Seminal Ideas

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Reading Responses

Galen Panger - 9/10/2011 18:31:59

“Direct Manipulation Interfaces” is almost entirely useless. It is flawed as a reference to 1985’s technology context, and now glaringly flawed in light of the past several years. I’m referring to the iPad and the iPhone, of course.

The authors separate two aspects of “direct manipulation interfaces” that impart that special “feeling” of directness: cognitive “distance” and object representation. And they coin two buzzwords to support the conception: “gulf of execution,” and “gulf of evaluation.”

I think this is a useless way to think about what makes an interface “direct,” and unnecessarily excludes concepts that do otherwise impart a sense of directness to an interface. In fact, a properly conceived concept of “directness” would be quite aligned with (and therefore, fairly redundant with) general principles for good interface design.

Properly conceived, “directness” is a minimization of the number of actions or steps required to accomplish a goal, including repetitive tasks; the cognitive difficulty of accomplishing the goal, including the appropriateness of interface feedback; and the physical difficulty of accomplishing the goal, all relative to the particular user. Some ways of accomplishing a goal will seem more “direct” than others depending on the particular user’s background and capabilities. That’s why we have specialized tools.

Providing a “direct” analogy from a computer interface to how we do things without computers can be a great way to reduce cognitive load, most especially for newcomers to the computer interface who are familiar with how that particular task is done without computers. But we all know from our life experiences that analogies can go horribly awry, and they often fail to take advantage of the computer’s unique abilities, which can in fact make the accomplishment of a goal more “direct.” How about we all type out our emails using a representation of a letterpress? That would be so fun! Not. (Except for letterpress virtuosos.)

By the way, that the authors exclude “conversational” interfaces from the conception of directness is a pity. Certainly it is much more direct to tell your computer (or secretary!) “send two dozen red roses to my wife for our anniversary” than to fiddle around with some ridiculous metaphor for cutting roses, wrapping them up, putting them on the refrigerated truck, and driving them over to your wife’s office.

The flaws of the authors’ approach, of course, come at the end when they say, counter-intuitively, that “it is important not to equate directness with ease of use.” Based on their tortured definition of directness, it’s true that directness does not imply ease. But a helpful conception of direction wouldn’t say that. It would be a broader conception based on what makes something easy to use for a particular user. The most direct route is the easiest route.

Finally, let’s take stock of what we’ve learned about what “feels” direct (as slippery as that is) over the past few years since Apple changed touch screen interfaces forever. The iPhone and iPad were not revolutionary just because they had touch interfaces, though touch interfaces do take out that “third-party” feeling of a mouse and pointer. iPhones and iPads were revolutionary because they have a wonderful “feeling” of fluidity. They incorporate some aspects of physics from the real world, and include other aspects that just feel good (like the rubber-banding of lists when you reach the end, which of course doesn’t happen in the real world). This fluidity does make iPads and iPhones seem more “direct” than other touch interfaces with poor physics, like Android. I think the “Retina” displays make a difference in that feeling of directness too.

On to the Weiser piece. I appreciated the vignette at the end, though I like Apple’s Knowledge Navigator version much better. And I have to take exception to the article’s premise, which is that the most “profound” technologies disappear. I think everything we habituate to in some way disappears for us. But some things we habituate to in the hope that it will really disappear for us—like doing chores, for example, which sufficiently practiced allow us to focus our minds on interesting things—while others we habituate to but reflect on because they are beautiful.

The crux of the vision Weiser lays out is that displays become cheap and our ways of interacting with them and they with one another become more fluid. They know who we are. They know where other displays are and what’s on them. Yes, this mode will “disappear” once that process is something we want to habituate to because it makes life easier. Before it does that, though, we’re stuck with having one or two displays that don’t talk to one another and don’t really express a lot of intelligence about who we are. And we're pretty habituated to that, it turns out.


Viraj Kulkarni - 9/10/2011 20:25:59

Direct Manipulation Interfaces' is a paper that comprehensively analyzes the factors that determine how much of different kinds of 'effort' the user needs to use a direct manipulation interface. It starts out by explanining what a direct manipulation interface is, defines a plethora of terms and properties of such interfaces and then does a detailed study on the factors that affect each othese properties.

'The Computer for the 21st Century' is a paper, presumably written in the mid 1980s, about small but powerful computers that would be present everywhere around us. It talks about the future of large systems of innumerable interconnected computers and our acceptance of these systems in a way that we would no more be conscious of their existence.

The paper, 'Direct Manipulation Interfaces', is abstract and contains a lot of generalizations. Although its good to generalize so that the concept you are presenting becomes applicable to a wider range of things, generalization should not obscure meaning. I felt that the way this paper is written does increase obscurity at the cost of generalization. The authors have given too few examples. More real world examples might have made following the train of thought easier. That said, the authors have done a really good job at identifying the minute details of the interaction between a user and a system. Although I already understand this interaction because I have done it thousands of times, I never realized it or noticed the details of it until I read this paper. It also serves as an excellent source of generic guideline that should be followed when designing a user interface. The paper provides metrics which designers can use to evaluate their UI designs although it does not provide methods to measure or quantify these metrics.

'The Computer for the 21st Century' speaks about the vision the authors call ubiquitous computing where small computers would be attached to everything and a common household would contain hundreds of such computers. They believe that computer technology would become so easy to use and so accessible that it would no more be esoteric and restricted only to those people who undergo special training in using them. The paper must have been written more than 25 years ago and it is surprising that they could have predicted so many things that have turned true, especially given the speed of technological development in our times. Many things they have mentioned have turned out the way they predicted.


Amanda Ren - 9/11/2011 11:51:04

The Direct Manipulation Interfaces paper covers some of the advantages and disadvantes of using direct manipulation interfaces.

This paper is important because it points out the two aspects responsible for a feeling of directness, distance and engagement. A good interface will have a short distance, an easy translation of the user's goals to the system's physical requirements. We want the user's thoughts to match the system's commands (bridging gulf of execution) just like we want the results of the system to be easily interpreted by the user (bridging gulf of evaluation). Reducing Articulatory distance (relationship between meanings and their physical forms) and semantic distance (relationship between user's intentions and meanings) will help bridge the gulfs. The feeling of directness is also important; we want the user to feel like they are directly manipulating with the objects of interest.

Direct manipulation interfaces are important as we see the rise of touchscreen tablets coming into popularity. These interfaces are good because you can see right away the results of your actions. But this becomes a disadvantange, such as when repetitive tasks come into play. I thought it was interesting how the more a person used an interface, the feeling of directness increased because tasks had become automated.

The computer for the 21st Century paper talks about a vision of ubiquitous computing, where computers have vanished into the background of everyday activity.

The paper sets a vision where the future ubiquitous computers come in different sizes, each for a specific task. There will be numerous tabs, pads, and boards filling up a room. Users can easily carry off projects on tabs, use tabs to find objects, and have presentations be automatically adjusted based on their presence in a room. To make this happen, the paper mentions the need for cheap computers, software for ubiquitous applications, and a network to tie all the computers together. This paper is important because it gives us an idea of what to look out for with our growing technology. Even if all this possible, it also depends on how long it would take for people to adjust to these ideas and accept it.

This relates to today's technology because we can see the popularity of tablets. However, unlike the idea of a pad as a "scrap computers", tablets still hold onto that individualized identity that the author wants to do away with. One of the biggest issues is the privacy issues that the vision of ubiquitous computing provides. Given all the information being held in the network, it could fall into the wrong hands.


Valkyrie Savage - 9/11/2011 13:48:30

Ubiquitous computing is a dream that has been in the works for some 20 years, and it hasn’t been unrealized in the form it was imagined then due to technical limitations. One limiting factor in the adoption of computing has been the ability to create interfaces that are intuitive.

There were several aspects of the Hutchins et al paper about Direct Manipulation Interfaces that I found compelling, which seems reasonable for a 29-page paper giving a survey of an entire (and, at the time, fairly new) field of interaction theory. As these reading responses are, as far as I can tell, intended for us to explore and ponder more in-depth just one aspect of each paper, though, I will keep it to just one. As I came into university originally as a Linguistics major, I found his discussion about natural languages and their ability to easily represent concepts that have been historically important to their speakers (in the sections about articulatory distance and semantic distance) to be fascinating. This idea seems naturally extensible to program interfaces and programming languages, of course, in the ways described. Drawing programs should accept drawings as input. A scripting language should make creating loops of tasks easy. What is the current state of this? Well, it does seem that more numerous and more intuitive input interfaces are being developed all the time. Tablet computers with styluses lend themselves to such art programs; Python with its innumerable modules makes scripting almost anything a trivial exercise. What is left to be desired? Well, the visual programming languages he alluded to are still lacking, but with advances in things like Alice and Scratch we are drawing closer to approximating ideas directly with images and “click fit” actions. Such languages still seem cumbersome complicated tasks (and thereby have been left largely to use by hobbyists rather than “real” programmers), although from what I can tell Scratch is, in fact, Turing complete. (Side note: I loved the quote included about “the Turing tar-pit in which everything is possible but nothing of interest is easy”.)

I do differ in opinion with this paper on a few points. It seems to bemoan the extension of such systems as LISP (obviously not relevant any longer, but we can again look at Python) and UNIX, describing how having so many facilities creates undue load on the minds of users, excessive amounts of documentation, and eventually functionality that is “hidden” even to experts due to its being buried inside giant modules. The paper argues that such systems “may restrict possibilities”. I acknowledge that large systems are unwieldy, but with the advent of smart search and services like StackOverflow, connection to any aspect of functionality is readily available. Chances are good that with little effort even a novice user can navigate to the function that suits him properly, and I cannot say that I have ever felt confined by the plethora of additional functionality available to me; if I did, it’s simple enough to rework the language itself to bend to my will (insert evil laugh).

As to the PARC paper, I vaguely wish that I had written this response before reading the third paper responding to it, as now my view of it is slightly colored. Anyhow, despite the fact that this paper also felt dated as I read it (“Flat-panel displays containing 640 x 480 black-and-white pixels are now common. This is the standard size for PCs and is also about right for television.”), many of its ideas still seem to be hot topics in research--to be honest, there was a bit of the same feel as from “As We May Think”. For one, addition of a computer to everything. This seems to have taken a different form than the one anticipated by PARC, but has captured the attention of a lot of smart people for a long time. Our “computers” now are a mesh of RFID chips, QR-codes, specialized phone numbers, etc., that lend a digital personality to arbitrary physical objects. No longer do we need to actually have processing power contained in each object for it to be able to be interacted with digitally, but a quick physical tie to an online entity of some kind is sufficient to describe everything about it, anyway. Why even have that? Google Goggles is working to recognize objects without tags of any kind. The addition of digitally interactive elements to books, etc., is actually something that I’ve been pondering a fair amount lately; after the cycling trip that my boyfriend and I took last year, we’re hoping to write a book, but since we’re both trained in software engineering, that doesn’t seem like quite enough. Is there a richer way to interact with a book digitally than just adding QR code links to photos or videos? Probably. What is it?


Alex Chung - 9/11/2011 17:12:28

Direct Manipulation Interfaces (Understand the underlying basis for direct manipulation systems)

Summary: The author assumes that the feeling of directness results from the commitment of fewer cognitive resources. Then he broke down the cognitive processing into two categories: 1) Semantic distance – what tasks the system affords the operator to perform; 2) Articulatory distance – how the system finds ways to give the user clues about how something works.

Positive: Instead of labeling user experience study as a form of art, the author uses a scientific approach to narrow down the basis for inducing the feeling of directness. Like Fitts’ law for usability study, quantifying the semantic distance and articulatory distance provides researchers with a model to test and to measure new methods and devices for direct manipulation systems.

Positive: The author correctly points out the trade-offs between intuitiveness and effectiveness. A system that accommodates human natural behavior (semantic) along with easy to understand visual clues would provide better user experience. However, better user experience might not necessarily lead to user adoption because users also want a system that would make the intended tasks easier to complete. A low learning curve would win many fans in the area of disruptive technology. However, the system would then be burden with the level of increasing expectation from the existing users against the new users. “An analysis of the nature of the task being performed is essential in determining the semantic directness of an interface” (Hutchins, p329).

Negative: While the goal is to permit the user to act as if the representation is the thing itself, user’s expectation varies depending on the user’s history of experiences. Furthermore, settled expectations from experienced users might suggest the wrong direction even if the new method/device is more natural and effective for new users. Generally, it is difficult to build a single system to meet user’s expectation because everyone speaks different language, purposes, and understanding.

Negative: While I agree with the author that the input and output components are crucial in raising the articulatory directness, I disagree that it is highly dependent upon I/O technology. There is a limit of how much a user can detect all the sensory inputs as well as the rate of visual/aural responses. Therefore, a much richer set of input/output devices may not necessary translates to better user experience. While lag time kills directness, other studies on Internet page loading shows that users can only detect a lag if it is more than 0.25 seconds. No significant improvement is resulted from reducing the response time. Also, multiple inputs may not be the ideal method of interfacing with a system if the nuances give conflicting signals. Computer mouse continues to be the dominant input device without evolution because the system can identify the intention directly with the user. However, this may not be true for inputs using smell or sound or even sight because those emitted signals are directionless and it is difficult to associate the intends with the sources.

The Computer for the 21st Century (Ubiquitous computers will make every task faster and easier to achieve with less effort)

Summary: A vision of information technology in the 21st century from 1991, in which, computers would be a fabric of human life. The computers would be invisible because they have become trivial and they would make every task faster and easier to achieve with less effort.

Positive: The idea of writing as the first information technology is an intriguing thought. Perhaps we should also consider painting, music, and aroma as other forms of information technology because they convey information to the senses through meticulous patterns. This reminds the practitioners of HCI that user interface design is not restricted to visual display but to all sensory input channels including touch, temperature, pressure, sound, smell, electromagnetic wave, etc.

Negative: I agree with the author’s concern that ubiquitous computing could be a source of real harm in the wrong hands. However, the author is too naïve to think cryptographic technique can obviate the issues of security and privacy. First of all, cryptic messages can be broken with brute force when given enough processing power. Secondly, security requirement changes with time, subject, and targeted audience. How could the user adjust the level of security in different situation if ubiquitous computing “black-box” the interactions between user and system?

Negative: “Ubiquitous computers will help overcome the problem of information overload.” This is the case only if all the information is authoritative and relevant. But the world is not perfect. From today’s perspective, spam will overwhelm the bandwidth with ads about penis enlargement or opportunities from the Nigerian bankers.

Yesterday’s tomorrows: notes on ubiquitous computing are dominant vision (Why some seminal ideas have not come true yet?)

Summary: Seminal ideas or visions would not turn out exactly the way they are because it is difficult to have a complete understanding of the crowd and the scenarios are based on a set of strict requirements.

Positive: “Technological determinists argues that new, superior technologies will ultimately push aside competitors and society adapts as a result.” Technological change is an autonomous beast that is separate from the influences of people. It changes society rather than the other way around. However, the cases of Singapore and Korea deny that claim and provide evidences that society has a huge impact of technological direction.

Positive: Ubiquitous computing is an extension of every individual, thus it also exemplifies the heterogeneous nature of our society. In order to continue the evolution of HCI, we need a better understanding of “how social and cultural practice is carried out in and around emerging information technologies.” Emerging technologies have to be attentive to different nuances and flexible to respond to different reactions.

Negative: While I agree with the author’s assessment that heterogeneity is inevitable, the author failed to explain why emerging technologies have always led to monopoly. The paper also failed to explore the competitions between ideas and why inferior technology sometimes wins out against its superior competitors.


Steve Rubin - 9/11/2011 20:38:53

These two articles both presented hypotheses about the future of computing. The first paper was focused on interfaces, and reducing the cognitive load of the user. The authors thought that this would best be done by direct manipulation (DM), with the hope that users will not need to think about the fact that what they are looking at is a computer. The second paper imagines a future of ubiquitous computing, where there are dozens or hundreds of computers per room in all sizes (from inch-scale tabs to yard-scale boards). These computers work in synchronicity, providing a streamlined and completely coherent interface to the world via computing.

The paper on direct manipulation contained a reasoned explanation of why direct computing was important. By citing both semantic and articulatory distance--two simple ideas--the authors convincingly argued that the world needs computer interfaces other than shells and programming languages. In today's context of the iOS/Android-dominated computing landscape, the argument for DM is more of a reaffirmation than a novelty. Of these two older papers, our current world more closely resembles one informed by DM than by ubiquitous computing. We don't have networked computing devices on all of our possessions, and we don't have devices that are used as "scrap" computers; iPads are a bit too expensive for that, unfortunately. I think the most mature point made in the DM paper is that they do hold a monolithic view of direct manipulation. They do not think that every interface should involve direct manipulation, and they understand the fundamental weaknesses of DM. For example, sometimes we are interested in properties of an object that we cannot witness directly.

While the idea of ubiquitous computing is enticing and evocative of science fiction, the paper makes some strong assumptions about the future of technology. If a room has hundreds of small computers that can interact in complex ways, they have to be built according to strict standard. Defining this standard seems difficult at best. Every individual developer will want the machines to be able to communicate about a unique X, Y, and Z. If a simpler standard was used (e.g., current wireless networking technology), it's possible that only devices made by the same company would truly be able to have coherent, complex interactions. This would be a detriment to consumers who did not want to commit to a single company's ubiquitous computing products.

Finally, it is unclear whether we even want ubiquitous computing. We have laptops, tablets, smartphones, and e-readers, all of which are powerful, centralized devices. I suspect that many people would prefer to keep their lives free of an absolutely constant dependence on technology, or as much as is possible in our already tech-saturated society.


Laura Devendorf - 9/11/2011 21:52:53

Weiser tells the story of the future making suggestions for possible interfaces and their uses and Hutchins describes factors to consider when working towards direct manipulation.

While both articles discussed methods to make the interface "disappear" in one way or another each presented the idea in a different way. Weiser paints a picture of the future (and since the article was published in 1991 - that future is today) suggesting that interfaces will seamlessly embed into our daily patterns through forms such as pads and monitors. Hutchins provides a detailed analysis of direct manipulation and the strengths and challenges it introduces. Both articles show impressive foresight with regards to the time they were published.

I found Hutchin's article particularly interesting and I enjoyed his discussion of interactions in terms of language. The article's lessons are still widely applicable even though it was published so long ago. The article helped reframe the idea and definition of direct manipulation in my mind. While he notes that no effective direct manipulation programs existed at the time the article was published, I would argue that they are moving closer citing Puredata as an example.

I found Weisner's paper to be interesting yet lacking in depth. The technological aspects seemed plausible enough but I would argue that he didn't take into account a number of human factors that would shape development. While the author touches on issues of security and surveillance, he makes no comment on the economic forces that would surround and shape the development of such interfaces. Who will be paying for this development and for what gain? How will people learn to use this system? Sociologically, what would it mean for day to day behavior be monitored? While he makes broad statements arguing that ubiquitous computing will bring us closer to other humans and reduce information overload, there was no discussion of why or how this would be the case. On a more positive note, the paper foreshadowed many aspects of developing technologies and was in many ways ahead of its time. Owing to the fact that this week's theme is Seminal Ideas, I would rightly say that the vision of ubiquitous computing is, indeed, a seminal idea.


Hanzhong (Ayden) Ye - 9/11/2011 22:12:51

Reading Response for: -Direct Manipulation Interfaces, Edwin L. Hutchins, James D. Hollan, and Donald A. Norman, Human-Computer Interaction, 1(4), 1985, pp. 311 - 338. -The Computer for the 21st Century, Mark Weiser, Scientific American, September 1991, pp. 94 - 104.

The first paper gives an introduction to an academic definition and explanation of direct manipulation interfaces, while the second article exhibits several seminal ideas on ubiquitous computing.

In the first paper, to introduce direct manipulation interfaces, the author showcases several early examples as typical direct manipulation interfaces, and then explains a cognitive account for direct manipulation. To analyze the essence of directness, the author decomposes the term ‘directness’ into two aspects to measure, which he names as ‘distance’ and ‘engagement’. Distance refers to the efforts of users have to make to communicate with computers, which again consists of semantic and articulatory distances. Both semantic and articulatory distances are part of the overall distance which depicts the span between human goals and computer operations, which is defined by the author as ‘gulf of execution’ and ‘gulf of evaluation’. Besides the analysis of distance, direct engagement is also discussed as a very important aspect to evaluate directness. A space of interfaces is then depicted with different featured interfaces equipped with different critical features. To achieve a more balanced point of view, the author also addresses the problems and limitations existing in direct manipulation interface. The paper gives me a very comprehensive introduction towards direct manipulation interface, and it also gives me insights of the underlying foundation of many modern human-computer interaction techniques.

The second paper discusses many interesting issues under the topic of ubiquitous computing. It is fairly surprising to notice that many of the anticipations discussed in the article have now already become commonplace scenes in our everyday life today, while many others are very probable to be seen in the near future. The author discusses the usefulness of tab, pad and board individually and also casts several assumptions about the development trend of ubiquitous computing. The most essential idea of this article, which also illustrates a very important phenomenon which occurs from time to time in the history of technology development of human beings, is that the more a technology is widely accepted and used, the less it can be easily detected as an obvious technological entity. At the end of the article, the author also tries to depict a picture of our life with more developed ubiquitous computing environment, which is rather interesting to imagine and also triggers our motivation to head for more meaningful work in ubiquitous computing research.

Both of these two papers help me to discover several interesting areas of human-computer interaction. Combined with the papers studied in previous classes, I become more interested in application of ubiquitous computing and natural human-computer interaction techniques.

Ayden (Sep 11, 2011)


Apoorva Sachdev - 9/11/2011 22:21:29

The first paper assigned for this week dealt with direct manipulation interfaces and how they bring about a feeling of directness during user interaction. The second paper was futuristic and described what the author thought the computer of 21st century would be like and how technology will get completely integrated in our worlds. The authors Edwin L.Hutchin, James D Hollan et al. try to provide a framework to quantify the feeling of directness experienced in certain interface interactions. They classify it into two categories the distance the user experiences in transforming his ideas/intentions into actions on the system and the relation between the input and output vocabulary of the interface system. They discusses the difference between the conversation model and the world model, in one case the interface works as a language to allow users to interact with objects while in the other model, the interface creates a world in which the user can interact with the objects directly. Direct manipulation interfaces are effective as they are more intuitive to interact with and require less cognitive efforts from the user side, however, they can also be very limiting since they are usually specialized and designed for certain tasks rather than general use. Also, sometimes since the interface is designed around the user prior knowledge the interface maybe inhibiting and might not let us try new things. The author Mark Weiser in his papers describes what ubiquitous computing really means and distinguishes it from virtual reality. He talks about embodied virtuality, where computers will become a part of the background environments and blend in so much so that they become invisible. Some of things mentioned in the article have come true like match box size drives storing GBs not just MBs of information. We are slowly progressing towards a world described by him and some of our current gadgets are evidence of this. Our generation of smart phones can be compared to the inch-scale smart computers that are talked about in the paper. The current IPhone 4 has 960-by-640 pixel resolution and weights little more than 100 grams. The current iPad is similar to the pad he describes, although it is not so widely used, one day it could be seen as a replacement of paper (probably after several iterations and cost reductions). Also, things like Kindle and Nook are examples of how we have developed technology to replicate the feel of conventional objects while making them more efficient. They have kept the pleasure of reading books alive in their original form yet reduced the burden of storing, sorting and carrying hundreds of books. In a certain way, both the papers hint at similar interaction and are loosely talking about similar topics, making interactions more natural and direct. The conventional computer is built upon the language metaphor, where one uses it to interact with the people around us; however, it is like a third party in the interaction. Thus, the feeling of directness seems to be lost in a certain sense. This can be brought back by pushing computers in the background, and designing interfaces such that people are more aware of the individuals on the other ends of their computer links and not be stuck within the 11” by 15” inch computer screen.


Derrick Coetzee - 9/11/2011 22:57:12

Hutchins et al's "Direct Manipulation Interfaces", although not the first work on direct manipulation interfaces, was the first to analyze and provide a vocabulary for describing what creates a feeling of "directness" in a user, and break it into its constitutent parts. Particularly critical are the ideas of "distance" or "gulfs" between the domain and the system, and how they are crossed by the user during input and output.

The tradeoff of distance versus generality was particularly intersting to me because of its relation to modern domain-specific languages, which sacrifice generality to remain close to the domain of interest. The authors successfully predicted that language-based interface would remain dominant for programming, but in some areas visual programming languages, such as Scratch, have gained currency.

One required property that I question is inter-referential I/O (outputs acting as components of future inputs). This doesn't make sense for all applications, particularly those where output types differ from input types. More fundamental is the ability to compose systems and use outputs of one as inputs into another.

Weiser's "The Computer for the 21st Century", a 1991 work out of Xerox PARC, introduced the concept of and original vision for ubiquitous computing. In their vision, computers would vanish into the environment and become part of the background, facilitating ordinary social and work interactions rather than being themselves a focus of attention.

It is interesting to reflect upon PARC's projections about what enabling computational resources would be available in the future. Many projections, like the cheap gigahertz CPU, gigabit Ethernet, ubiquity of wireless networks handling large numbers of portable devices, high-resolution portable LCD displays, and the commonplace nature of terabyte disks, have recently been attained. Others have been wildly exceeded: rather than 60 megabytes in a device the size of a matchbook, we now store up 64 GB in a tiny MicroSDHC card. On the other hand, as many estimates did, they failed to anticipate the public's growing appetite for information storage and consumption: even two terabyte drives are routinely completely filled. Another unanticipated development: PARC's active badge has been largely supplanted by passive devices like RFID tags, which are able to decrease weight and maintenance of the device by moving the power source into the reader.

Automated remote operating system upgrades, of the sort hypothesized in this paper, already occur with some networked embedded devices such as VOIP desk phones and commercial cellular routers, but remain largely unavailable for disconnected embedded devices and personal computers. The concept of a machine keeping all parts of the system up-to-date at all times without user interaction or interruption remains a promising direction for future research.

One of the more interesting points is the idea that ubiquitous systems will be "grabbed and used anywhere; they have no individualized identity or importance." Although attractive in some ways due to their low barrier to participation, information regarding the identity of the authors of notes can be valuable as part of the audit trail of an enterprise's records. If a corporation could track the author of every note written on a whiteboard or post-it note, would they?


Yun Jin - 9/11/2011 23:10:53

                    Direct Manipulation Interfaces

In the article, it talks about the advantages and disadvantages of the direct manipulation interfaces. What’s more, the paper describes two underlying phenomena which leads to the feeling of directness—distance, and engagement. Direct manipulation interfaces are remarkably powerful and have many virtues. First, they can help novices learn basic functionality quickly. Second, experts can work fast to carry out a wide range of tasks even they have to define new functions and features. Third, knowledgeable intermittent users can retain operational concepts. And error messages don’t happen usually. Finally, users can see immediately whether their actions are furthering their goals, and if not, they can simply change the direction of their activity. However, even though direct manipulation interfaces have many advantages for users to easily access to real object, there are also some problems of direct manipulation interfaces. They may have difficulty handling variables, or distinguishing the description of an individual element from a representation of a set or class of elements. Direct manipulation interfaces also have problems with accuracy, for the notion of mimetic action puts the responsibility on the user to control actions with precision, a responsibility that is sometimes best handled through the intelligence of the system and sometimes best communicated symbolically.


                 The Computer for the 21st Century

In this paper, ubiquitous computers have been discussed that participate in embodied virtuality. To better demonstrate the idea of ubiquitous computing model, which is a model of human-computer interaction, the article also introduces three types of basic forms for ubiquitous system devices: tabs, pads and boards. All models of ubiquitous computing share a vision of small, inexpensive, robust networked processing devices, distributed at all scales throughout everyday life and generally turned to distinctly commonplace ends. For example, a domestic ubiquitous computing environment might interconnect lighting and environmental controls with personal biometric monitors woven into clothing so that illumination and heating conditions in a room might be modulated, continuously and imperceptibly. Another common scenario posits refrigerators "aware" of their suitably tagged contents, able to both plan a variety of menus from the food actually on hand, and warn users of stale or spoiled food. Most important, ubiquitous computers will help overcome the problem of information overload. So I think ubiquitous computing is an advanced technology in the area of human-computer interactions.



Suryaveer Singh Lodha - 9/12/2011 1:11:45

Direct Manipulation interfaces - The author talks at length about the two major aspects of directness - distance and direct engagement. There are two kinds of distances which play a major role here - articulatory distance and semantic distance. Both these distances when added result in the gulf of execution (while performing a task) and gulf of evaluation (while making sense/decisions based on output). While we try to bridge these gulfs to have a better user experience we loose on the generality of the interface. The interface thus becomes too specific to a particular task and looses its ability to perform other non-routine tasks. It is important not to equate directness with ease of use. It is also very important to note that direct manupulation interfaces cannot address problems that result from poor understanding of task domain. Direct manupulation systems definitely help in learning an interface easily and aspire to make the interface intuitive to use. Another important feature desired is that the interpretation of the output should be immediate and straight forward. Also it should be easy to use the output as an input for further use. To think of a few examples, the touch screen feature on smart-phones/tablets/e-book readers very common now-adays have atleast succeeded in developing intuitive interfaces for end users to operate on. Games such as Microsoft Kinect are very successful in engaing the user with the electronic devices. Also we have developed better interfaces for programming languages such as "python" which is much easier to learn/use as compared to other traditional languages, though at a cost that its not as fast as traditional C/C++.

Yesterday's tomorrows and Computer of 21st century - The paper "Yesterday's" tomorrows gives a good report on the status of ubiquitous computing present in our times in contires such as Korea and Singapore. Those are not directly in line with Weiser's vision but still are very much inspired by his vision. Apart from the discussion as to how Ubicomp has been so successfull in Singapore and Korea and steps taken by respective countries to achieve current state of Ubicomp, what stands our for me is that ubiquitous computing of the present is not very ordered or clean, as visualized by many. It is messy, very much visible but still works very well. Its always good to imagine about an ideal world where ubiquitous computiung is very clean and properly structured, but its very important to study the way ubiquitous computing has evolved around us and how it is maintained at present by widely different social, cultural and legislative units.


Donghyuk Jung - 9/12/2011 1:22:20

Direct Manipulation Interfaces

In the introduction, this paper explains what is direct manipulation with its virtues as well as properties and delves into core components of direct manipulation interfaces. “Moving the appropriate icons onto the screen and connecting them together perform the desired operations” and “what you see is what you get.” We can easily assume that these sentences represent the definition of “Direct Manipulation” infer that those properties are now implemented as GUI-based computing environment. In order to understand more details of the paper, especially “directness”, we need to comprehend terms and processes authors used to deliver their ideas before understanding the whole processes within the framework.

  • Goals -> Intention -> Action Specification -> Execution -> Inter-Referential I/O -> Perception -> Interpretation -> Evaluation -> Goals
  • Directness: An impression or a feeling about an interface. The sensation of directness is always relative.
  • There are two distinct aspects of the feeling of directness: Distance and Engagement

- Distance: “Factors that underlie the generation of the feeling of directness” - Engagement: “The qualitative feeling of engagement, the feeling that one is directly manipulating the objects of interest.” - Direct Engagement: “When appropriate use of the model-world metaphor can create the sensation in the user of acting upon the objects of the task domain themselves.” -> Direct Engagement occurs when a user experiences direct interaction with the objects in a domain.

    • Two forms of distance: Every expression in the interface language has a meaning and a form

-- Semantic Distance: Semantic distance reflects the relationship between the user intentions (goals) and the meaning of expressions in the interface languages both for input and output. -- Articulatory Distance: Articulatory distance reflects the relationship between the physical form of an expression in the interaction language and its meaning (the meaning of expressions) both for input and output.

    • The better the interface to a system helps bridge the gulfs, the less cognitive effort needed and the more direct the resulting feeling of interaction.

-- The Gulf of Execution: The gulf of execution is bridged by making the commands and mechanisms of the system match the thoughts and goals of the user. (User’s goals -> Physical system) -- The Gulf of Evaluation: The gulf of evaluation is bridged by making the output displays present a good conceptual model of the system that is readily perceived, interpreted, and evaluated. (Physical system -> User’s goals)

  • Direct manipulation systems trade off one set of virtues and vices against another.

- Pros: The immediacy of feedback and the natural translation of intentions to actions make some tasks easy. - Cons: Direct manipulation interfaces have difficulty handling variables, or distinguishing the depiction of an individual element from a representation of a set or class of elements. Much of the appeal and power of the interfaces comes from its ability to directly support the way we normally think about a domain. Interface design is subject to many tradeoffs.

The Computer for the 21st Century

“The most profound technologies are those that disappear” and “we are therefore trying to conceive a new way of thinking about computers, one that takes into account the human world and allows the computers themselves to vanish into the background.” The author brought an example to explain the concept of his story. The first impression of this paper is similar to that of “As we may think.” Mark Weiser and Vannevar Bush mentioned ‘Ubiquitous Computing’ and ‘Memex’ respectively. Both new technologies were not fully implemented at that time but those papers impacted on future generations by giving them a new insight. The issues described in the paper are central to a major paradigm shit from Personal Computer to Mobile/Cloud Computing. Although many technologies (Cheap and low-power computers, convenient displays, network, and software) the author mentioned are implemented so far, he divided new devices by its size of screen not user’s mobility.


Cheng Lu - 9/12/2011 1:24:53

The first paper, “Direct Manipulation Interfaces”, comes from parts of the books. Direct manipulation has been lauded as a good form of interface design, and some interfaces that have this property have been well received by users. The paper first describes the definition of direct manipulation by examples, and then summarized as the following properties: (1) Continuous representation of the object of interest. (2) Physical actions or labeled button presses instead of complex syntax. (3) Rapid incremental reversible operations whose impact on the object of interest is immediately visible. In a word, direct manipulation should make what you see equivalent of what you get. Then the paper states there are two aspects of directness: distance and engagement. The word distance emphasize the fact that directness is never a property of the interface alone, but involves a relationship between the task the user has in mind and the way that task can be accomplished via the interface. And the direct engagement refers to the feeling of first-personness, of direct engagement with the objects that concern us. Furthermore, the paper defines that the distance includes two forms: semantic and articulatory. Semantic distance concerns the relation of the meaning of an expression in the interface language to what the user wants to say. Articulatory distance has to do with the relationship between the meanings of expressions and their physical forms. In the last part of the paper, the author also discuss the issues related to direct engagement, space of interfaces and problems with direct manipulation, which are all key factors of forming direct manipulation.

The second paper, “The Computer for the 21st Century”, provides us a brand new perception of what the computer should be like in the future. The fundamental argument of this paper is the author believed that the most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it. Such a disappearance is a fundamental consequence not of technology but of human psychology. Instead of virtual reality, which focus primarily an enormous apparatus on simulating the world rather than on invisibly enhancing the world that already exists, the paper provides us another term, embodied virtually, referring to the process of drawing computer out of their electronic shells. What’s more, the paper also illustrate a relative prototype of this embodied virtually with the application of tabs, pads and boards, which are quite ubiquitous in today’s life, and it just reaches the author’s estimation of having the beginning of ubiquitous computing in 20 years. This paper also discussed the technology required for ubiquitous computing, which includes cheap, low-power computers that include equally convenient displays, software for ubiquitous application and a network that ties them all together. Although some of the problems have been solved within the 20 years after the publishing of this paper, many retains unsolved and need to improve further. The author states that when almost every object either contains a computer or can have a tab attached to it, obtaining information will be trivial, and sociologically, ubiquitous computing may mean the decline of the computer addict. Embodied virtually will bring computers to the presidents of industries and countries for nearly the first tie. Computer access will penetrate all groups in society. Most important, ubiquitous computers will help overcome the problem of information overload. It seems that we are on the right track to realizing this embodied virtually, though many needs to be done to make the computer really disappear one day.


Peggy Chi - 9/12/2011 1:33:24

These classic papers introduced two main ideas that have profoundly influenced the HCI field for a long time: direct manipulation and ubiquitous computing. Both of them discussed the root of the interface problem - how interfaces could be designed to fill the gap between the digital computer world and the physical world that human lives in. One of them considered reducing required cognitive load using metaphors and physical actions to build a more intuitive mental model; the other attempted to bring computers into living environments so that users could be aware of the information and still focus on their goals.

It has been exactly 20 years since Weiser introduced the concept of ubiquitous computing in September 1991. It's amazing to see how his vision gradually comes true supported by various research and commercial products that have largely changed our lives. The proposed devices with three scales (tabs, pads, and displays) can now be found almost everywhere, especially in the recent years. The digital world is able to come “out” from a static box to our living space, enabling users to enjoy the power of computing and to communicate with people. Though the technologies required in the scenario have been nearly proved possible, the ultimate goal that Weiser proposed at the end of the paper, however, still leaves us a question. Can we one day really interact with computers as relaxing and serene as walking in the woods? Or is it a far-fetched dream because of the inevitable information overload problem anyhow? For example, the ambient display design enhances users peripheral awareness. The provided information, in the worse case, could have been overwhelming as it occupies our cognitive channel processing pieces of incoming news when the overall system fails to adjust timing to display (Imagine all of the ambient objects try to grab your attention for various sorts of warnings when you head out...)

This question leads to one of my concerns about direct manipulation: to reduce the information processing distance. Through a careful design of metaphors, a digital world can be interacted more directly by committing fewer cognitive resources. It is such a convincing idea proved by many successful systems and UI designs. However, the concept of direct manipulation seems difficult to apply when the user goals get complicated, as the gulfs of execution and evaluation could not be mapped easily by a physical system. Where is the boundary between direct manipulation and other interaction styles such as command line, menu design, or visualization tools? I'm interested to explore more about the trade-offs we need to consider in different problem areas.


Hong Wu - 9/12/2011 2:51:02

Main Idea:

“Direct Manipulation Interfaces” proposed a concept to determine whether an interface is easy to use. “The Computer for the 21st Century”, published in 1991, forecasted the developing trend of computers in the next 10 years.

Interpretation:

“Direct Manipulation Interfaces” regarded the key of an easy interface related to semantic and articulatory distance. Semantic distance means the effort requires user to do to complete a task. For example, win 3.0 required users to remember the copy command to copy a file. In graphics interface, users just need to right click the mouse and select the copy option. Articulatory distance relates to the facilities computers provide. For instance, it feels more real when you use a touch board to move a file by figures. Other elements, such as fatigue or Aesthetics, may also affect the judgment of the interface.

“The Computer for the 21st Century” predicted the wide usage of liveboard, pad, tag, badge and wireless network. It’s quite amazing that most of the predictions come true and dominate our life. It is worthy to notice that the prototype of ipad (Xerox’s pad) existed for over 20 years before it becomes popular. Market is one of the reasons but the development of software is also significantly important. It would be better for “The Computer for the 21st Century” if it discussed how the software affected the future computers.


Ali Sinan Koksal - 9/12/2011 3:48:19

"Direct Manipulation Interfaces" by Hutchins et al. explores properties of an interface that affect the "feeling of directness" that it provides; these consist of i) the relationship between the user's conception of a task and the ways in which that task can be expressed via the interface, and ii) achieving a feeling of interacting directly with objects rather than having a conversation with the computer through an intermediary language.

I found the characterization of the different aspects of the feeling of directness, as well as the account on the trade-offs in question very interesting. Semantic distance involves the relationship between the user's intention and the meaning of the corresponding expression in the input language. Reducing this distance results in a feeling of directness, and this is typically achieved at the expense of generality, by providing high-level structures that occur often in decomposition of problems of a given task domain. The downside is, tasks that are not decomposable into the given structures become very hard, sometimes impossible to express. Furthermore, while attempting to match the user's intent closely, the interface designer should not prevent the possibility of creating new ways of thinking about a task domain.

Weiser's seminal paper describes a vision for the computing environment of the future, as well as an overview of the ongoing related research in Xerox PARC, envisioning a future where we will be surrounded by a multitude of computers that we do not even notice.

Weiser successfully predicts the impact of advances in computer hardware and communication techniques on our environment in which technology is ubiquitously present in our everyday life. However, I think "Yesterday's tomorrows" points to some crucial problems of this vision of the future. It is indeed very hard to imagine a seamlessly interconnected world in the presence of the multitude of social and cultural contexts around the globe, and it may be wrong to assume that ubiquitous computing will determine how our social life will be in the future (as we witness in Sal's future life), rather than actually being influenced by social practices.

These two papers seem to be very influential on further research in HCI. One gives a detailed account of a space of interfaces and design considerations that lead the way to very useful interfaces, and the other is the basis for a whole line of research, ubiquitous computing.


Jason Toy - 9/12/2011 7:12:03

Direct Manipulation Interfaces

This article discusses direct manipulation interfaces and the two ideas behind them: that directness is based on reducing the effort of users to get to their goal and that the users' have to feel that they are manipulating objects themselves, not representations of them. The first part of the article discusses techniques for making it easier for users to express themselves to computers and understanding the results that are returned to them (i.e. pros and cons of specialized or generalized programming languages). The second part discusses how to get people to engage the computer at a level appropriate for their task and feel that they are directly working with objects.

This paper contributes to our knowledge of HCI by defining what "directness" is in terms of good interface design. It provides a framework for qualitatively judging direct interfaces (reduce distance, increase involvement) and several examples of new approaches to interfaces that adhere to these values. It turns out some of the descriptions of real-world systems in the paper were eventually implemented. Rather than the unix file system which uses names to represent files, users can now use gui file systems to drag files and interact with them better. Creating a workflow to describe the program you want to build, given in the statistics example, has been done in National Instruments' LabView program. Finally programs like Dreamweaver, which is used to create websites are examples of "what you see is what you get". Future research into such programs that promote "ease of learning" and "ease of use" will mean better interface design.

The paper does a good job outlining what the authors believe make for a direct interface. Each specific point was clear and the examples given were on target, to the point that many eventually became products in the future, as I describe in the previous paragraph. I especially liked the analysis of programming language complexity. There are hundreds of programming languages in existence today, many of which have similar goals: scripting languages include perl, python, ruby, etc. I disliked the structure of this paper, as I felt it was rather confusing. There was no clear division of what sections of the paper related to the first phenomena and which dealt with the second. The naming convention of Semantic Distance in the Gulfs of Execution and Evaluation and Articulatory Distance in Gulfs of Execution and Evaluation was ironically not very apparent. I also disagree with the paper's statement that "Automated Behavior Does Not Reduce Semantic Distance". I do not believe it is possible to separate the two ideas of learning and expression. The ability for a person to express themselves to a computer, possibly concisely (as by the definition of semantic distance), greatly depending on a person's experience, ability to learn, and personality. A simple example is that someone who has had more experience, or automated behavior, would have an easier time expressing themself to a computer.


The Computer for the 21st Century

This paper is about ubiquitous computing: the idea that computers will be found in every aspect of our lives, to the point they are no longer noticeable. The paper describes various devices that Mark Weiser and his coworkers built at Xerox Park to accomplish this goal, and their predictions for where this technology will take them in the future.

This paper contributes by promoting a different approach: that of ubiquitous computing. Rather than going into virtual reality, and bringing people to the computer, or having the personal computer, which is an individual identity, Weiser promotes creating an abstraction by integrating computers with everyday objects to the point we no longer notice them. Weiser's paper relates to the Microsoft paper on LightSpace in that examples given involve an attempt to build an interactive workspace with whiteboards and electronic documents on desks. However it differs in the methodology used. Rather than projection, figures show the desk built with individual devices for each document on the table. Some of Weiser's predictions in this paper have come true, and become real devices. RFID tags can be used to track individuals and for purposes such as electronic toll collection. Ipads and other tablets can be brought from room to room to use for note taking, and connected to displays during meetings.

Weiser and his coworkers did a good job of testing their ideas such as the whiteboards in an actual workspace. Many of the previous papers had setups which did not accurately represent their intended use, and as such would not be able to get actual workspace data, or possibly feedback from a large number of people. The article not just did a good job of visualizing uses for computers that have come to fruition today, but also was on target with the goals and needs of people. For example, workspace collaboration, which is accomplished through many different types of software today. One thing I think Weiser did not consider was the possibility that some tasks could be automated. For example, even if it required a leap in artificial intelligence, Google's self driving cars means that it might not be necessary to build all kinds of views into the car. In addition, Weiser does not consider what would happen if rather than building computers into everything, an expensive proposition, ubiquitousness could be accomplished by having one device, like a cellphone, do everything for you.


Rohan Nagesh - 9/12/2011 7:40:03

My apologies...I've been feeling under the weather all weekend and would like to use one of my three passes for this reading response. Thank you for your understanding.


Yin-Chia Yeh - 9/12/2011 7:41:32

This week we have two very different papers, the direct manipulation interface and computer for the 21st century. The direct manipulation paper analyzed what are the essential components of feeling directness in user interface. This paper does not aim at teaching people how to design good user interface directly. Instead, it listed up essential components and possible tradeoffs and reminded the readers feeling of directness cannot be measured merely with user interface but should consider the combination of user interface and desired tasks. The computer for the 21st century paper presents the idea of ubiquitous computing, which means different kinds of computers will be so pervasive that they are pushed into the background of our daily life and people use computers as if people use language. The author predicted the future by introducing state-of-the-art technologies at that time (1991)

One interesting connection between these two papers is the concept of ubiquity. The two papers were written in 1985 and 1991 respectively. Graphical user interfaces and computer devices were rare then. Today we have myriad kinds of computer devices. Most of them are controlled by user graphical interfaces which provide more sense of directness. I/O devices of computer are also much richer. The contribution of computer of 21st century lies in its precise prediction on the development of technology or in other words it directs the development of technology over these two decades. Apple should rename iPhone to iTab! The contribution of direct manipulation model, on the other hand, lies in decomposing the very general “sense of directness” into elemental parts to reveal the basic elements of designing direct manipulation interfaces. People may not need to read this paper to learn how to design user interface, but by reading them people will have a much better understanding on how to design good user interface. I especially like concept that a user interface cannot be evaluated solely but needs to be evaluated together with tasks to be done.

There is one thing I don’t like in direct manipulation paper. It doesn’t give a global example in real human computer interface. I can understand the concept of articulatory distance and direct engagement individually while reading separate paragraphs. However after reading the article I cannot tell the difference between articulatory distance and direct engagement. I think it will be nice if it provides an interface as example throughout the paper so that we can understand the differences between these concepts better by examining the example. As for the computer of 21st century paper, I think its prediction is mostly accurate but the inaccurate parts seem to be related with social issues, mainly the privacy issue. Today people usually do not share their phone or laptop/tablet (tabs or pads) with others and the main reason is privacy. As computing devices getting more pervasive, the social issues become more and more important and worth of discussion, which is not predicted in the paper.


Allie - 9/12/2011 8:09:57

Mark Weiser's paper, "The Computer for the 21st Century", is a visionary artile written in the 1980s, presents a vision of ubiquitous computing that is in some ways prophetic. Weiser promotes the idea of compiling, whereas when people are accustomed to something, they stop being aware of it. Ubiquitous computing is the idea that machines complement the lives of humans, rather than being an invasive presence, supplement the details of our everyday lives. In order to do so, computers must know its location and scale; be cheap, low-power, and have convenient displays. The pads Weiser presents in the Xerox lab bears remarkable similarity to iPads. I very much enjoyed the ideas presented here as a lot of the ideas, such as the metrics Sal uses to quantize her life.

In Bell and Dourish's "Yesterday’s Tomorrows", the authors respond and challenge Weiser's ubicomp, presented a decade earlier. In doing so, the paper examines ubiquitous computing in Singapore and South Korea. Singapore has had relatively success in implementing the ibid, intelligent island. For example, the government deployed critical information during the SARS outbreak in 2003 via internet and cell phones. However in 1996, the Ministry of Information and the Arts began filtering all internet use proxies to regulate access to political/religious/pornographic content online, a totalitarian move. Likewise, ubiquitous computing is pervasive in South Korea. However, due to the local culture, a quarter of the population regular cybercafes. In conclusion, ubiquitous computing as the people experienced by the time of the paper is not a perfect model. Weiser's vision has been realized, but is not evenly distributed. Bell and Dourish contend we need to gain a deeper understanding of the social and cultural practice around ubicomp, rather than slapping together technological solutions of existing problems on a loosely envisioned framework. I disagree, because Weiser had said in his paper that the ubicomp is supposed to evolve around the human, rather than propagate a single vision from the getgo.


Vinson Chuong - 9/12/2011 8:47:47

In "Direct Manipulation Interfaces", Hutchins, Hollan, and Norman (HH&N), introduce the notion of directness in interfaces and provide a concrete framework for evaluating directness. In "The Computer for the 21st Century", Weiser envisions the future ubiquity of computers as ordinary objects in the environment that people interact with directly.

Adding to the models of Hick, Fitts, Guiard, and others, HH&N describe a model of human information processing with regards to interfaces that measures the cognitive load or effort that a user needs to invoke in order to successfully interact with an interface. That measurement is broken down into four parts: translating user intention to an expression in the interface's input language with the correct meaning, inputting that expression in a form understood by the interface, outputting the data in a form which matches its meaning, and mapping that meaning to user intention--semantic and articulatory distance over the gulfs of semantic and articulatory distance. Although this seems like a concrete way to accurately evaluate the usability of an interface, HH&N concede that it is highly dependent on individual users. While "moving the user closer to the system" is one way to reduce a user's cognitive effort, a user can also move himself closer to the system, modifying his throught processes to match the input and output languages of the interface. In other words, a user's knowledge and experience heavilly influences the directness of an interface. Hence, this model may be limited in its practicality in that it can only be applied reliably to a specific type of user at a time. However, one important type is the new user. Indeed, HH&N claim that one of the most compelling strengths of direct interfaces are the ease at which users can learn them.

Weiser envisions a world where computers are everywhere and are as second-nature to humans as writing. Expanding on this analogy, he describes computers embedded in such form factors as post-it notes, paper pads, and whiteboards, forms which users can interact directly with. It's interesting to note that Weiser considers his vision in opposition to "the notion of virtual reality", especially in light of the previous readings on depth cameras. Weiser seems to group the concepts of ubiquitous computing with writing far too tightly, ignoring some of the unique benefits offered by traditional computers. For example, he describes keeping worked-on documents in a series of pads that one takes from desk to desk. Why not digitally transfer documents from pad to desk (where the desk is a computer in whiteboard form factor)? What about projecting a virtual word superimposed on the real world? While Weiser does offer many seminal ideas, many of which still haven't been realized today, I feel that his vision is too limited in scope and too reliant on existent metaphors.


Manas Mittal - 9/12/2011 8:59:27

The Direct Manipulation paper talks about direct manipulation interfaces, i.e., interfaces where the user 'directly' manipulates the object of interest. The paper introduces key ideas such as 'gulf of execution' and 'gulf of eveolution'. This paper has a profound effect on how we design and evaluate interfaces. It formalizes a way to think about interfaces - where in the spectrum of ease-of-use, and generality should this interface be. Will it be used by a specialized set of users repeatedly, or will it be used occasionally by a larger set of user. Will there be a compromise between generality, ease-of-use and specificity. Consider for example Photoshop. Photoshop is a powerful, general tool for expert users, difficult to use. On the other hand, MS-Paint is easy to use, but less powerful, and designed for occasional users.

This paper also helped me express what my past research project, The Ubicorder, did. The Ubicorder is a handheld device that enables users to browse real-time sensor network data. In other words, it enables users to span both the gulf of evaluation, and of execution.


Mark Weiser's seminal paper coined the term Ubiquitous computing, and talks of weaving computation into our lives - "The most profound technologies are those which disappear". It is interesting to see how many things of this paper have come true, especially in the last 3-4 years (since the introduction of the iPhone, iPad, and inexpensive displays) - it makes me wonder if the world does indeed work in the way Ray Kurzweil thinks of it (the rate of rate of change is increasing, and so the last 5 years > last 20). It is also surprising how different the world was even 10 years ago - for example, the Wi-Fi had not been introduced, and has now reached mass-markets (Do you know anyone who doesn't have Wi-Fi?). It is interesting to hear the comment - "ubiquitous computing will lead to the decline of the computer addict". I disagree with the statement, and argue that in fact, it has made everyone a computer addict. How many people spend all their time clicking on their iPod/iPhone/iPad. Also interesting is that Weiser did not envision the social revolution (Facebook et al.) and incorporated it in his vision.


Shiry Ginosar - 9/12/2011 9:02:44

This pair of papers provided a very interesting view into the relationship between a seminal paper and followup research of many years later. Weiser's original paper set the course for ubiquitous computing as a research field. In this work Weiser envisions a world in the proximate future (looking ahead from the early 90s) where computing will penetrate our worlds and will be used seamlessly as part of our everyday lives and social interactions.

While many follow up papers in the field follow Weiser's original path, Bell and Dourish, publishing their work some 15 years later claim that some of these works followed Weiser's vision a bit too closely. According to them, while ubicomp researchers were waiting for the seamless, clean world described by Weiser to happen, ubicomp has been evolving all around us and continues to do so in a heterogeneous messy way through wireless devices, phones, PDAs, game consoles and all the different infrastructures required to support them all. Moreover, they claim that the vision provided by Weiser is a very American one, while in reality different communities adopt ubicomp technologies in very different ways that fit into their various local cultural and social structures.

It is interesting to read Weiser's paper today when a large percentage of the people in the western world own a smart portable device used as a phone, a music player, a camera, an access point to the internet, a navigation device and more. While Weiser's vision is surprisingly accurate (one can literally imagine the iPods and iPads in his descriptions), the world we have today is definitely not as orderly as the one he has envisioned, the main differences being his insistence that all devices would be interconnected and centrally managed (he even points out that they will all use the same OS), and his disregard for price and ownership when he states that devices would not be personal but would exist in the room and one could pick them up and use them as needed.

All in all I think that Bell and Dourish have the right idea in mind - that in this type of research one has to evolve the research questions with time and to pay close attention to the current state of the art in the world around us. Otherwise we may be steering in a research course that reality may never arrive at.


Sally Ahn - 9/12/2011 9:10:34

Direct Manipulation Interfaces, Edwin L. Hutchins, James D. Hollan, and Donald A. Norman, Human-Computer Interaction, 1(4), 1985, pp. 311 - 338. The Computer for the 21st Century, Mark Weiser, Scientific American, September 1991, pp. 94 - 104.

These two papers define two fundamental ideas in human-computer interaction: direct manipulation and ubiquitous computing. Hutchins et. al. analyzes the "directness" of an interface by characterizing both its quantitative and qualitative components ("distance" and "direct engagement"). Weiser, on the other hand, describes his vision of computer interaction as that of "invisibility"--people's interactions with computer should be natural and indistinguishable from any other tasks of the everyday life.

Hutchins et. al. describes the distance component of "directness" in terms of cognitive load on the user (gulf of execution and gulf of evaluation). I think their greatest contribution is providing this foundation of concrete terms with which many interfaces can be evaluated. I also liked that the authors noted that disadvantages do exist for direct manipulation interfaces. They recognize that there is a fundamental tradeoff: comfort vs. novelty. A user feels more connected to interfaces that reflect interactions they are more familiar with. However, this discourages interface designers from creating new ways of thinking and interacting with technology.

Weiser's paper, written as many as 20 years ago, foresaw the advent of mobile technology we are witnessing today. In particular, the mobile smart phone, tablets, and interactive boards, are all devices that are gaining great popularity. However, Weiser also emphasizes that "ubiquitous" computing entails much more than just mobility. I think this is an important distinction; to be "ubiquitous," the computing device must not only be available everywhere, but must also be so natural to use that it "disappears" from the user's cognitive awareness. I think this is a component that could lead to interesting advances in our current world of mobile phones and tablets.


Allie - 9/12/2011 12:39:40

In Hutchin, Hollan, and Norman's article, "Direct Manipulation Interfaces", the idea of direct manipulation is explored. Direct Manipulation refers to:

1. Continuous representation of the object of interest 2. Physical actions/labeled button presses instead of complex syntax 3. Fast incremental reversible operations whose impact on the object of interest is immediately visible.

It is favored for its imposition of fewer cognitive resources on the usual, for indirectness comes from the need for additional cognitive resources in the user interface environment. For example, the playing of a musical note on a piano is more direct than the same on a violin string. Rapid feedback is also characteristic of direct manipulation. The article goes on to talk about narrowing the gulf of execution/evaluation, proposing the reduction of semantic distance from the both the system and user sides.

I thought the ideas presented here were quite interesting, and touches upon our class discussions on effective user interfaces. The two articles due today on ubiquitous computing expressed the same ideas, albeit in different verbiage: that the user experience is improved when he is no longer aware of the integration of technology in his life.

Note: I misread the class assignment and submitted reading responses for the Bell and Dourish article at 9am instead. My apologies.