August 15, 2012

May 2012 Presentation

A presentation given at North Carolina State University in May 2012 relating to the ongoing research relating to tangible interaction and tools for personal growth:

April 9, 2012

Model for Tangible Interaction

Model-View-Control & Model-Control-Representation (intangible/tangible)

March 14, 2012

Orals Slideshow & Abstract

March 9, 2012

Notes on Designing Interfaces

Notes from the O’Reilly book Designing Social Interfaces: Principles Patterns and Practices

Crumlish, Christian. 2009. Designing social interfaces : [principles, patterns, and practices for improving the user experience]. Beijing ;Cambridge: O’Reilly Media.

SOCIAL MEDIA (8, 9, 11)
social media is “media that is created, filtered, engaged with, and remixed socially” (8)

“Social media collectively refers to content… that is generated by the community of users for consumption within the same community” (9, Harjeet Gulati)

The idea of patterns for designing interface is describes this way “The notion of having a suite of reusable building blocks to inform and help designers develop their sites and applications has gained traction within the interaction design community as the demands for web and mobile interfaces have become more complex.” (11)

The idea of leaving elements or the social site structure incomplete is described this way “One of the key differences between designing a social environment online and designing a traditional media-style, broadcast-oriented content site is that the design of a social community online cannot be entirely predetermined.”
“This principle finds form in a number of familiar concepts: customization, skinning, user contributed tags, and the emergent folksonomies they can give rise to.”
“we create open space rather than filled-in labyrinths.”(17)

Understand that in order to interact with your system users must have an understanding or mental model of what they are interacting with (19)

“Strict Versus Fluid Taxonomies: Part of leaving the design unfinished involves determining which elements to nail down and which to leave more free-form.”

“Literally, a palimpsest is a manuscript… that has been overwritten at least once, with the earlier text only partially erased and obscured… The word has also been used as a metaphor to describe any place that reveals its own history.”

“Talk Like A Person: Bear in mind as well that the writing on your site or in your application is a key part of the user interface. Call it web copy, nomenclature, and labels if you like, but it’s as much a part of the UI as the buttons, windows, and sliders.”

Use a conversational tone that fits the attitude and personality of your users but do not take it too far. Also consider using questions as a way to suggest or call to action. Also the use of third or first person “my” for example should be used with intentionality expressing either possession or attention to the larger community/activity. Consistency is important with that naming of “my stuff”, “your stuff”, or “Bill’s stuff”. (26-34)

If you are using email give people a way to respond in email. You can also reengage users through a reoccurring e-mail. “The email should contain a very clear call to action.”

GAMES (37)
Good quote for games:
“Games are among the oldest “social interfaces.” The rules and tokens of a game provide a set of affordances and an environment in which people interact.”

Sign-up or Registration (45-49)
“Collect other information only as necessary for a compelling experience.”
“Require registration at the last possible moment in the users’ process of exploring”
“Allow use of a non unique nickname (email) to reflect back to the user and for communication between the system and user.” “Consider skipping the entire registration form and allow users to sign up with… Facebook Connect”

Sign In – Sign Out(53, 56)
“Provide a clear way to retrieve the username if it is forgotten.” “Provide a clear way to retrieve the password if it is forgotten.”
“Consider providing a landing page that clearly indicates that the user is no longer signed in.”

Invitations (58)
“A user receives an invitation from a friend or connection to join a site”
“A user sends an invitation to a friend or group of friends asking them to join in a site experience”

Onboarding (70-72)
“That process of helping people get started is called onboarding
“…a large bubble tells her exactly what to do next: ‘Create your firstpost!’. In actuality, there are a dozen things she could do from here, but the guide is making a decision for her. By limiting the user’s focus–”
Also consider the idea of a “Welcome Area”

PHATIC COMMUNICATION (122, 124)*****************
“Describing a continuum of phatic messages: “These messages are: 1. I exist. 2. I’m ok. 3. You exist. 4. You’re ok. 5. The channel is open. 6. The network exists. 7. The network is active. 8. The network is flowing.”

“phatic communication, the sounds and grunts of acknowledgment we make to remind one another that we exist.”

ONLINE PRESENCE (123, 128, 134)
“A Brief History of Online Presence: …1. a persistent “place” online where a business or project can be found…
2. a blog, for instance, can create an ongoing sense of a person…the blogger is actively “present” in that space and can be found there.
3. …one is currently online and available for communication; this is present not in a physical sense but in an availability sense. This is synchronous, real-time presence, to be distinguished from the asynchronous sense of #1 and #2.” (123)

“online, available, and open to contact.”
“four typical use cases for online presence indicators: • A person wants to determine whether his friend is online. • A person wants to see who is available for contact. • A person wants to see whether his friend is available for communication. • A person wants to show his contacts that he is busy.” (128)

The concept of a Buddy List is a “list of people a user wants to keep track of” (134)

“Thinking about time as part of designing conversation systems is a critical consideration when deciding what type of communication tool to add to your social framework.”
“participating in the conversation when it is convenient.”
tools which are synchronous “rely on all participants being present and engaged at the same time”

“The primary principle to bear in mind when designing presence interfaces is to maximize opportunities for your users to declare themselves present to one another (similar to leaving footprints or other human traces)”
“a few actions that the user or system can take: • Publishing presence information • Displaying current presence status • Displaying a timeline of recent presence items • Maintaining a history (partial or complete) of past presence declarations • Providing users with a way to subscribe to presence updates • Providing users with a way to filter presence updates”

“User Gallery: Another technique for signaling the transient presence of other visitors” (149)

“Activity Streams: the idea of at least maintaining a stream of recent history and then possibly mixing status reports with other snapshots of online activity has taken hold as a way of displaying presence.”

“An activity stream (or feed) may therefore consist of an aggregation of updates and activities that together can create a much richer sense of what the user has been doing, thinking about, and saying in the recent past”

“Statuscasting: Statuscasting is the custom of broadcasting an ongoing stream of status updates to the public or to a set of contacts or followers.”

“Microblogging allows users to create short posts. These are often aggregated into a stream and can consist of text, pictures, or video.
“post onto other services”
“Provide a method for viewing once posted. Both an author view and a community view should be available.” (138)
“Allow users to filter items by date, Allow users to search or browse by date or tags, Freshness: Show items by newest item first as a default” (250)

UPDATES (139, 342)
“Updates: Updates provide people with mini stories about what their connections and others are doing on the Net”
“Users want to see what their friends have been doing presented in a convenient format.”
Users should be able to “Opt-in” or have “Disclosure” when broadcasting updates
“These updates can serve as reminders to other users about what is possible within the system.”(139)
“Recommendations push objects toward people rather than relying on them to be passively discovered.” (342)

AMBIENT INTIMACY (146-147)*****************
“Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible.

“Ambient describes the lightness, the atmospheric, non directional, and distributed nature of the communication. These are communications that are one to many: they’re not quite broadcast and yet not exactly conversational. They flood over a somewhat defined space.”

“maintaining ongoing background awareness of others”

SOCIAL OBJECTS (185-186)*****************
“you should begin by defining the type of activity that you want to encourage in your space. Do you want people to collect or share?”

“Once you have a handle on the type of activity you want to foster and its associated subactivities, it is important to define the type of social object around which this activity will revolve.”

“Social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object.”

“Social objects are natural, not artificial. A successful social object is one that has layer upon layer of conversation created around it; as the number of participants increases, social objects enjoy network effects. Social objects are about participation and participants.”

Competitiveness Spectrum (156)
Levels (157)
Labels: not qualitative ranks but qualitative titles (163)
Bookmarklet (210)
Relationships Terminology (354)
Groups (376)
Face-to-Face Meeting (401)

March 8, 2012

Building the Interface

From User Journey to Interface Actions

One result of creating two user journeys (see that post here) was a long string of actions which the tangible and graphic interface managed. However, this list included repeats of actions which could be edited into one, such as the tangible interface prompting goal buddies to “discuss” and on another occasion “reflect”.  The running list also didn’t present any hierarchy or priority for the actions which each interface managed. Lastly, the user journey began to flesh out the idea of inputs and outputs, but did not go into much detail other than labeling the actions.

In response to the suggestions of my thesis advisory meeting, it became clear that creating an edited set of actions and priorities of each interface would be an important next step. Below is a description of my vetting process, to organize, synthesize, and edit the long list of interface actions (represented in the user journey) into a discernible and manageable set of interface functions and features. Also, in this progression there is increasingly more attention put on the information flow between the tangible  interface, graphic interface, and user experience.


Step One: Making sense of a long list of actions

Take the long string of actions extracted from User Journeys and begin to edit them down into bigger categories of actions. For example the TUI produces a prompt “discuss” as well as “reflect”. “Discuss” is a more appropriate phrase because both involve conversation with the goal buddy. Therefore the category is named “discuss” and I later discover through the editing process that there are four types of prompts within the TUI: record your task, discuss your task or goal, and assess or challenge your task


Step Two: Organizing the actions to create a few key priorities of the entire system

Breaking up the actions again into more discernible pieces.  Here there are four parts: Prompting (Telling), Recording (Listening), Displaying (Showing), Confirming (Agreeing). However, at this phase there is still no differentiation between the priorities of the tangible and graphic interface. There are also some lines that are beginning to draw out possible collapsable categories.


Step Three: Assigning those priorities and actions to which interface “said it” or “did it”

Taking from the previous list, this list begins to assign some of the key actions to an interface. During this process I am not only considering where the information is coming from and which interface is “saying” or “hearing” it, but also using what I know from the User Journey to place the appropriate actions or functions to the appropriate interface, understanding that the GUI might require more attention and intentionality to check than the TUI. Here it shows the GUI would be in charge of controlling the recorded meeting times of the goal buddies: regularly (can input reoccurring date which could send you alerts) or sporadically (can notify system whenever you meet), and remotely or locally meeting. Both of these designations work best in the GUI because they are once or every couple of months kinds of actions, and would not be needed to be displayed or recorded within the TUI.


Step Four: Type it all up and continue to edit some more!

Type all of that up and begin to edit even more. For example: The GUI has three purposes to it’s display: to show logistical information, information about your goal activity which is inputted from your TUI, and information about connecting to your larger community of goal achievers.


Step Five: Print it out and map out the information flow (input/output to goal buddy,  TUI to GUI)

This map started off as a print out from the text edit document. I find that switching between all of these mediums helps me process information in another way. For example, here I realized that what the interface “displays” and what the interface “prompts” the user to to are both outputs. Whereas what the interface “records” is input which the interface must absorb. Therefore, it becomes very important to be very cognizant of how that information is being recorded and where it is going, or what it is informing.


Step Six: Continue to clarify the information flow between the two interfaces

Shortly after the last physical map, I tried to simplify and make large gestures in another map to help me understand exactly what information is being exchanged between the goal buddy and the two interfaces.  I find that by making a map (which unlike the last) is easier to read from a distance, can help me understand all of the relationships holistically. The more times I iterate on the same map, the more I understand and improve.


Step Seven: Digitize the findings by adding info to the System Map and continue to edit

also add informal information exchange between goal buddies



create 3 wireframes for each square of action combos

call out task completion

think of weekly (shallow) view and gui shallow view vs. more complex layered information views.

think about the everyday experience: ongoing action and reflection dispensed to the user, an ongoing diagnostic:
the focus is more on everyday experience rather than longterm relfection and goal management because i feel those other programs lack an interest for the everyday, whereas mine makes it easy and keeps people involved, becoming a habit and part of the social experience of working towards goal. i also think the everyday interactions create a novel experience to elicit an interest in the more complex information interface, which other programs start out with. my system values simple actions and aggregates them into a rich everyday experience shared between two friends. it takes the simplist idea: that we feel better when we are working towards something, that we understand more and have guilt less, less idealistic unreachable ideas, we are caught in the immediate action of making progress instead of planning out progress. it takes very little to begin in the process. mainly it is mediated through conversation with the social buddy aspect.

The experience of a curated goal buddy task package, receiving that information through TUI

March 7, 2012

Last Meeting before Orals & Next Steps


I have had my refreshing break and am now back to running in the thrilling thesis marathon! Below is a brief overview of feedback from my last meeting (On Feb 29th) with Denise, Scott and Martha:

  • Describe Priorities of interface
    • ie: TUI: gameplay, Community: motivator, GUI: collection space
  • List combinations of important actions
    • Actions could be the same throughout the process but change meaning because what has come before and after it
    • sets of actions should be pointed moments in the process
  • Storyboard/Sketch/Wireframe the interface and interactions
    • Focus on behaviors of interaction not form, ie: bristley vs. task completion etc
    • form increases desirability factor
    • form expresses tangible motivation
    • Hand sketches/lo-fi
    • What does it do, how does it work
  • Orals
    • Solid foundation
    • examples to prove/manifest ideology
    • key moments which led to other key moments
    • next steps
    • 30 minutes

Next Steps

This week I will be using “Designing Social Interfaces” as a guide, per Scott’s reference.Below you can see my list of “things to do” in one week, before Orals. Looks a little crazy but most things are broken down into smaller steps:

develop the sets of actions,
develop priorities of GUI interface and TUI interface,
wireframe the GUI & TUI interface,
create presentation of scenarios incorporating key moments of interaction with TUI/GUI/and overall system,
create nomenclature/language for system? (ie: buddy, task, goal, meeting, etc)

revise gameplay map,
bring question up to par,
type out objectives and observations from studies,
outline presentation,
represent morphing of question in presentation,
create presentation with key points & next steps,

am i missing some sort of maps: overall purpose or relation to other tools etc?,
update bibliography?,
outline for writing?

March 1, 2012

One Week’s Narrative

Though I might have set out to do one thing this week: make iterations of possible interfaces… I ended up asking many more questions and following a different path. Here is a description of that path, and an example of one week’s narrative through the questions I was asking. Every week is different and the path seems unknown.

February 29, 2012

A comprehensive picture of the long term management tool

The purpose of this post is to provide insight into my most recent progress. I am still lacking the language to describe what I am making, and will be searching for a name for this tool. Do you have any suggestions? Send me an e-mail or comment!

Below you will find some of my most recent work to map and understand the tool, behaviors, and overall system. I will be posting a comprehensive story of this tool in a few posts to come, as I will be preparing slides for Orals on March 14th.

Description of tool

A long term goal management game centered around the accountability between two friends.

This system includes both a graphic and tangible user interface which mediates goal pursuit through reoccurring meetings with a friend. This includes mediating conversation during and apart from meetings, aiding completion of weekly goal-oriented tasks, prompting individual awareness of preferences and insights to aid task completion, offering goal-oriented challenges to complete with a friend, and publicly curating a collection of goal oriented tasks and challenges for a greater community of goal keepers.


Updated System Map

Updated Levels of Gamification

User Journey 1:  Dan & Ronnie

This journey addresses the following:

  • Introduction to product via website
  • Purchasing and linking TUI guru’s
  • Beginning to meet
  • Establishing special buddy code

User Journey 2: Chi & Jupiter

This journey addresses the following:

  • What happens when people don’t complete a challenge or prompt
  • Remote Goal Buddy Meetings
  • Utilizing curated goal lists
  • What happens when you “win”

Next Steps

This next week I will be developing a sets of interactions within the tangible and graphic interface. This will be presented as fleshed out examples of the interactive and visual qualities of the system which I will continue to develop as I compile and write on my research throughout March and April. May 1st is near but far. Every week has been like a Marathon. It is a lot of work but I continue to be excited about where I am and where it is taking me!

February 26, 2012

Free Writing

Designing the entire system

The design process must not be weighed down by  1) the product or industrial design aspect of the TUI or 2) the psychology of which questions the TUI might pose to the goal buddy to encourage self inquiry.

Therefore, It is important to consider the entire system of relationships in order to stay focused on the strategic interconnectedness of this system. These relationships are displayed in the system map, which I created after meeting with Denise. This map includes the relationship between two buddies which is mediated the TUI & GUI, and also including the influence of the greater goal buddy community.

My role as a designer of this system

My tool will not only mediate accountability between the goal buddies, but will also encourage self-inquiry during task completion period in between each goal buddy meeting.

The tool provides prompts which cause the participant to consider how they might improve their task. This might come in the form of  creating definitive deadlines for themselves, identifying a more specific task within their current task in order to challenge themselves, or identifying the most appropriate or productive conditions in which they should complete their task. (Remember the list of  questions I developed a few weeks ago.)

The result of these prompts is self inquiry. It should act as slow self-inquiry (almost perhaps in disguise) which unfolds little by little aiding the process over a long period of time.  The tool does not provide answers but mediates this self inquiry, records the persons response, and uses this as a conversation starter within the next goal buddy meeting. The artifact can also communicate between the two buddies and incite or encourage action, a challenge, or self-inquiry.

It would be easy to focus on the psychological aspect of this tool- such as what type of questions might the tool ask. However, my role here is not that of a social psychologist but a designer. For this reason I will only develop a few questions which the tool might ask to a goal setter in order to demonstrate it’s ability to incite self-inquiry. The focus will remain not on the questions as much as the designed form and how design allows the questions to be asked. Design can shift the perception, experience, and relationship to the questions. It could elicit a response from the goal setter that is abstract and interpretive or direct, immediate. Both which might prompt a new level of self-awareness, but in very different ways.

The role of the TUI

The TUI is an artifact, which connects a participant to their desire to achieve their long-term goals as well as their desire to socialize with their goal buddy. The desirability for this tool must outweigh the possible inconvenience.  It will not be a subset of another tool, such as an app within a smart phone, or a widget on a desktop, and therefore will require deliberate attention. While Graphic User Interfaces will be an extension of my tool, they will not be the central touch point. Below are some initial iterations of possible TUI interactions.

The actions, manipulations, or associated information of the TUI could be an open source structure where goal buddies might assign their own meaning or types of challenges. This is an exciting possibility which was discovered through a conversation with Martha, as I spoke about my love of participatory design. The idea that the two buddies could develop their own code of challenges/language/or actions based on a suggested structure is exciting!

The role of the GUI

The GUI will serve the function of “the rememberer” by acting as the repository of recorded tasks, inquiry responses, and progress. The widget or app will have complimentary functions to the TUI: It could enable macro and micro views of information and hold large archives of info, creating an opportunity for a searching function.
From the Bright Green post-it’s of that messy map I described what I thought might be the Qualities of The Rememberer. Read and see below: “The remember does not brag, show everything it has, or act like an annoying brother that throws annoying details in your face. The rememberer is a nurturer, though sometimes she knows some hurtful things about you” 

Game or Tool?

I am creating a tool, with gamified structure for interaction. See below for levels of mastery.

February 26, 2012

Lots of Feedback with a Speed Dating Cherry on Top

Feedback from Denise

  1. This tool is not subset of another tool (i.e.. as an app is to the iphone)
  2. The desirability must outweigh the inconvenience
  3. My work must focus on the entire system of relationships: the goal buddies, the TUI & GUI, and the greater community of goal buddies
  4. My investigation much be limited to the graphic designer’s scope, not the industrial designer or psychologist
  5. The purpose of my investigation is to figure out how the design of my tangible user interface would influence the reception and response of the goal setter, not how the question might verbally be framed differently, or how the refinement of the product might influence that process

Feedback from Martha

  1. Is it a game or a tool?: It is a tool with a gamified structure just as e-bay is a e-commerce website with gamified interactions
  2. Co-couseling can offer a good framework for buddy accountability
  3. The TUI acts as a “Boundary Object” which mediates the goal buddies conversations and meetings. Define what boundary object means in general and define it for the purposes of this tool
  4. In the vein of participatory design, people could tailor their experience with this tool by creating their own code and challenges which go along with the tool. This “code” or series of challenges would be shared between the two goal buddies and could be thought of as anything in between “trash talking” to a “best friends secret code” This participant created code could be linked to suggested actions or inquiries or could be completely made up by the pair.
  5. There must be a backstory to how the buddies are paired
  6. For Orals  I should probably have many iterations, and a few fleshed out, the purpose is to express the full story along with key decision points through my process.
  7. It would be good practice to begin transcribing handwritten notes from important texts. Doing this intermittently between iterations might help keep the blood flowing and focus strong. I will also display a tentative outline for my thesis book at my Orals

Speed Dating about TUI’s

I met with Amber’s New Information Environments Seminar class and participated in a speed dating exercise in which we debated our ideas about “one reason why tangible user interface is important to design.” It was through these discussions with my amazing and intelligent classmates that I found the following things out:

  • What I felt was the most important thing about TUI’s, that they decrease cognitive load and tap into the “metaphors we live by”
  • Some functions that GUI’s might do better than TUI’s
  • The difference in engagement between social metaphors vs. physical metaphors
  • And lastly, the discussions helped me brush up on the limitations and trends I read about in an excellent book I read this week on TUI’s

See more information on all of those points below.

Decreasing Cognitive Load:

My opening argument for speed dating was the following:

Throughout our life we are building an understanding of the world around us, TUI’s draw on that understanding, conversely GUI’s create a graphical environment which has it’s own set of physics and must be learned by the user. Since TUI’s draw on such a type of processing which is innate, when it is applied appropriately, it can decrease the cognitive load

GUI’s vs TUI’s

As I continued to speed date, we found holes within my argument. We discovered some significant aspects which GUI’s might more often do better than TUI’s. In some cases GUI’s might be more appropriate for handling large sets of memory. Enabling a zoom or any other frame to view macro as well as micro views of information also seems more applicable in a GUI. Both the zoom and memory aspects bring the third idea up: utilizing search functions.  (For these reasons my system will use an app or widget touchpoint to compliment my TUI and act as a repository for the long term goal management. )

Physical metaphors vs. Social Metaphors

If we are talking about TUI’s cutting down on processing by tapping into our embodied knowledge and experience, I think it can easily be argued that TUI’s have the opportunity to operate off of a universal set of controls, for example- humans everywhere are subject to the properties of gravity, up is always up and down is always down (I’m thinking about Metaphors We Live By by Lakoff, Johnson 1980).

However, an interesting point that was brought up when talking about the metaphor of the trash can on a GUI on a desktop computer, is the comparison between a socially learned behavior and an innate physical understanding. The Idea of the trash can got me thinking that a social metaphor might not be as universal but has the potential to be extremely engaging, and embedded within a larger context of actions. Is the social or the physical metaphor stronger? I think it would just depend on the operation that is needing to be done and the context of use.

TUI Book

This last week I also read the book Tangible User Interfaces: Past, Present and Future Directions (Shaer, Orit, Hornecker, 2009). I got so much out of it, I cannot explain it all now. However, I wanted to include the list of limitations and trends they mentioned in this book. I won’t go into detail but here is a list:

Limitations of TUI’s:

  1. versitility/malleability
  2. user fatigue (ie: using a mouse because it takes less effort)
  3. scalability/risk of loosing objects

Trends in TUI’s:

  1. Actuation (pushback, shape shifting etc)
  2. Organic TUI’s
  3. Focus on TUI’s as resources to incite and mediate action (as opposed to just being tangible solely for representation) This trend directly relates to my tool!!


Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Shaer, Orit, and Eva Hornecker. 2009. “Tangible User Interfaces: Past, Present and Future Directions (preprint).” Found Trends HumComput Interact 3 (1-2): 1-137. doi:10.1561/1100000013.