Katherine C.

Sunday, Oct 30, 2022

Music 256A / CS476A, Stanford University

Word count: 403

Reading Response to Artful Design Chapter 5 + Interlude

From this week's reading, I'd like to respond to Artful Design Principle 5.19, which states:

Principle 5.19: “Interfaces should extend us (and not replace us)” (p. 275).

I really like the human centered approach that the textbook takes! I also agree that well-designed interfaces should augment (rather than take away) some aspects of our lives. A quick example would be how the Ocarina lets people express themselves by playing music on the phone, instead of having the phone itself create music with artificial intelligence. The map feature also extends humans by letting them do things that they cannot possibly do without digital technology, namely, seeing and hearing in real-time what others in the world are playing. When a human-computer interface leaves the human out, then it is not a human-computer interface anymore. It is simply a computer, like a soulless shell. In a sense, this principle is a reiteration of Principle 5.5: “Have your machine learning – and the human in the loop! Computers are not replacements but extensions of us.” I am not quite sure how these two principles differ from each other, though. Aren’t they stating the same thing?

This whole “extension” concept reminds me of many things I learned from my human-computer interaction classes. For example, I read a paper called “Beyond Being There” arguing that telecommunication system designers had been too focused on creating “crutches” to restore “being there,” assuming the state is broken due to physical distance; we need to focus on creating “shoes” to enhance an already perfect state and go “beyond being there” so that people, whether physically proximate or not, prefer to use them. I think the same reasoning applies to the argument in this textbook. Instead of creating interfaces to do what we can already do (replacing us), we should create interfaces to enable us to go beyond what we can already do (extending us).

Finally, I would like to draw a connection between interface design and ubiquitous computing. Mark Weiser argued that we are entering an age when technology recedes into the background of our lives, becoming invisible and unobtrusive to the user. When we are designing human-computer interfaces that “extend” us, I believe it is also worth thinking about how the extension can create calm and be as invisible and unobtrusive as possible, and maybe this is where aesthetics can come into play.