Friday, November 1, 2013

Obstructionist vs. Intensifying Recording, Novices vs. Experts, and Google Glass

Point: Don Norman on Google Glass. Read also I Go To A Sixth Grade Play, which is spot on. In theory, you can record everything and live totally seamlessly and not just miss a large portion of your life. In practice, we'll keep futzing with cheap, poor imitations, destroying the experience itself to get a recording nobody will ever watch. We're obstructing the experience by recording; it is possible to intensify it, as by a master photographer or artist, but we are usually not doing that.

Really killer point:
Probably we've all seen a wedding reception, an event meant to be full of spontaneous expressions of joy, transformed by the photographer into a series of staged events. “Kiss the bride.” “Again, please.” “Cut a piece of the wedding cake.” “Each of you feed the other.” “All you spectators, move out of the way of the camera.” It is amazing how tolerant we have become of this manipulation of the experience: the act of recording taking precedence over the event.

Interesting side question: why do we want all these recordings? why do we cling so hard to keeping certain moments? Fairly certain this is a Deep Question. (or a question with a simple answer, but a difficult problem to solve.)

Counterpoint: Thad Starner explains it himself. Farhad Manjoo agrees. The computer can get fully out of your way, allowing you to experience and record in real time. (we've always been able to experience OR record; the AND is the real trick.)

But look at Thad's devices vs. Glass. He's got a Twiddler one-handed keyboard, he's been taking notes and pulling things up on the fly for 20 years, he is an expert at wearable computing. If Glass becomes a mainstream thing, we'll run out to the Google Store and buy it to show off to our friends tomorrow. He's an experienced photographer with a DSLR; most of us will be chumps with point-and-shoots. (or, chumps with DSLRs, pretty much the same thing.) Which means we'll have obstructionist artifacts, not intensifying ones. And they'll be on our faces!

"Not a math person" in HCI

"Math is the area where America's 'fallacy of inborn ability' is the most entrenched."

"I'm not a math person" is an unfortunate sentiment that lots of kids echo when they're grumbling through homework, explaining bad grades, or choosing majors. Other people (like the above) have pointed out why this is Not a Great Thing more eloquently than I.

HCI kind of lives between CS, Design, and Psych/Cognitive Science. It's so new, nobody's totally clear on what the whole scope of the field is, and indeed, maybe that's a dumb question. It's also so broad; anything where humans and computers interact. What's submitted to UIST will be totally different than something submitted to CSCW. As a result, everyone (at least at CMU) is an HCI student, but also (and sometimes primarily) a computer scientist, a designer, or a psychologist.

Point: this influences people to stay in their "major", rather than approach problems cross-disciplinarily.

Counterpoint: well, we humans need to categorize things somehow, in order to understand, for example, what certain professors or students work on.

Point: Fine, I guess. But be very clear when you're pigeonholing people, and do it as rarely as possible.