Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reading List: Interactions, November & December 2008

So this past week I received my first issue of Interaction magazine. This is one of the many publications that I've subscribed to as part of my curriculum on interaction and experience design. I was surprised by the heavy research bent of this magazine. I guess I've become used to the overly graphic nature of mainstream technology magazines such wired - after all, Interaction has much more of a professional bent (after all it is published by the Association for Computing Machinery).

Anyways, this month's edition had quite a few interesting pieces - below I've included a short paragraph regarding the most intersting ones. In all honesty I have not finished reading through this issue yet, so I may end up adding a few more articles to this list over the next week or so.

Designing Games: Why and How
This article focuses on the value of game design as tool to enable interaction designers to practice and improve their skills. Games are unique in that they can present a host of unsual interaction issues that have never been solved - hence they can challenge designers in new and unique ways. To help designers get started designing games, Sus Lundgren provides several different approaches that can be leverage by novices or experts. [link to article]

Signifiers, Not Affordances
I have just finished reading Donald Norman's bestselling classic design book: The Design of Everyday Things (also known as The Psychology of Every Day Things). In this book Don Norman investigates the concept of affordances that was originally introduced by J.J. Gibson. Affordances refers to the possibilities for actions that are provided by any given object. For example, a seat affords the possibility of sitting.

In this article Don explores how the concept of affordances is focused exclusively on the possibilities provided by objects. Therefore, it is rather limited when you consider that it does not take into account the possibilities for action that are provided by people, social groups, and cultures. These entities are not objects and cannot be said to offer affordances, though they do heavily influence the possibility for actions available to people who inhabit, or interact with, these social groups or cultures.

That is where the concept of "signifiers" comes in. "A Signifier is some sort of indicator, some signal in the physical or social world that can be interpreted meaningfully. Signifiers indicate critical information, even if the signifier itself is an accidental byproduct of the world." The concept of affordance is essentially a type of "signifier" - on that is specifically associated to an object. [link to article]

Some other articles from this issue that are on my reading list include: "Taken for Granted: The Infusion of the Mobiel Phone in Society," "User Experience for Ubiquitous Computing," and "Think Before You Link: Controlling Ubiquitous Availability."

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