Simplifying and visualizing complex / invisible information systems
Our everyday lives involve several information systems, including many that we do not notice until they do not work properly. Most systems stay in the background, hence we may lose our knowledge about them and how they work. This thesis theme addresses design of information systems aimed at increasing users' competence about a system by using it.
This is a large and general theme that can be studied in several ways and with different examples (cases). Here are some suggestions:
1) complexity -- simplicity: how can a complex system be presented in a simple way to its users? An example is the tax system. Tax is a public, semi-automated process that involves all tax payers, and we cannot choose not to pay tax. The automated tax system is almost invisible to us, and this makes it more difficult to understand what it means and what to do if and when we experience a tax problem. How can we represent the tax system so that people know what the it does -- and not -- and what people are expected to do? Guri Verne's PhD thesis
can be a starting point for this thesis.
2) abstract -- concrete: is a related problem area: how can we present the abstract, symbolic structures and systems we are surrounded by to people who have difficulties understanding the systems and the abstractions and therefore are not able to navigate and utilise the system. This problem applies to people, who find percentage calculations difficult (e.g. in tax) or find that using symbolic representations such as maps or map-based navigation systems challenging. How can the information in an abstract system be presented without relying on the usual ways of abstraction (like a tree structure, layered models, spaces/rooms metaphors etc)? If the user cannot abstract, the information must be presented differently. How? Several types of applications are relevant, for example applications addressing navigation (within an apartment building, within a large shopping mall, outdoors walking in the neighborhood) or any relevant information system where the current applications make use of abstract models for navigation and use. Here it is also possible to draw on tangible interaction. One example is Karoline Stark's Master thesis
about easy Internet banking for elderly people.
3) invisible -- visible: a well-functioning system (e.g. the automatic tax return) is invisible to its users, and so is many mobile and sensor-based systems. How can we make the invisible visible to the users without them getting overwhelmed by impressions? Common examples are the little red light that is lit when a video camera is recording or the click that signals that a photograph is taken. Can we design feedback in such a way that it normally stays in the background but that it is easy to find when needed and can act as a resource for understanding the systems and how it works? Mark Weiser called such designs "calm technology". An example is Jeongyun Choi Doksrød's Master thesis
about finding out why regulating the temperature in a smart home was so difficult.
One obvious target group for such designs are people who do not abstract well either due to cognitive disabilities or to cognitive loss coming with age or from injury, like memory loss, apraxi, dementia, Alzheimer's disease. However, also very "normal" people who find some of the abstractions or symbolic representations difficult will benefit from understanding the systems they use. It is particularly important in situations when the system doesn't work: you need to make it work (e.g. pay tax) or to have a "plan B" (e.g. a light switch if the light is not automatically turned on).
The topic can be a basis for several theses both thematically (1-3 above) and empirically (different cases). We want the thesis to include design of alternative interaction mechanisms and interfaces, in cooperation with potential users. This thesis is well suited for groups of students working together.
This topic requires competencies in inf5722 and inf5220, HCI competence similar to inf2260 or inf4060. Other courses (like design of interactive services for web technology: inf5272, mobile platforms: inf5261, tangible interaction: inf5205) will influence which kind of technology can be studied as well as what types of vizualisations can be used.
Publisert 11. aug. 2017 15:28
- Sist endret 15. aug. 2017 13:29