Topic: direct engagement and theater in a user interface

topics > computer science > user interface > Group: graphical user interface

browsing with a user interface
direct manipulation for a UserInterface
gestural interfaces and marker menus
identifying the user interface with the system
man-machine symbiosis
mental models, consistency, and interface metaphors
minimal manuals and guided exploration
modes in a user interface
non-constraining system
spatial metaphor in user interfaces


Laurel promotes the idea that a computer system is representational in the same way that theater is. Like theater, a system should engage its audience. It should provide a pleasurable, interactive experience is a clear, representational domain with a clear sense of location. All the senses should be involved. The experience should encourage a "willing suspension of disbelief."

Most systems fail in this regard. They are like having a stilted conversation with an inscrutable partner. Modes confuse the user. Programming is artificial.

Instead, every user action should have a response. For example, a mouse gesture can become an idealized selection in a marker menu, or a dynamic query can rapidly adjust the displayed information as the user adjusts parameters. (cbb 3/98)

Subtopic: direct engagement up

Quote: direct engagement is the ideal of people engaging directly in their chosen activities; with emotional, artistic, and cognitive values [»laurB_1991]
Quote: machines work best if run at the same speed, the same rhythm, with a minimum of moving parts; people excel at coordination and work best if the entire human being is engaged [»drucPF_1974]
Quote: interactive by orchestrating frequency, range, and significance; by sensory immersion and coupling kinesthetic input with visual response
Quote: a transparency of interaction is crucial in the design of tool, e.g., controls for a car; don't mimic human faculties [»winoT_1986]
Quote: need personal involvement to adopt innovations [»adamKA7_1983]

Subtopic: physical simulation up

Quote: a realistic, interactive paint model; a brush is a spring-mass particle system skeleton; models the physical flow of paint and its optical properties; easier to use [»linMC8_2004]

Subtopic: theater up

Quote: engagement is similar to the theatrical notion of the "willing suspension of disbelief"; needed to enjoy a representation of an action [»laurB_1991]
Quote: how can people participate as agents within representational contexts; e.g., actors and make-believe [»laurB_1991]
Quote: in a representational context there is no threat of pain, harm, or unintentional effects; allows a willing suspension of disbelief [»laurB_1991]

Subtopic: UI direct engagement, activity up

Quote: Sketchpad allows man and computer to converse rapidly through line drawings; typing only needed for legends [»suthIE5_1963]
Quote: interactive if you feel yourself participating in the ongoing action of the representation [»laurB_1991]
Quote: why do children love Legos? immediate, universal, simple, incremental, kinesthetic, visible, quick, examples, safe, fun [»myerBA_1992]
Quote: a system should be pleasant, even fun, to use; it should produce a sense of 'pleasurable engagement' [»normDA_1986]
Quote: a program should have an action for every possible type of user input [»wassAI_1973]
Quote: engagement in a user interface is a first-person experience
Quote: in user interfaces, focus on designing the action [»laurB_1991]
Quote: the proper object of an user interface is what the person is doing with the computer; i.e., don't model what the computer is doing [»laurB_1991]
Quote: a computer representation of a manuscript or spreadsheet is in fact pretend compared to physical artifacts; it is the activity that is real [»laurB_1991]

Subtopic: dynamic query, scanning up

Quote: testing blind users with screenreaders; listened incredibly fast; scan with their ears [»theoMF11_2003]
Quote: rapidly adjust parameters to dynamic queries and immediately see the result; allows exploration, pattern discovery, anomaly detection ; e.g., Dynamic HomeFinder [»shneB1_1993]
Quote: dynamic queries exemplify the future of interaction; just do it; no negotiation with an intelligent agent [»shneB1_1993]

Subtopic: reinforced action up

Quote: on recognizing a mark, display an idealized mark and the associated menu item until the command is finished [»tapiMA11_1995]
Quote: marks have a more direct feel than menus; like applying operations directly to an object [»tapiMA11_1995]
Quote: experts use very small marks for a marking menu; only the shape matters [»tapiMA11_1995]
Quote: Vellum has a Drafting Assistant to suggest relationships and commands such as 'on', 'intersection', 'tangent'; a use of "animated language" [»tognB_1992]

Subtopic: visible interface up

Quote: with a visible interface, users are aware of where they are, where they are going, and what objects are available [»tognB_1992]
Quote: engagement in an interactive system requires a representational context in place of the system itself; no awareness of the system [»laurB_1991]
Quote: when everything is visible, the display becomes reality, the user model; actions understood by visual effects; can conduct experiments [»smitDC4_1982]
Quote: naive realism: contents of screen is the entire computational world; like text editing [»diseAA9_1986]

Subtopic: exploratory learning up

Quote: computer users spontaneously engage in discovery learning by skipping and skimming; creates a guided exploration manual [»willTR4_1992]
Quote: explore symbolic equations with Graph Equation; explore effect of parameter on graph; see answers while still thinking about questions [»lickJC5_1962]

Subtopic: minimal-attention up

Quote: a minimal-attention user interface does not compete with other modes of interaction; special purpose [»pascJ9_2000]

Subtopic: engagement problems up

Quote: most user interfaces have been built on the conversational metaphor, an interface, an intermediary, to a hidden world; denies direct engagement [»hutcEL_1986]
Quote: modes make computer appear unnatural and unfriendly; especially confusing when entered accidentally [»apple_1987]
Quote: children easily learn the primitives of a visual environment and then struggle to program with them in interesting and complex ways [»radeC3_1997]

Related Topics up

Topic: browsing with a user interface (14 items)
Topic: direct manipulation for a UserInterface (56 items)
Topic: gestural interfaces and marker menus (21 items)
Topic: identifying the user interface with the system (16 items)
Topic: man-machine symbiosis (46 items)
Topic: mental models, consistency, and interface metaphors (49 items)
Topic: minimal manuals and guided exploration (44 items)
Topic: modes in a user interface (40 items)
Topic: non-constraining system (25 items)
Topic: spatial metaphor in user interfaces
(33 items)

Updated barberCB 3/05
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