Feb 9, 2011
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Feb.3 Reading Responses


Djajadiningrat, Gaver, and Frens, 2000

While reading the article, I found the interaction relabelling method to be a really effective because not only does it force a renegotiation of interactions between user and object, it asks the designer to remix metaphors through the juxtaposition of gestures, parts, or mechanisms associated with the object, allowing it to take on new meanings and fill new roles based on a different scenario. But in putting the method into practice in class, I found it to be somewhat of a troublesome exercise: when it is just one object that you are trying to relabel without a scenario, the properties – the affordances – of the object became constrictive – the conundrum of too much freedom. This activity added yet another tally mark for the importance of developing a scenario around an object, something we did not focus on at all in my major studio last fall.

I remember reading this article last semester and being utterly dumbfounded at their choice of extreme characters and the narratives they developed around them. Despite their caveats and apologizes for any offense, I still find this unacceptable. Starting a design from this place is extremely problematic and permeates the objects’ nature and relationship to the user, potentially turning the user into the stereotype or extreme character that inspired it. I agree with Winner that these are the types of considerations that designers should reflect on at any level.

“The Power of Representation”


Donald Norman

I like Norman. I like his insight into the everyday design measures lay people (of which I might add, I considered myself about six months ago) take for granted, and the palatable weight that they have in our lives, our interactions, and our systems of culture. And, while the middle part of this chapter was a little harder for me to get through, its substantiation of the beginning and end was well worth it in bringing the invisible forward. Two main points that resonated: in the beginning, he makes the argument that oral cultures without written systems lack formal methods of problem solving or complex educational infrastructures and that an aid as simple as pen and paper have a profound affect on development. Hence, it is our things that make us smart. The second was his closing with the idea of folk psychology and that in the end, designers must keep in mind that which is cognizant and commonsense, but also that which is imperceptible to the user, but still actively impacting her/his experience.

The Design of Everyday Things

Donald Norman

Doors are interesting, but switches are the thing. Doors at least give some indication that there is movement to be made from one space to the next, whether it be a person moving from room to room or an object moving from open space to cabinet. Switches, however, are more precarious with many of them because the consequence of your action is the result of an unseen process. But the bad placement of only one switch can be just as antagonizing.

When I moved to Boston after undergrad, I encountered a design problem that duped me every single time: the switch outside the bathroom conundrum. We lived in this fantastic old house with the exception of this issue. Every time you would enter the bathroom you stepped right back out to let there be light. This particular design heresy seems partial, or at least more ubiquitous in northern states. In fact I recall having numerous conversations with friends about this geographic issue. Perhaps due to the prevalence of older architecture? Whatever the case, two interesting things happened by the time I left that place: first, even though you knew where the switch was, muscle memory dominated and second, it caused an awareness of the design, but in particular the house as a character of sorts, a prankster for whom the joke never gets old and the user always falls victim.

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