So I have been trying to find/think of good examples within technology of defamiliarization, and am going to take a shot, even though this may be completely off base.  So in (In)human Factors Dunne describes defamiliarization as:

“The effect of strangeness, infusing an encounter with the unfamiliar and the unknown, was used by Bertolt Brecht to alienate the audience and make them aware that the institutions and social formulae they inherit are not eternal and natural but historical, man made, and so capable of change through human action.”

So if that is the historical definition of defamiliarization, I am going to try to adapt that into the HCI/d field as changing the mental model of how users perceive technology.  So John Wayne earlier used the iPad to give an example of ‘Design as Text’, and I will be using the iPad as an example of defamiliarization.

A large percentage of how society perceives the idea of ‘computing’ is using windows as an operating system.  You first have to boot up a computer, and then wait.  Nobody really knows why, they just know they have to go grab a cup of coffee while their computer is loading.  Basically they have their process of how they work with the machine, and they have defined that as ‘Using a Computer’.  Even as the Windows operate system advances with newer releases, these pre-conceived notions have stuck.  There is still a ‘Start’ button, but within windows 7 now it is a glowing button that no longer says the word ‘Start”.  Again, staying within the users mental model.

What I am arguing, is that the iPad defamiliarizes a user from ‘computing’.  When first looked upon, it doesnt even resemble the average computer.  There are only 4 buttons and 1 switch.  There is no keyboard.  It resembles no desktop or laptop currently on the market (OK I know there are kindles, tablets, etc, but go with it).  Once the ‘home’ button is pressed and unlocked, the operating system is just there.  No booting, no waiting, it is just waiting for me to work.The operating system has become transparent.  The applications are just sitting on the screen.  It is a digital desk with my tools ready to be called upon if they are needed.  It is not familiar to the average computing experience that is currently known.

This is sloppily written, so I apologize for that, but hopefully I am not way out in left field with this idea.  In conclusion, an iPad shows a user that the way computers have been built is not a property of computing itself, it is man-made, and can be changed with better design and style.  It shows that ‘computing’ isn’t inherently difficult to understand.

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