The Time Paradox

design thinking, HCI/d, Human-Computer Interaction, Interaction Design

Please note: This is a more free-form brainstorming piece done in anticipation of a fuller paper surrounding a new idea in interaction design. Out of context, it may not translate well. I simply needed to get the idea out (publicly).

The Time Paradox gave me an interesting Aha! moment. In its section on the benefits of reading the book and implementing the time principles (?) into your life, one word jumped off the page at me: MORE

I imagined the claim hidden in this notion: More is better. The reason you’re unhappy/dissatisfied is that you lack. You have less. If you start living your life according to the time principles presented in this book, then you can have more. If you can have more, then you will be (become?) happier and more satisfied than you are now. Therefore, if you start living your life according to the time principles presented in this book, you will be happier and more satisfied than you are now. The problem with this argument is that having more does not necessarily make one happier. Having more of anything (including time!) …Wealthy families still suffer unhappiness. Celebrities who have a lot turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their lives. Employees with a lot of time on their hands suffer boredom and actually realize that even though they may have more time, they have less to do.

Life is made up of tensions, and this book addresses one such tension: having versus lacking. And one could make a strong argument, depending on the context, for either state of being. If one could make a strong case for either state of being, then one acknowledges each state of being has its benefits in a particular context. If each state of being has its benefits within a particular context, then we can say of neither state that, in general, it is better or preferable to the other. We can only evaluate the merits and demerits in context.

We can say, however, that sometimes it is better to have and sometimes it is better to lack. It follows from this principle that a good life is not one constituted by a surfeit of having or a surfeit of lacking, but rather by the ability to negotiate
the relationship between the two. A good life is one which evaluates particular lived-scenarios in order to determine whether it is better (preferable?) to have or to lack and takes the necessary steps in order to position one’s self such that one lacks or has, in accordance with the outcome of the evaluation. There is the necessary third step of reflecting on the evaluation and positioning in order to determine whether or not this was the best path to take…but this step can only happen after the evaluation and positioning.

Experience Design | Manipulation | Perversion

design thinking, HCI, HCI/d, Human-Computer Interaction, Interaction Design, User experience, UX

I’ve been thinking about morality and manipulation since class today especially as it pertains to experience design. I get the impression that when we talk about manipulation we generally do so with an implied value judgment: manipulation = bad.

But when we were talking today about theme parks and movies, aren’t we talking about places people want to be (at least in part) manipulated? Maybe this isn’t a conscious thought. Maybe we don’t even think about going to theme parks or movies in terms of manipulation. But upon self-reflection, manipulation of my perceptions and emotions and even my values (consider today’s example of Dexter…rooting for a serial killer) is in large part why I watch movies and why I go to theme parks.

Now I don’t mean to suggest that manipulation is one-sided. It’s not just something that happens to me. It’s something I have to invite even if I don’t acknowledge the invitation. It’s a bit perverse, I suppose. So maybe thinking about manipulation re: experience in terms of a perversion would prove fruitful.

Barnard gets into psychoanalysis in his book, so I think I’ll invoke Freud. In particular, his explication of sadism and masochism in the Three Essays on Sexuality.

I want to draw a parallel between sado-masochism and my pursuing a (manipulative) experience in order to attain consummation.

Freud writes, “…the most remarkable feature about this perversion is that its active and passive forms are habitually found to occur together in the same individual…A sadist is always at the same time a masochist…” (25)

I see a clear parallel with the notion of manipulation (esp. in reference to theme parks and movies). I go to the movies and theme parks in order to be manipulated (masochism) but also to participate in the manipulation (sadism).

So, what does this all mean for designers? I suppose it depends on what kind of thing(s) we’re designing. But suppose there’s a tacit understanding that when we’re designing things for entertainments’ sake we’re going to be engaging in some form of manipulation and that even if our users don’t acknowledge it in these terms, they’re putting themselves in a position to be manipulated..


Freud, S. (2000). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. (p. 25). New York: Basic Books.

Is Clarity the Path to Enlightenment?

HCI, HCI/d, Human-Computer Interaction, Interaction Design, User experience, UX

While revisiting the notes I jotted down when I read Buxton‘s Sketching User Experiences I stumbled across this line of text:

Clarity is Not Always the Path to Enlightenment

It’s the chapter heading for a few pages that describe the necessarily ambiguous nature of sketching as it pertains to design. I especially love one of the chapter’s key ideas: ambiguity is evocative. (Buxton 115)

I’ve been thinking a lot about one of the first readings we did my HCI theory class. An Yvonne Rogers reading. The one in which she expressed concern at HCI’s growing too big too fast. An adolescent growing up. Searching for identity. Grasping in all different directions for meaning. Directionless and, as such, confused and at risk of spiraling into greater confusion and dissonance.

“Do we try to stem the tide and impose some order,” Rogers asks, “or let the field continue to expand in an unruly fashion?” (Rogers 2)

Does there need to be a consensus of purpose? Does there need to be a uniform set of criteria by which we can assess HCI’s contribution(s) and value to knowledge and practice? (Rogers 1)

I think about these questions often. But I think about them relative to the cohort as a group of designers within the field and about myself as a designer within the cohort within the field. And I’ve come up with (not surprisingly) no conclusions. Only observations and more questions.

Think about the field as a design. What is our experience of it? Our interaction with it?

HCI is an incredibly complex thing and its identity is necessarily ambiguous; like a sketch. It enables those who work “within it” to design. Imposing order — pinning down “an” identity — works only insofar as it allows for evocation and mystery.

Buxton, quoting Gaver, Beaver, and Benford, writes of ambiguity in design:

their use of ambiguity makes them evocative rather than didactic and mysterious rather than obvious. (Buxton 115)

When I think of our field, I think of it as a place to explore. To play. To discover. To create!

Can such a place exist with clear structure, purpose, and direction? Of course! Sketches have structure, purpose, and direction. But they are still ambiguous.

If you want to get the most out of a sketch, you need to leave big enough holes. (Buxton 115)

Perhaps HCI’s metamorphosis from a “confined problem space with a clear focus that adopted a small set of methods to tackle it … into a more diffuse space with a less clear purpose,” (Rogers 1) is — in part — the field’s response to sketching. The field is made up of designers and designers are in conversation with their sketches. Does that mean that the field itself is in conversation with sketches, too?

The more I sketch, the more I come to understand my own complexity as a designer. The more I grow to embrace that complexity. The more I want to explore. To play. To create…



Buxton, B. (2007). Sketching user experiences: Getting the design right and the right design. San Francisco: Elsevier.

Rogers, Y. (2012). Hci theory: Classical, modern, and contemporary. San Francisco: Morgan & Claypool Publishers.

Growth as a Designer

HCI, Human-Computer Interaction, interaction design, Interaction Design

**reblog…I wrote this entry as part of a reflective journal in my first-semester graduate interaction design class at Indiana University‘s SOIC**

Bill Moggridge’s book Designing Interactions was waiting on my desk when I got home tonight.

After taking care of a few lingering project 4 tasks from the day — and after eating a late dinner — I tore open the plastic and ran my fingers over the cover, the spine, and the pages (while closed).

Running my fingers along the closed pages stirred memories of sitting in classrooms from middle school to high school during the first week of school on the day textbooks were passed out. Reminded me of being in used bookstores browsing the shelves. Reminded me of being in the Seminary Co-op in Hyde Park, staring back at the densely packed shelves of theory and criticism. Unique experiences, each.

There’s a certain smoothness to the surface formed when hundreds and hundreds of pages are pressed firmly together. There’s nothing quite like it, actually. You feel a surface and yet you’re keenly aware of each page. Beautiful, really. It’s reminiscent of a wood floor. Perhaps a sign of the pages’ forebears.

It’s interesting to think about what a book might look like if it didn’t look like a book. Ebooks look like books. Why? Does a book mean two covers and pages between? Would you read a book if it didn’t have those features (physical or digital)? Would you call a thing without those features a book? If so, why? If not, why not? How does a book feel? How does it sound?

Why am I asking all these questions about books? I’ll explain…

Another habit of mine is flipping through books before reading them…looking for pictures, judging chapter length, gauging vocabulary, sensing tone, and looking for quotes.

Near the very end of Designing Interactions on page 733, I zeroed in on a passage where Moggridge explains the brainstorming process at IDEO:

Brainstorming can give a fast start to ideation and is often the most useful early on, as the constraints are being shaken out. A typical brainstorm at IDEO has eight to ten participants, with one or two experienced recorders, dubbed, scribes, who record the ideas as they flow from the group. Each session lasts about an hour and 50 to 100 ideas are recorded…Ideas can come at any time, often from unexpected directions.

50 to 100 ideas! In about an hour! Fifty. to. One hundred. Ideas! Unbelievable! And wonderful.

So then why all the questions about books? Because I feel like I should be asking those questions about everything — and today it happened to be a book — in order to grow as a designer.

If as an interaction designer I’m going to shape others’ lives with interactive artifacts,  then shouldn’t I be constantly/consciously evaluating and re-evaluating my own interactions and how they shape my life? So that when I’m on a team, I can contribute my share of the 50-100 ideas generated during that first brainstorming session?

HCI Study Journal

HCI, Human-Computer Interaction, interaction design, Interaction Design

Last week brought with it a slew of activities: project submissions, presentations, and exams. The weeks in this program end soon after they begin. It’s wonderful.

Our third design project for the semester centers on time, and I find this apt because  — even before the design brief was released — I had taken a step back from myself to fathom just how much time had passed since the program began. As I philosophized (in my head) I was struck by the discord between the breadth and depth of my learning and the amount of time I’ve spent in the program.

I imagine the graph would look something like this:

Learn Graph


I represent learning in terms of bits: units of knowledge. I’m not sure exactly what is a unit of knowledge. Quantifying knowledge this way is reductive and serves only as an illustration of the relationship between the amount of time I’ve been in this program and the concomitant knowledge acquisition.

A better graph might be more abstract — one without numbers and a steep positive slope. But the numbers in my graph have one thing going for them: they communicate clearly the disproportionate relationship between time and learning. For as little time as I’ve been here — .01% of what I can only hope will be a full life — I’ve learned so much.

If you invest yourself fully in the HCI/d program, the intellectual and creative returns will explode your expectations.

What do designers do?

HCI, Human-Computer Interaction, interaction design, Interaction Design, Uncategorized, virtual worlds

One of the tasks in my introductory design class is a weekly reflective journal. I got in the habit of keeping a study journal over the summer, and I think that this reflective journal is akin to a study journal. It’s more formal, though. And so I find myself approaching it like a short essay assignment of sorts. I pick a question or issue I’m grappling with, and I try to answer it.

This last week I attempted to grapple with the question, “What do designers do?” I’m talking about interaction designers, experience designers, and the like. Not architects or graphic designers, necessarily (although I’m sure there would be some disciplinary overlap..)

This is an important question. I know this because it’s an incredibly difficult question to answer. I’m not sure that is has been answered completely. I’m not sure that it can be answered completely. It seems an insurmountable task. To articulate what designers do is akin to answering the question Who am I.

I don’t make this claim because I believe a person is what he or she does. I do so because the answer to the question Who am I is equally complex — so much so that it, too, seems unanswerable. As soon as you’ve dotted the last i, the answer has changed. Are you the same person you were when you set out to answer the question in the first place? Almost definitely not. If you were, then you would not have grown an intellectual millimeter in the time you took to attempt an answer.

The key observation is this: How can you answer a question if the answer to the question will have changed by the time you “finish” crafting your answer? If the answer is never the same?

Think of it like this. I’m talking about summiting a mountain that keeps getting taller as you climb it. Mt. Everest is 29,029 feet tall. What if, by the time you got to 29,029 feet, the mountain had grown to 31,031 feet? Does that mean you don’t try to reach the top because it is physically (or intellectually) impossible to do so? Or do you drive an ice axe into the mountain and keep climbing?

How and Why I Chose this HCI Graduate Program

e-learning, educational multimedia, HCI, Human-Computer Interaction, Interaction Design, learning objectives

The third day of graduate orientation at the IU School of Informatics and Computing is winding down. The  day’s events peaked around 5pm with…course registration!

It’s official. I’m enrolled.

As the question has come up numerous times over the last few days, I thought I’d take a stab at articulating my reasons for pursuing an HCI degree and, in particular, my reasons for choosing Indiana University’s HCI/d program.

My path has been a winding one. The short of it is: I studied film production as an undergrad and Humanities/Cinema & Media Studies as a first-time Masters student. I worked for a post-production company in Chicago, taught at a charter high school in Milwaukee, and lead an instructional design team in the design and creation of online graduate courses for the University of Southern California.

During my time as an instructional designer, I stumbled across the phrase ‘Human-computer Interaction’ while reading for personal/professional development, and my interest was piqued.

In many ways, my reaction to the phrase was like a reaction to well-crafted advertising: I bought in before I even went to the store. But, ever the savvy consumer, I read more about the product.

First I skimmed the Wikipedia entry and plumbed (note: is a great resource for free content on HCI). And then I found, which provided me with the list of universities currently offering advanced degrees in Human Computer Interaction (or an adjacent field, e.g., software ergonomics, human factors, information management, etc.).

I saw the educational multimedia I’d been designing as an instructional designer firmly situated within the field. But I saw more than that: I saw the potential to rethink the design and implementation of multimedia in 100% online courses, and I saw the potential to rethink the design of the learning management systems that housed the courses themselves…the potential to rethink the whole system, I suppose.

I saw potential far beyond the limited scope of my job, and I wanted to go after it.

So, now we get to the pith. Why Indiana University?

The answer is a two-parter: (1) The faculty (their areas of expertise and their research interests); (2) The program’s emphasis on design, designerly thinking, and a design community.

I’ll keep the elaboration brief for the purpose of the blog.

Marty Siegel is the Director of Graduate Studies in Informatics. His background and interests align with my some of my own interests in computer-based learning.

But I’m also here (perhaps more so) to nurture my interest in design as such…or maybe the philosophy of design is the best way to put it. This emphasis permeates the entire HCI/d program and it is an area of particular interest for Erik Stolterman, Professor and Chair of the Informatics Dept. at IU Bloomington.

The right professors and the right community…I can’t think of two better reasons to accept an offer of admission.