During Tuesday’s class Jeff talked about how HCI messes up the notion of the User. We didn’t really go into it all that much, but it really piqued my interest. I think Jeff was bringing up the User as being defined as Addressee or Receiver, and the effect of understanding the User in each office.

The Thwaite reading defines Addressee and Receiver as the following:

“Sender and receiver are actual people. Addresser and addressee, on the other hand, are purely constructions of signs. They are like fictional characters in that they have no existence other than in signs, and they may bear very little resemblance to the actual sender and receiver.” (p.17)

To me, what Jeff was talking about, although briefly, is this struggle between constructing fictional characters (The User) and responding to the actual people who use the design in the real world. The idea that these fictional characters as users can be highly different or “bear little resemblance” to the actual users (receivers) of the design is problematic on a fundamental level. In current HCI discourse and practice, it seems more likely to encounter design for User as Addressee than it is User as Receiver.

What is problematic about this, to me, is that activity of constructing the fictional character that represents the User. This sounds an awfully lot like a persona, something against which I have been preaching since day one in IDP. Constructing an idea of a person is no simple task. I will go as far as to say that anyone trying to accurately portray a person through a fiction or persona will get things wrong, leave things out, and do this by bending to normative notions and stereotypes. This creates false ideas of who people are and who people ought to be. More, we become further and further removed from the real person with everything we design in this way.