Archive for May, 2009

The end of interface stability

Well… J commented that I was late for my weekly post… and I am (in fact, he added I kept talking about my delays, which is also true). It just seems that my relationship with blogging is still not fully established. I suppose my comments about this issue are part of my personal take on this particular “place” 🙂

So, the theme today concerns what Sellen et al.  (the original report lead to a ACM paper) consider to be “the end of interface stability”. Basically, it is quite obvious that today we can find a plethora of different devices and corresponding ways of interacting with the representations they convey. The boundaries of the actual interface between the device and the person is being re-shaped (for example with wearable computational devices or even embedded in our bodies), but also the progressive trend to include computational power/properties/opportunities in everyday objects. Furthermore, the authors also draw the attention to the increasing inter-relationship between the devices themselves, with, quite obviously, its own consequences to the user.

For an interaction designer these are exciting times, since to some extent, it seems one is free from the closed space of strict guidelines etc etc. As people get used to being experimental with new devices the opportunities for creativity seem to increase. However, I also wonder what are the commonalities “hidden” in distinct devices and interfaces… what makes it immediately “transparent” for action? Recently I was observing my 8 years old daughter picking a mobile phone and start to do stuff… well, I remember when I had to read the manual to start using it.

In relation to the values, all these advances pose challenging questions regarding users’ ability to control, own, and publicize. Not long ago I was in a conference where one speaker pointed out that privacy could soon be turned into a commodity. Although I must admit I did not feel confortable with the idea, to the very least people must be fully aware of the choices, and be able to explore these boundaries. It is not enough to be usable, the consequences of use need to be transparent as well.

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