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Colloquium - Twidale

Alternate Goals to Inspire New Design Solutions
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
9/8/2010
11:30am-1:00pm

The learning of computer applications has been an issue of interest right from the start of computer science, albeit a minority interest. In the early days of expensive computers operated by elites there were two main themes: training to enable optimal use of a scarce resource, and insight gained effortlessly and invisibly by genius hackers seemingly by just standing near an application. As computing became more mainstream, HCI emerged as a way to address the challenges of mass adoption of computer applications: how can we design applications so they are much easier to learn so you don't really need a degree in CS to use them effectively and efficiently? This increased focus on facilitating learning seems to have perceived it as a very individualized activity. The interface design challenge as it applied to learnability seems to have been: "how can I design my interface so you can learn it as fast as possible (on your own)?" But what if that was the wrong question to ask? What if we had various implicit assumptions about the context of learning and use that bore little relation to reality? Are we trying to optimize the wrong things?

As software becomes more abundant and pervades our lives in many ways, as we encounter constant floods of new applications, new version of existing applications, new gadgets and web services, the learning challenge grows. It seems unlikely we can solve this by simply designing "intuitive" applications. Intuitive for whom? For those who have been educated to intuit correctly? The growth of ubiquitous computing only promises to accelerate those trends.

In this talk I want to explore and challenge certain assumptions that seem to me latent in many application design projects. That can lead to uncovering alternate sets of goals that may inspire new design solutions.

Amongst others I will look at the following:

Michael Twidale is a Professor of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, the iSchool at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include computer supported cooperative work, computer supported collaborative learning, human-computer interaction, information visualization, and museum informatics. Current projects include studies of informal social learning of technology, technological appropriation, collaborative approaches to managing data quality, the use of mashups to create lightweight applications, collaborative information retrieval, ubiquitous learning and the usability of open source software. His approach involves the use of interdisciplinary techniques to develop high speed low cost methods to better understand the needs of people, and their difficulties with existing computer applications as part of the process of designing more effective systems.

Sponsored by the Center for Lifelong Learning & Design.

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