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Hey everyone, I’m in the process of working through the draft of my argument for my paper, and would love to get some feedback. This is all very rough, so feel free to ask for clarification on anything that doesn’t make sense. As a point of reference, I plan to take the ultimate findings from the process of writing this paper (namely the schema and/or persuasive patterns I uncover from my research) to inform the latter half of my capstone project on Dark Patterns.

 

Transactional trust towards a charity is earned over time, not inherently given, and is a byproduct of interactions that occur within the context of a user’s donation experience. (THE WHAT)

  • Trust is built through the fulfillment of promises. This includes the promises you’ve actually made to someone explicitly (e.g., contracts and commitments) as well promises that that are assumed or implicit (e.g., “this website isn’t selling my data”). (van Gorp and Adams, p107)
  • Principle of Earned Credibility: Credibility can be strengthened over time if computing technology performs consistently in accordance with the user’s expectations. (Fogg, p137)
  • The building and maintenance of transactional trust should be considered a pivotal stepping stone to increased donation compliance within an online donating framework. Instead of considering trust and donation compliance as mutually exclusive concepts, commercially driven issues of donation generation should be considered alongside the psychological concept of transactional trust. (Burt, C.D. and Gibbons, S. p192)

The trailing of charity websites to adopt modern e-commerce practices, coupled with the rapid rise of moral commodification of charitable giving has resulted in a unique set of problems of persuasion with respect to interface design. (THE WHY)

  • [G]iving to charity has been characterised as ‘the monetary purchase of moral satisfaction’ undertaken for the egoistic reason of wanting to feel better…The gift conveys a symbolic statement about the person that fits in with his or her self-identify. (Bennett, p120)
  • Overall the findings indicated that there was a lack of strategic intent to harness the potential of online social networks and evidence that charities are not mirroring the adoption of digital media that has occurred in the external environment in which they operate (Slater et al., 2010). There exists a lack of consumer orientation because charities have not embraced digital communications to the same extent as either their target audiences or for-profit based businesses. (Quinton and Fennemore, pp 44-45)
  • In the USA, internet donations for tsunami relief in 2004 accounted for more than a third of the total amount raised. Half of all the donations received following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were given online (NFG, 2006). It follows from the above that charity managers have become increasingly interested in the website designs and online fundraising tactics that are most likely to maximise the frequencies and levels of online donations. (Bennett, p117)
  • …[I]t is recognized by some (but perhaps not all) that charities are not businesses and therefore reading across and imposing private sector governance frameworks to the charity sector may not be appropriate, and indeed may be counter-productive. (Hyndman and Jones, p153)
  • A needs-based change, animated through a problem-solving approach, assumes that the right outcome is known from the start…Desire is the destabilizing trigger for transformational change, which facilitates the emergence of new possibilities and realizations of human “being.” (Nelson and Stolterman, p110)

A semiotic analysis of the design patterns used in charity websites will yield greater insight into their functions of address, and how the emotive modalities of a website (i.e. its interactivity) can establish a relationship between the donor and the charity. (THE HOW)

  • The ability to use various modalities enables technology to match people’s preferences for visual, audio, or textual experiences. Technology can also create a synergistic effect by combining modes, such as audio, video, and data, during an interaction to produce the optimum persuasive impact. (Fogg, p9)
  • Wider information, particularly relating to performance, is probably paramount in discharging accountability to donors; and this will require the telling of ‘the story’ of the charity (often from the perspective of beneficiaries—if it is possible to operationlize such a perspective. (Hyndman and Jones, p152)
  • Principle of Surface Credibility: People make initial assessments of the credibility of computing technology based on firsthand inspection of surface traits like layout and density of ads. (Fogg, p135)
  • As Forlizzi and Battarbee (2004, p. 264) put it, “emotions affect how we plan to interact with products, how we actually interact with products, and the perceptions and outcomes that surround those interactions.” (van Gorp and Adams, p39)

A framework is needed to better understand the user cognitive patterns that emerge in context, resulting in effective emotive persuasion. (THE CONTRIBUTION) 

  • Principle of “Real-World Feel”: A Web site will have more credibility if it highlights the people or organization behind the content and services it provides. (Fogg, p156)
  • [There are] four developmental stages of organisational websites: contact, interact, transact and relate. At the ‘contact’ level, websites are largely about promoting an image and providing general levels information; at the ‘interact’ level, there is evidence of of targeting specific audiences; at the ‘transactional’ engagement level, websites facilitate online purchasing; and at the ‘relational’ level, sites develop two‐way consumer relationships. (Burt and Gibbons, p192)
  • [There are] strong positive correlations between rated transactional trust and donation compliance ratings…consistent with the idea that building transactional trust in an aid agency is likely to lead to more productive fundraising outcomes (Burt and Gibbons, p191)

 

I’ll post more about my influential sources and such later…but this is where I’m at right now.

 

 

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This will probably be a short post (well see). Mainly, I wanted to point out why I think we read this chapter from Carroll. In short, we read this to give us an example that designing for affect, particularly humor or horror, is possible. Not only is it possible, Carroll lays out some of the mechanisms by which we experience this emotions and feelings. We have been talking a lot in class about individuality and connectedness between audience, designer, user, person. What Carroll’s account of horror and humor does is give us evidence that people respond to certain stimuli in very similar ways.

Carroll’s notion that we find a monster repulsive , impure, or threatening (Carroll’s necessary condition for a movie to be of the horror genre) is a recognition that we all, for the most part, agree what is repulsive, impure, or threatening. This suggests, strongly, that we are so constituted that there are simply uniting dispositions that allow us to experience horror and humor together. There is a commonality among our perceptions, understandings, and affect that allow for our shared reactions to horror or humor.  For design, this means that we can, sincerely, design for certain affects — and it works. The evidence of centuries of storytelling that have successfully engendered these emotions and feelings and audiences is enough evidence for us to move forward with this idea in our HCI work.

But, there are certain questions we must ask as we move forward. Literature and film are two different mediums though which humor and horror are achieved, UX design is a third. What are the cues, styles, stimuli of UX design so far as they can engender horror or humor? Are these different from film or literature, are they the same? How will we develop our language of affect for UX design? Has it already been developed? Are there formal criteria by which we must measure our UX design?

One page 116 of their book, Film Theory, Elsaesser and Hagener state:

[W]e do not experience any movie only through our eyes.  We see and comprehend and feel films with our entire bodily being, informed by the full history and carnal knowledge of our accultured sensorium.

Can the same be said about design? Do we have technology we view as an extension of ourselves — that we feel are a part of us?  Sure we have people out there who go as far as taking their laptop to the bathroom with them, but do we go as far as feeling their effect on us — not just physical, cause we would all be talking about eye strain, but an emotional effect, that when we see an item, it makes us happy or if it makes us sad?  McCarthy and Wright have their paper, Empathy and Experience in HCI and state,

[T]he empathetic approach, which builds on inspiration achieved from a rich understanding of people’s experiences, dreams, expectations, and life contexts and is developed through a meaningful emotional encounter between designer and user.

Maybe a lot of what we need to look for is beyond the surface.  An online community I am part of is FindAGrave.com. For as morbid as it may sound, I have been working on putting together my family tree by linking where they are all buried.  To many people, the first time they may use this website, it may just look like a bunch of headstones, but when a person becomes part of the community, the emotional encounter between the designer of the group and I has become apparent.  Seeing these pictures and knowing these are people that helped shaped who I am today made me feel so much more than seeing a picture on the site, I felt connected to not only the people the pages memorialized, but also the people that helped put this network together — realizing there is so much more behind it than just what I see at the surface.

 

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.

I was on reddit this morning and came across a post about Nyota Uhura, a character on the original Star Trek television series. The post was a TIL about this:

“Nichols planned to leave Star Trek in 1967 after its first season, wanting to return to musical theater.[6] She changed her mind after talking to Martin Luther King Jr.,[7] who was a fan of the show. King explained that her character signified a future of greater racial harmony and cooperation.[8] As Nichols recounted, “Star Trek was one of the only shows that [King] and his wife Coretta would allow their little children to watch. And I thanked him and I told him I was leaving the show. All the smile came off his face. And he said, don’t you understand for the first time, we’re seen as we should be seen. You don’t have a black role. You have an equal role.””

I would have to do more research about the context of Star Trek and possibly the public reaction to Nyota Uhura as a character, but I immediately thought about the power of future thinking when I read this. I like to think that Nichols was able to be an equal role character in the show because the show was about the future where powerful social influences and a tyrannical majority hold less power. The audience is invited to imagine a world they all perhaps want, a world with less racism and more equality. Because the rest of the world is already vastly different from the current world and is highly imagined, it becomes easier to accept change.  There is also a notion of hope at play here. Proposed futures can stand as “signifiers” for a better future, a future we as designers can mold and remold to express different values. People can recognize these values and attach hope to them, hopefully integrating them into our daily lives. Indeed we have seen just this phenomena through media in the past 50 years. Art of all kinds has helped promote better futures, specifically, and the point of the original reddit post, through helping minorities gain a voice by subverting existing powerful normative structures.

This could raise some interesting questions. If there were normally racist television viewers who preferred African Americans to be in “black roles” but in the case of Star Trek seemed not to mind an equal role played by an African American, what kind of work is being done by that racist viewer? Is his racism momentarily suspended permitting him to see a black person as an equal? If so, why?  An easier question is to question why one of the first equal roles for a black person (and a woman too) was in a science fiction genre in a time when both women and people of color were marginalized.

Many ideas came to my mind today at class… Here there are two of them.

* I think that art might be a form of control… how can the artist create art that really leverages society? It you’re educated on criticism and to do critique, you may get critical about your role as a designer and about your work… Therefore, you won’t be able to ignore the degree of “commodified dreams” that your work might represent, your work environment might represent, and your work context (micro-world/business world) might represent.

pic-dieter

* When students start learning about design, they go easily à la “Dieter Rams” way. I believe that as “older” as you get, and as better “knower” as you get (regarding Design), you may observe that design is a) richer and b) there’s no right or wrong design.

 

 

I am going to tie Carroll’s reading and his account of criticism in with my capstone project for this post. My capstone project is an investigation into Problem Framing as part of the process of designing. Currently, I am analyzing, and yes critiquing, different HCI domains like Ubicomp, mobile, HCI4d, and Critical design to try to suss out how academics who publish in this area go about their problem framing. Namely, I want to try to connect the process of problem framing with Carroll’s account of criticism as an activity that exposes value to an audience.

So far I have noticed trends in Problem Framing like relying on expert opinions in certain domains, designing for particular demographics by following specialized constraints and assumptions, and, overall, the focusing on exposing the true nature and subtleties  of some affliction people are experiencing. In short, seemingly most of the design processes I read can be characterized by designers who identify some pain point, inequality, or lack of comfort X (taken from some other demographic or culture) and then try to solve for these ‘situations’.

These designers try then to design for these ‘situations’ by a similar process Carroll laid out in his first chapter namely the description, elucidation, contextualization, classification, interpretation, and/or analysis of the situation so as to lead to insights as how to solve the ‘situation’ or problem. Where I think there can be a contribution made to Problem Framing is that, instead of being problem-focused, what if designers focused on using Critical Evaluation to find value in certain “situations” and to then use their power of criticism to foster new understandings and manifestations of this value in terms of designs.

I understand Carroll’s account of criticism to be the following: “…criticism is primarily committed to the discovery and illumination of what is valuable in artworks.” (p.46) More, this type of evaluations is based on reason. Carroll goes on to explain that the other activities involved in producing a critique are hierarchically subservient to evaluation, that is they play a special role in providing good reasons and justifications by which the evaluation can be made.  Carroll’s main contribution is fore-fronting the importance of evaluation as part of the critique process. Indeed, Carroll claims that the evaluation is the end product of criticism in that “criticism is strong criticism insofar as it renders its evaluation intelligible to audiences in such a way that they are guided to the discovery of value on their own.” (p.45) If I am planning on using this framework as something, in someway, is related to problem framing I need to answer a few questions that came up while I was reading Carroll.

First, what type of evaluation, as the primary activity of critique, would be appropriate for trying to understand problem framing? Carroll gives a few accounts of evaluation: political, ideological, artistic, negative, or positive. Each one of these types of evaluation has different motivations. Carroll talks about motivations for evaluation in his discussion of the ‘lack-of-general-criteria’ argument. In that, without general criteria by which an evaluation of an artwork could occur, “something else” must take the place of reason as a basis for evaluation.

“Historically, some of the leading candidates for that “something else” have been emotion, subjectivity, or political motivations (either politics in the large sense, as in the case of classism, racism, or sexism, or politics in the sense of interpersonal power relationships).” (p.30)

Earlier in the introduction Carroll identifies the outcomes of some of these candidates in that they “frequently pave the way for negative evaluations of candidates in terms of sexism, classism, logo-centrism, etc.” (p.5) What struck me with this characterization is the admittance that evaluating in these terms often produces negative evaluations. “This design is too Western” “This design is patriarchal” “This design inflates the capitalistic ideal” are all examples of the negative type of evaluation designs can received when evaluated using any of the candidate motivations laid out by Carroll. While these evaluations are important, and often apt, they firmly voice problem framing in terms of the current status quo, even if it is the negation of the status quo. In this way, these candidate motivations for evaluation of design framing excludes alternative future thinking.

Carroll draws a distinction between negative evaluation and something I call “value-finding” evaluation. Carroll sees the project of negative criticism as:

“Indeed, a constant diet of negative criticism–relentlessly pointing our the bad and the ugly in artwork–would be so impoverished that I suspect it could not be sustained for very long. For it is the promise of contact with what is valuable that we ultimately hope for from criticism.” (p.47)

Drawing out the value in design opportunities or spaces rather than characterizing them in negative terms is analogous to Carroll’s account of negative and value-finding evaluation of an artwork. Because evaluative criticism, which is based on reason, can help find value in a design space, it can be supportive of designers who wish to provide for alternative futures the kind of which do not depend on existing problems.

I haven’t fully flushed out the place of reason and its relation to how I want to propose Criticism as a tool for problem framing, but I do want to engage with Carroll’s account that emotions need not compromise critical evaluation. He goes into his account on pages 30 and 31 if you want to check it out, but I offer no summary of his argument other than its ok for some emotional aspect of evaluation to exist in concert with any reasoning aspect. This is paramount for critiquing a design space. Since we design for value and for people, affect is a necessary part of whatever experience we design for. In this way, Carroll’s account of critical evaluation neatly accounts for the type of evaluation needed in design work. More, since Carroll’s account of evaluation hinges upon value-finding and value-illuminating, his type of evaluation maps nicely to the sort of relationship design has with ethical values. In this way, criticism in design can do important work in value-finding and value-illuminating specifically in an ethical realm.

There is a ton more I could write, but as this is already a 1,000 word blog post, and most of you probably wont even get this far I am going to stop. But, I want to make a list of other things that need to be considered:

-The relation between the critic, criticism, and the audience in design criticism. Who are these parties, what is their relation?

-What types of values are to be found for identifying and illuminating in designs?

Reading through the Koskinen excerpt, I felt like the majority of it was devoted to distancing critical design and “traditional” empirical research methods. While there is obviously a need to separate the futurist outlook of critical design from the fiscal and technological pragmatism of the present, there were still moments where I wasn’t  entirely comfortable with the direction the passage was headed. The discussion of the Presence Project underscores this discord:

…the Presence Project constructs the notion of “aesthetical accountability.” Success in design lies in whether a piece of design works, not in whether it was produced by a reliable and replicable process (as in science). Hence, designers are not accountable for the methods: anything goes. They do not need to articulate the grounds for their design decisions. (p92, emphasis added)

Granted, the very next paragraph goes on to describe some of the problems with these particular characterizations, especially that of science. But it seems that for Koskinen, that is the point: “it underestimates the power of science and overestimates the power of art and design to change the world,” and emphasizes the need for both empirical review and the cultural implications of the social sciences. The “agnostic ethos” that Koskinen frames the remainder of the discussion about the Presence Project talks about project goals as “projective” and centered around a series of design proposals or tactics based on “returns” rather than data.

And this is all well and good; I can certainly understand and appreciate the need to examine a problem (particularly a people-centered one) using non-empirical methods, there is definite value there. What I’m uncomfortable with is the non-accountability portion: where anything goes, and design disappears behind the curtain. I believe building and fostering trust in design involves making your process transparent, however non-linear and seemingly “messy” it may be. It is obvious that the researchers in the Presence Project utilized a carefully structured process, and though their data doesn’t resemble what a traditional notion of “data” looks like (i.e. something you can draw “conclusions” from), it nevertheless culminated in the “tactics,” which help to ground future design directions.

In short, design methodologies don’t strike me as “anything goes” with respect to accountability, even if the data that emerges from them appears that way. We are all accountable for the designs we bring into the world, and by extension the methodologies we employ to reach the insights that lead to those designs.

In class today I mentioned Testadura, Danto’s imaginary “hard head” who doesn’t understand art at all. If he sees a painting, he just sees a canvas with paint on it.

So the thought experiment is: What would Testadura have to say about Drift Table?

“Nothing could be deeper or more meaningful than the objects that surround us, what are “more numerous, more sound, and more subtle” than all the portentous symbols dredged up in sessions of Jungian analysis, about which ordinary people know nothing and regarding which artists may be deluding themselves in supposing they know more.” (Danto, p.79)

That quote comes at a point in the reading where Danto is describing the historical context, both in art and philosophy, surrounding the creation and publication of the Brillo Box. The abstract impressionism movement promoted a rejection of the daily culture in preference for a connection with the subconscious and primal expressions of humans. Pop art, in Warhol’s words “is about liking things” (p.74) The philosophical community was having a similar debate when it came to language and what kind of language we should be using to describe things, along with demoting the importance of common sense and “ordinary language”. Yet J.L Austin (Oxford Philosopher) makes a remark similar to what Danto says in the quote at the top of this post, and similar to the Pop art movement, saying:

“Our common stock of words embodies all the distinctions men have found worth drawing, and the connexions they have found worth making, in the lifetimes of many generations: these are surely likely to be more numerous, more sound, since they have stood up to the long test of the survival of the fittest, and more subtle, at least in all ordinary and reasonably practical matters, than any that you or I are likely to think up in our arm-chairs of an afternoon.” (p.78)

What this means to me, and in connection with the top quote, is that everyone, together, as an active role in the meaning making of how we interpret, interact, or perceive the world. Our objects we make are like the words we create to draw ‘distinctions and connexions’ with the world around us. Because of this, no artist, philosopher, or psychologist can tell us what is art, what is a well-designed object, or what language is truly appropriate for certain spheres.

This impacts my understanding of HCI design because we make digital objects. But like the artists, philosophers, and psychologist who cant tell us what to think, we can’t tell our users what a well-designed digital object is. This idea means a greater responsibility not to create dull, temporarily useful, objects that take up time in our daily lives and add little to them. But rather to approach designing objects, perhaps as ‘meaningless’ as another app or website, as you would creating a new word that will be added to the dialogue of humanity, perhaps standing the test of time.

My capstone project is about problem framing, and its relation to design or the design process, and reading Danto’s piece made me think about framing in a different way. If I think about an object like I would a word or piece of language, then there should be a clear reason for it to exist. While I can armchair my way through hundreds, maybe even thousands of potential new words (objects), this is in now way an effort equaling “all the distinctions men have found worth drawing, and the connexions they have found worth making, in the lifetimes of many generations” (p.78) THis gives me a new analogy to work with when trying to understand the link between problem framing and the design process. I think critical design can work in some ways like the Brillo box in that, while the Brillo box served to challenge nearly everything we understood art to be, critical design can serve to challenge designs as they solve a problem. Critical design can then challenge not only some finished design, but the problem framing and perhaps even the process itself.

I also think that this highlights the mandatory inclusion of outside perspectives in the design process, beginning with framing. We cannot sit in a room and think of the problems that exists in the world. At best, these problems will be cursory, much different from the complex, real problems that need actual solving. In understanding problem framing, I think this can be used to explain some of the problems of assumptions in the framing of problems, as well as bias in its many forms.