Week 14 : And now with added experience…

This week’s lesson focused on the concept of experience in human-computer interaction. We will read about how the concept of experience is a slippery one and discussed Frank Jackson’s “Mary’s Room” thought experiment and what it tells us about the role of experience in knowledge.

Experience is an important concept in HCI, and has come increasingly into play in recent years as computers found their way out of the workplace and into family, social, community, and leisure life. This lesson discusses how our interactions with technology can involve emotions, values, ideals, intentions and strong feelings.

The lesson focuses primarily on McCarthy and Wright’s (2004) notion of experience-centred design, with long sections focusing on 1) the threads of experience, 2) sense-making, and 3) how the self is created in relation to others. However, the lesson’s most important readings are three papers which approach the concept of experience in different ways:

Hassenzahl & Tractinsky: User experience – a research agenda

This paper talks about how “… over the last decade, ‘user experience’ (UX) became a buzzword in the field of human – computer interaction (HCI) and interaction design… Driven by the impression that a narrow focus on interactive products as tools does not capture the variety and emerging aspects of technology use, we are ready to embrace the notion of UX as a viable alternative to traditional HCI… [the paper] provides a cursory sketch of UX and how we think UX research will look like in the future. It is not so much meant as a forecast of the future, but as a proposal.”

McCarthy & Wright: A Dialogical Approach to Experience: Uncovering Critical Potential

“This paper describes a dialogical approach to experience and discusses how it could be useful in understanding people-technology relations, design practice, and user experience. At the heart of this approach is a commitment to the idea that experience, technology, design, and critical commentary mutually influence and even constitute each other. It is often in the ambiguities for a lived and felt life provoked by these constitutive relationships that experience finds its critical edge…. The implications of this approach for relations between designer and user and for the very idea that we can design technologically-mediated experience are discussed.”

Forlizzi & Battarbee: Understanding experience in interactive systems

This paper is about how “… understanding experience is a critical issue for a variety of professions, especially design. To understand experience and the user experience that results from interacting with products, designers conduct situated research activities focused on the interactions between people and products, and the experience that results…. This paper attempts to clarify experience in interactive systems. We characterize current approaches to experience from a number of disciplines, and present a framework for designing experience for interactive system.”

At the end of the lesson, students are invited to respond to the following prompts:

  • Experience-centred design can be seen as a kind of gift-giving.
  • It is possible to design an experience.
  • Taking one of McCarthy and Wright’s “threads” for an example, describe how we might explore its role in users’ experience of online dating sites.
  • User experience cannot be measured.
  • One person’s experience of a technology is likely to be different to another’s experience of the same technology.
  • User Experience is transformative – both for the user and the technology.
  • Engagement is at the heart of good user experience.
  • It is important to consider relationships between the part and whole of experiences when designing technologically-mediated experiences.

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