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WE/ME in epedagogy design » Blog Archive » Working Group 1: Envisioning new interfaces in cooperative media culture


Working Group 1: Envisioning new interfaces in cooperative media culture

During the recent Helsinki international seminar the participants formed 3 working groups based on their preference of 3 different discussion topics to brainstorm the issues and possibilities within these topics and to ultimately come up with a research topic proposal.

In Working Group 1, Wey-han, Arie, Antti, Ville, Lynda, and myself, with Martti’s assistance, had the pleasure of engaging and brainstorming the topic titled, “Envisioning new interfaces in cooperative media culture”.

Arie introduced an interface problem encountered by the medieval scholars when operating the new interface of the “Book” (as presented in the short sketch Medieval Helpdesk on the Norwegian show “Øystein og jeg”).

Interfaces Brainstorming map

We developed a stronger understanding for what an interface is and potential problems surrounding the interface, as presented in the brainstorming map linked to the image at the right. Most importantly we identified that when engaging the topic of interfaces there are a number of visual, conceptual and metaphorical aspects which need consideration. During discussion in the working group and following our presentation we identified that there may be two approaches to considering this topic, from the perspective of the physical interface (buttons, keyboards, mouse, etc) and also the virtual interface (windows, browsers, web interface etc).

We identified and presented our research proposal, however we understand that it will require further discussion and fine-tuning in the coming weeks:

“To consider the visual, conceptual and metaphorical elements of interfaces in a learning context for inexperienced user groups.”

5 Responses to “Working Group 1: Envisioning new interfaces in cooperative media culture”

  1. weytan Says:

    After our presentation, there has been also a valuable comment from Torsten Meyer on the paradoxical notion of an “inexperienced user”. One tends to see “experience” in terms of computer/software experience, but Software has also a conceptual interface, mostly based on existing metaphorical spaces. For example there’s the “Desktop” with its “folders”, “documents” and “trashbin”; the “Editing table” with its function of “cutting”, “joining”, “rewind”; or the Community System’s use of “rooms” and “doors” for chatting, project work etc.

    Basing an interface on an existing and already known object with its inherent functions eases the user’s adaption to a new and unknown software environment.
    A user may be inexperienced in using a new type of learning management system, but he has years of experience in schooling, reading, collaborative working, communication, and their respective conceptual and metaphorical use.

    So: There may never be a truly inexperienced user, unless you create a software-interface extremely alien or as a kind of artform.
    The question remains: Where’s the best (and probably dynamic and adaptive) balance between what the user is used to and what yet ill-describable new functions the program should perform.
    In interface-design, form follows function follows form.

  2. Arie Says:

    I’m sorry I did not respond earlier to the postings, but I had two birthday celebrations (my daughter Sylke and me), a highschool graduation (Sylke) and four final oral exams I had to take this week (all students passed, but not without a few liters of transpiration;-)).
    I think we will have to come up to some sort of working agreement where everyone can dive deep into his/her expertise. My suggestion (everything is open to discussion):
    – a thorough methodological base for our project research (definitions and operational elements of the main aspects, including measurable operational definitions). Problem here is that we proposed three dimensions we would like to research (methaphors, contceptual elements & visual elements) but we were not sure about the ‘exhaustive nature’ of these concepts. Perhaps Gerard’s & Antti’s research could provide us with the right dimensions, although we still have to choose the right methodological & theoretical ones to proceed. I will try to sketch some of them, but please add everything that could be useful.
    – a workable definition of interface, because we will have to restrict our findings to two and threedimensional interfaces, since – all in all – almost everything can be considered an interface (language, non-verbal communication, dashboard of a car, remote controls etc.)
    – a typology of possible interfaces and metaphores (two/three-dimensional)
    – a few learning evironments that we could use as a test base for our findings. I am not convinced we will find satisfying environments – i.e. environments that will be usefull for all dimensions, but fortunately that leaves us a lot to research in the next months/years;-). Perhaps we could continue with some of the findings of Gerard’s and Antti’s research?

    After our necessary desk research (several commercial databases I have access to contain lots of docs and info on this subject), we will have to agree on the above subjects (or whatever subjects we think worth researching), make a firm planning and work our way to a satisfying project presentation. As far as I’m concerned, it should lead to something that is worth publishing.

    A possible chapter-like structure could be something like:
    1 – introduction (general problem/s)
    2 – blueprint of our research (what are we about to do, what do we expect)
    3 – dimensions of interfacing
    4 – dimensions of our ‘layers’ (could be metaphores, contextual elements & visuals – or whatever we will find during our desk research)
    5 – description of our ‘test bed’
    6 – report of our findings (i.e. theory & hypotheses tested against our test beds)
    7 – final conclusions

    But perhaps we could restrict ourselves to a more theoretical approach?

    Most important however: what do we expect from this project and what could everbody use as input (i.e. what is everybodies expertise, since I have heard lots of interesting remarks, but I still do not know everyone’s background).

    Furthermore, when I came to Helsinki I was rather ambiguous about what to expect. Fortunately, Wey-Tan started with a reading that sweeped away all my doubts (‘Hey, this is going to be REALLY interesting’) and the rest of the readings only confirmed this.

  3. eva Says:

    Although I couldn’t assist to the first meeting during the seminar, I’m interested and I want to participate in the research proposal for this working group. So, despite the delay, hello to everybody and here you have my email and skype name: evadurall@gmail.com , evadurall .

    I’ve been reading the previous posts. Basically, I agree with Arie’s proposal about the need of a workable definition for the term interface, a typology of possible interfaces and metaphors, and a few learning environments to use as a test base for our findings.
    Related to the definition of interface, I just want to comment few things. May be there is no need because all of you are very familiarised with the subject, however, since my point of view I consider that prior to focus on the interface we should research about the learning context (we can understand it as a learning ecology and, as Arie proposed, continue with Antti’s and Gerard’s research. For me, reading the documentation and the presentation of their project was very helpful, so may be it would be good to upload the presentation and the blog address in this blog so everybody could have a look on it) and the user group to whom we are addressing to: the inexperienced ones. Taking into account Wey’s post I should say that it’s important to recognise other kinds of experience than the “technologic one”. Precisely, is in this kind of knowledge that systems as Graphic User Interface and WIMP are based on (anyway, I guess that our aim would be to not to reproduce these systems and their metaphors, as the deskop one for example) .
    However, before discussing about interfaces and its design, I think it would be important to develop a little research about Human Computer Interaction, User Centered Design focusing in our target group (inexperienced users) Another aspect which would be important to research about would be the advantages and limitations of this group at the time of using a Computer Mediated Learning… (if you want to add something or you just don’t agree, please say it! 😉
    From my point of view, the research about learning contexts and inexperienced user groups would “lead” us to interface design (I agree with Arie about the need of a workable definition) which would be concreted through visual, conceptual and metaphorical elements.
    Answering Arie’s question about everybody’s background… mine would be the area of audiovisual communication. Personally, I’m interested in multimedia script, that is to say the structure of narration. Related to this project, I’m interested in how people/users interact with computers and how would be the best design (how to visualize information) to make easier and faster the accomplishment of tasks with the computer.
    The field of e-pedagogy is a bit new for me so, even I’m trying to read about, is possible I use some concepts in a wrong way or I don’t take into account other aspects. So please, if there is something of what I’m saying that you don’t understand, please tell me.

  4. weytan Says:

    I second Eva that we probably should keep our focus on interfaces facilitating learning environments, though, as I hopefully can show, these can range from the straightforward vocabulary-learning-program to something puzzling and utterly unrecognizable. It depends on what it is to be ‘taught’ to the user. Maybe she/he wants just information.
    Maybe she/he wants to to acquire skills.
    Maybe she/he isn’t supposed to notice that there’s learning/teaching going on (a growing trend).
    Maybe something should be learned which can’t be taught.

    Well, I’m struggling with my MA-thesis at this moment, so I’m sorry that I may be a little bit distracted to be of much use in our project group.
    I think, though, there are some connections between my topic of game based learning and interface design, since a game is also a metaphorical and conceptual interface, as well as it provides an interface to play with.
    The first sets the mood of what to expect (joy, excitement, autonomy, exclusion of reality), the second sets the understanding of what and how to play (buttons, menus, narratives, symbols). I think this can be transfered to our learning environments as well.

    From my point of view, a well made interface answers to two quite existential questions: “Why am I here?” and “How do I get around?”

    First, a little story.
    There’s a very old cabbalistic riddle about knowledge, which goes something like this:

    A sage takes a twig and draws a square in the sand.
    “In here”, he says and points to the inside of the rectangle, “is all that is known to me”.
    He points to the outside of the rectangle and continues, “Outside of this is all that I still don’t know or which may never be known to me.”
    “The question is not how much is inside the borders of my square, to make the best use of it; and it isn’t also how to widen its borders, so more from the unknown will become known. The most interesting question is”, he concludes, “what is the nature of the square?”

    Jump back.

    In a broad sweep, there are three distinct types of applicable knowledges (plural), each probably working well with a specific type of interface.

    1.) Declarative knowledge, as well as a lion’s share of what is usually called procedural knowledge. This is ‘objective’, culturally or physically distinct knowledge, for example to know which tramway lines lead to the Arabica-Building, how to lend a book in a library, how to compose violet with blue and yellow watercolours, how to use Google, or how many Cents are in a Euro.
    2.) Strategic or pattern knowledge, this is a kind of metaknowledge of what to do when encountering situations or environments we don’t know yet, where there’s not enough distinct declarative or procedural knowledge to get around. It’s a collection of patterns and generalized experiences, which lets us understand metaphors and concepts previously unencountered yet. For example we should be quite quick to ‘understand’ a new search engine website or a graphics program if we used several instances of these applications before.
    This kind of knowledge is probably the main field of action for the inventive interface designer: Creating a unique interface which is at the same time intuitively to handle.
    3.) Reflective knowledge, which is also metaknowledge, but also a counteragent to the first and second type of knowledge, because it questions and scrutinizes the former. It’s a mode of thinking which facilitates curiousity, disrespect, doubt and the (playful) handling of uncertainty. It comes in handy when paradicmatic shifts of thinking patterns are necessary. As an example you can take any new media which has to establish itself as independent from existing media, with unique traits, metaphors and uses. Photography is, for example, not a very quick form of painting; cinematography not theatre or moving photography; computer games not literature or interactive movies, though the process to get rid of these notions is/was usually long and difficult.

    I would describe the interfaces according to these knowledges as:
    – Straightforward, nearly unperceivable, information oriented
    – Metaphoric, experience oriented
    – Perplexing, either painfully annoying or utterly amazing, aporia oriented (a nice oxymoron!)

    The first category probably is searched for by gouvernment, banking or library websites, the second with commercial or educational websites striving for a kind of uniqueness besides being informative, while the third is more experimential, playful or aesthetically-artistic in its forms (and can crashland badly, if there’s only puzzlement).

    So, my assumptions is that it’s both, how and what, that determines the shape of the interface for a learning environment…

  5. Torsten Meyer » Grassroot Technology Says:

    […] Alex hatte uns im Kontext der ePUSH-Maßnahme e-Infrastructure und seiner Beschäftigung mit interactive whiteboards schon vor ein paar Monaten das Video von Johnny Lee gezeigt. Mittels extrem günstiger Hardware (Wii Remote und selbstgebastelter Infrarot-Stifte) hat er ein überaus interessantes neues Interface gebaut. (Und unser neuer studentischer Mitarbeiter hat den Infrared-Lightpen schon gleich nachgebaut, nur noch viel besser!) Offenbar haben auch die finnischen und spanischen Kommilitonen, die beim international seminar epedagogy Design im ZKM die Ergebnisse ihres Semester-Projekts Envisioning new interfaces in cooperative media culture vorgeführt haben, dieses Video gesehen und eine ähnliche Vorrichtung gebastelt. […]

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