Both the reading for today’s class were interesting reads and made me think a lot. There are some things in particular that intrigued me most. These are just my observations and I hope these might give some additional conversational points in class.

First is to do with the Julian Bell’s painting in terms of expression. In the book Approaches to understanding visual culture by Malcom Barnard, he is quoted as:

[1] One must understand the artist’s invisible states of mins, his or her emotions and feelings. One must translate, or transmute the shapes, lines, textures and colors of paintings into emotions and feelings, in order to understand those paintings. It seems that the artist translates or transmutes thoughts and feelings into physical objects and then the spectator translates or transmutes the lines, colors and other formal properties of the objects back into thoughts and feelings.

So basically the author is pointing to a triangular relationship between the object, the user and it’s interpretations. The artist puts efforts to ensure that the interpretation is as transparent as possible. And users (sometimes) put deliberate efforts to interpret them based on the rule that have been learned by them with experience. The ‘expression’ is the subjective interpretation that involves both the object and the user. One may state that the craftsmanship showcased by the artist results in a transparency of this expression than may deliver an aesthetic experience.

No the following analogy might be very obvious, but it was not very obvious to me before reading the article so I want to spend some time trying to construct it. The quote above points to relationships that are in many ways integral to ‘human’-‘computer’-‘interaction’ design. Coincidentally while researching for my capstone I stumbled upon an article from Hutchins, Hollan and Norman about Direct Manipulation Interfaces published in 1985. The article discusses lot of crucial aspects integral to designing input/output paradigms. Two aspects of ‘Directness’ discussed are ‘Distance’ and ‘Direct Engagement’.

[2] The term directness refers to feeling that results from interaction with the interface. The term distance will be used to describe factors which underlie the generation of the feeling of directness.

The second aspect of directness concerns the qualitative feeling of engagement, the feeling that one is directly manipulating the objects of interest. There are two major metaphors for the nature of human-computer interaction,
a conversation metaphor and a model-world metaphor. In a system built on the conversation metaphor, the interface is a language medium in which the user and system have a conversation about an assumed, but not explicitly represented
world. In this case, the interface is an implied intermediary between the user and the world about which things are said. In a system built on the model-world metaphor, the interface is itself a world where the user can act, and which changes state in response to user actions. The world of interest is explicitly represented and there is no intermediary between user and world. Appropriate use of the model-world metaphor can create the sensation in the user of acting upon the objects of the task domain themselves. We call this aspect of directness direct engagement.

Hutchins et. al. then go on to discuss aspects of directness and direct engagement and in the process of discussion, map out relationship between physical system, user goals and the distance between them which they term as gulf of execution (execution bridge) or gulf of evaluation (evaluation bridge).

The understanding of the diagram below by researchers laid foundation for design of interactions, methodologies and design processes that we are familiar with today. I believe that the execution bridge & the evaluation bridge combined, constitutes the expression & interpretation that is analogical to the ‘expression’ discussed by Julian Bell in the reading.


Figure 1 taken from Direct Manipulation and Other Lessons by HP Labs.

A more modern version of the same diagram can be found at

Text quoted from:

[1] Approaches to understanding visual culture by Malcom Barnard, pg 64-88.

[2] Direct Manipulation Interfaces by Hutchins, Hollins, Norman.

There is one more analogy that intrigued me a lot. This has to do with the Auteur Theory. Auteur Theory is scoped within the domain of films. It states three characteristics that differentiates an auteur. Now the question that intrigues me is: since we have started integrating cultural epistemology into HCI can we use the theory to define people like Steve Jobs as an auteur. This point is not particularly very important, but I just wanted to share the idea.