interact with it. “users cannot take it home and get to know it at their own pace. Rather, they must understand and start using it upon their first encounter with it.” Also, Jeff identified how two types of users could use Maeve differently, the “theorist” will “perform a scholarly navigation” versus the one who “bring out visually compelling imagery, without regard for what it ostensibly ‘means'”.

Following up the two kinds of users mentioned above, Jeff further articulated the relationships among different users effected by Maeve. “…it also effects a relationship between that user and any nearby spectators. Perhaps they are impressed, intimidated, or excited by the public performance of architectural theory…” and what are the possible results by these relationships. “This relationship, in turn, will lead to behaviors–avoidance, conversation starting, attempting to take control of the table, etc.”

How did Jeff do the interpretation of Maeve

He used the prior examples in film and fashion to make associations with Maeve interaction, and used the concepts in these two fields to create new meanings in interaction design, in this case Maeve. He borrowed the concept of “thrust a subjective-position on audience” in the film and applied to Maeve and analyzed how the users were thrusted on with a subjective-position. “Maeve dominates the room, reducing its users to silhouettes and shadows…” He borrowed the concept of “identity” and self-expression in fashion and looked at them differently in the example of Maeve, interpreting that different kinds of users actually expressed their identities from their “performance”, which leads to a further new discussion on how this could affect the relationships among the users.

I am particularly interested in how Jeff revealed the hidden to his readers and trying to analyze how he made those hidden insights visible. One is his interpretation of the basic characteristics of Maeve’s user, “Maeve seems to assume users who are interested in learning about or exploring architectural relationships.” and “[Maeve] assumes a user that is competent to use it both physically and intellectually.” These interpretational analysis really help the readers see what they might not see at the first glance. Also here Jeff is also modeling an expert reading. Another example where he revealed the hidden is when he got the conclusion “this advanced and futuristic software system situates public performance before private practice.” I personally really like this interpretation, because it is not obvious to see this conclusion but when you see it you will feel the same way that it’s normally hard to express. This perfectly demonstrate the power and value of a good critique.

My Critique on Jeff’s Critique

By reading the section title “Two kinds of Reader, Two Kinds of User”, I want to point out that for the “two kinds of reader” there is an implication for two kinds of writer/author, which are the character in the novel and the actual writer, according to the article. But for the “two kinds of user” there could be only one kind of designer.

When Jeff made the statement that “the ‘user’ can be understood as ‘the kind of person that uses this application’ or ‘an actual person who uses this application.'”, I was reminded of the discussion about the personas you build versus the actual test subjects. That’s all.

I know that I am more like “tagging examples” instead of “developing examples” in this post, but I feel I am doing something new in terms of using Jeff’s theory to examine his own work. And I hope through this process I could have a better understanding of his theory in use and use these insights to lead and develop my own critique.

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