Author Archives: Victoria Gomes-Boronat

Dating and Gaming Application Combinatorial Design: A Logical Next Step

Victoria Gomes-Boronat 

Abstract 

Inspired by empirical research, anecdotal evidence, and the wake of a worldwide pandemic, this paper intends to explore the rationale and combinatorial design behind an online, gaming/dating application. Now, more than ever, people are craving human connections, and mounting evidence shows that online gameplay not only creates bonds but fortifies them as well. Although the dating application market is quite saturated with options, there has yet to be an introduction of a gaming/dating application. By examining modular design principles, this paper attempts to act as a blueprint for an application that has the capability to shake up the market. 

Introduction

Cognitive Artifacts: Personal Ads

Anecdotal evidence shows that many people find comfort in meeting significant others through gaming because it sidesteps the superficiality that can come with the beginning stages of dating (Landau 2020). Some couples note that dating someone you met in an online game used to be considered very taboo, but now, it has become much more normalized because of the prevalence of social media in our society and the surge of dating applications in the last decade.

Growing up, I remember constantly being warned by my teachers about the dangers of meeting strangers through the internet, however, a survey/study done by Stanford University shows that between 1995 and 2017 the number of heterosexuals who met their partner in an online environment rose tremendously from 2 percent to 39 percent (Shashkevich, 2019). Michael Rosenfeld, the head researcher in the study, explained that there were two technological innovations in the past two and a half decades that contributed to this sharp rise: the introduction of the graphical World Wide Web around 1995 and the spectacular rise of the smartphone in the 2010s,

“The rise of the smartphone took internet dating off the desktop and put it in everyone’s pocket, all the time,” (Rosenfeld as cited by Shashkevich, 2019).

Rosenfeld also inadvertently explains how online dating applications we see today stem from cognitive artifacts. Norman (1991) defines a cognitive artifact as “an artificial device designed to maintain, display, or operate upon information in order to serve a representational function” (p 17). Rosenfeld says that online dating originated from hundreds of years of personal ads in newspapers (many times looking for love and companionship) that then led to old text-based bulletin board systems in the 1980s. It was then greatly improved and propagated by the introduction of the graphical web and its affordances, i.e. pictures and search functionality. This may be why modern dating applications, such as Tinder or Bumble, resemble personal ads with resume-like profiles and bios that you are able to swipe/flip through. Personal ads functioned as a way to find romantic connections, and the technology used in dating applications, i.e. GPS tracking/geotargeting, data algorithms that show users their best matches based on the users’ preferences and parameters, graphical user interfaces that are capable of showing high-resolution photos, etc. expands and enhances the “cognitive capabilities of the total system of human, task, and artifact,” (Norman, 1991).

This phenomenon can also be observed in online chat rooms and bulletin boards. The idea for the dating/gaming application that will be discussed later in the paper, stemmed from an experience I had while playing the hugely popular, online mobile/desktop game, Among Us. While playing in the public rooms, I observed many people using the group chat as a way to make connections. Many would type in “A/S/L?” in order to find out the age, sex, and location of other players. If they connected with other players of their desired sex, location, and age during gameplay, they would then use the chat to promote their Instagram profiles in the hopes that the other player would connect with them, and they could continue the friendship outside of the game. I then started to contemplate my own experiences with building relationships and realized that the strongest friendships/romantic connections I had created in the past were all due to sports, video games, and online games- all activities that included some level of competition and/or collaboration/teamwork. Empirical evidence shows that because of the aforementioned factors, games can actually give rise to and fortify friendships/romantic relationships.

Empirical Research 

Research has shown that games help build trust and therefore can be used to fortify various types of relationships, even work relationships. One study that investigated the effectiveness of commercial digital games in developing trust in virtual teams compared to social icebreakers found that a digital game with trust-building aspects is far more effective at building trust than a social icebreaker. This is because games with clear shared goals and high interdependence facilitate social closeness by requiring players to interact, communicate, and collaborate (Tan & Cox, 2019) This may be why the mafia-esque game, Among Us, became so hugely popular this past year. By forcing crewmates to work together and strategize to find the imposters, the game was able to create feelings of camaraderie between players. Although the game also introduces competition by randomly assigning imposters, studies show that even a competitive game that is high in interdependence (defined by the degree to which group members must rely on each other to complete tasks i.e. tasks that crewmates must all do to save each other and win the game) can still help two players form a connection.

According to prior research, the pull of a game is many times correlated to its out of game effects. Researchers argue that games have such a strong pull because of their ability to generate, “three key feelings of well-being: autonomy (sense of willingness), competence (challenge and feeling of effectiveness), and relatedness (feeling of connection with other people),” (Ryan et al., 2006). According to the Entertainment Software Association, 63% of adult gamers play with other people as a social activity. On average, they spent 4.8 hours a week playing with others online and 3.5 hours a week playing with others in-person (2019). Before online gaming, gamers were forced to physically be together in-person to socialize while gaming. However, because of innovations in game design and platforms and the addition of online multi-player functionalities, gamers have increased opportunities to interact and socialize while playing, especially during a worldwide pandemic.

Research and infographic done by the Entertainment Software Association.

Market Research 

According to the Washington Post, giants of the video game industry, Microsoft, Nintendo, Twitch, and Activision have thrived financially during the pandemic. In April, Microsoft’s Game Pass service (basically a Netflix-for-gaming) cracked 10 million subscribers, “among those subscribers, Microsoft reported a 130-percent increase in multiplayer engagement across March and April,” (Smith, 2020). According to the research by WePC.com, the number of gamers who claim they are playing video games more due to the pandemic increased 46% in the United States from the months of March to June. Data shows that gaming is the most lucrative entertainment industry. It was worth $145.7b in 2019, compared to $42.5b in Box Office earnings and $20.2b for Music, and with the shutdowns of movie theaters/sets and musical festivals/concerts due to the pandemic, the difference is sure to be even more astounding in 2020. Most recent numbers show that the Video Gaming Industry is now estimated to be worth $159.3 Billion in 2020, a 9.3% increase from 2019 (2020).

Projected Video Game Market Growth- credit to WePC

Data also shows that mobile gaming is quickly becoming a front runner in the gaming industry. Industry revenue for mobile gaming is expected to hit $76.7 Billion by the end of 2020 and 2.2 million mobile gamers worldwide. It’s become so popular and prevalent in our every day lives that 72.3% of mobile users in the US also engage in mobile gaming (WePC, 2020), and clearly, game developers are noticing. Mobile games made up 39% of the games developed in the past year. 51% of Total Global Gaming revenue comes from mobile games alone. Currently, there are 2.2 billion mobile gamers worldwide, and 203 million of them are gaming in the US (Ibid.). That’s 203 million people in the US who could find their ideal, in-real-life (IRL) player 2s (partners) using a mobile gaming/dating application 🤑.

credit to WePC (2020)

Dating applications have also seen sharp increases in usage/engagement due to the pandemic. According to Business Insider, “the number of smartphone dating app users in the US will reach 26.6 million this year. That’s an 18.4% increase from 2019, ” (Kats, 2020).

Dating application companies such as Match (owner of dating platforms such as Match.com and Tinder, to name a few) have also found that the way users engage with the application is changing. For example, users’ behaviors have shifted- they are now looking for more serious relationships rather than casual hookups. Match CEO Hesam Hosseini cites two main consequences of the pandemic as the reasons for this shift: the discussion of more serious topics early on and the use of virtual dating to adhere to social distancing prior to deciding on meeting in person.

Match’s latest  Singles in America survey confirms Hosseini’s assessment, “In the scientific study of over 5,000 people, Match found that 58 percent of single app daters shifted toward more intentional dating due to the pandemic. Sixty-three percent said they’re spending more time getting to know potential partners, with almost 70 percent saying they’re being more honest in their interactions,” (Iovine, 2020). As a consequence of the worldwide pandemic, many people are looking for a partner/teammate that can help them get through these challenging times, similar to how gamers look for teammates who can help them through the challenging levels of a video game.

“Recent cataclysmic events have led singles to want more from dating: a desire for a relationship over casual dating; more meaningful conversations, and more honesty and transparency during a date,” Dr. Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist and Chief Scientific Advisor to Match, said in the Singles in America press release, (Iovine 2020).

With the large increase in mobile gaming and online dating application usage, it’s almost surprising that a gamer dating application has not hit the market yet. Therefore, for the rest of the paper, I will be discussing the combinatorial design that would have to happen in order to make that possible.

Application Design Principles

Modularity 

Behind the graphical user interface (GUI) that you interact with when using applications, there are various unseen moving parts that work together in order to make seeing and interacting with that GUI possible. Various applications employ modular combinatorial designs, meaning that the architecture of the application is made up of various modules that have “interdependence within and interdependence across modules,” (Baldwin, 2000). This means that within each module are various interconnected parts, however, they are independent of other modules, meaning that a designer can make changes and updates to one module without affecting any of the others.

There are various modules that go into making mobile gaming and dating applications work. We will look at the various modules that would need to come together in a combinatorial design in order to create a dating application that truly has it all for the modern gamer looking for love. To do this, we are going to start by listing the fundamental modules and functionalities that are necessary for gaming and dating applications. For future reference, we will name my combinatorial app design LUSIO (Latin for ‘act of playing). LUSIO will contain many of the same modules as a dating application, however, it will also incorporate those of gaming applications such as Among Us and Game Pigeon.

According to Murray, “[t]he digital designer has two responsibilities: to create the artifact that best serves the needs of the people who will interact with it, and to advance the digital medium as a whole” (2011, p. 87). There is clearly a demand for dating applications and gaming applications, therefore, combining the two would hopefully advance the digital medium by providing the people with an application that meets their needs all in one place.

Because of the various layers of abstraction that hide the complexities of the operations performed by the application, LUSIO would be fundamentally procedural. To truly understand the complexity of the application, we must study the various modules it is comprised of. Developing a design that is made up of independent modules makes it easier to add or remove parts of the system without affecting the whole system. This modular design maximizes the procedural capabilities of technologies by dividing effort and coordinating tasks and decisions (Baldwin & Clark, 2000).

Source: RubyGarage

LUSIO Modules 

The LUSIO application will have a Cloud-based microservices architecture, “Microservices, also known as microservice architecture, is a specific method of designing software systems that structures an application as a collection of loosely coupled services,” (Watts & Shiff, 2018) The application is broken down into various components or “microservices” located in the cloud that are entirely independent of each other, allowing each service to run its own unique process and communicate autonomously without having to rely on the other services or even architecture of the application as a whole. This architecture allows for almost unlimited data storage and allows the designers to change microservices within the application, i.e. online gameplay updates, matching algorithm updates, etc. without affecting any of the other microservices/modules. Listed below are the included modules/microservices:

  • Copyrights and Trademarks: Copyrights and trademarks need to be procured in order to protect the ideas and brand of the application. Currently, the brand name LUSIO, with regards to electronics and applications, has not been Copyrighted or Trademarked.
  • Back-end Programming Languages: The application will be built from a stack of languages that include: Python for general application programming, JavaScript for HTML/web programming, Node.js for developing server-side web applications, MongoDB for harnessing and utilizing data, ReactiveX for composing asynchronous and event-based programs, and Perl for text-processing, (CometChat2018).
  • Logging in/Registration: In order to access the application functionalities, users must create a profile for the application via a phone number or email. Unlike many other dating/gaming websites, it will not use other social media websites such as Facebook for log in purposes.
  • Profiles: Creators will create a public and private profile. The public profile will be an avatar that the user creates in order to keep anonymity within the public, online gaming module of the application. The private profile will look like a typical dating profile and contain similar information such as age, location, bio, preferences, education, work, and mutual interests. The user may elect to use either their private or public profile in the typical swipe feature of profile matches. However, once a match has been made, the private profile information will be available to matches. The public profile avatar will be customizable and added customizations such as accessories and outfits can be purchased inside the application.
  • Location and Geotargeting Algorithms: With the help of GPS, Google maps, and analytics, organizing profiles by location has become commonplace in modern app development. Location targeting or mapping, specifically, is one of the most critical features for an online dating application. Mapping allows the production of important features like geocoding, geohashing, and proximity awareness, (CometChat, 2018). With regards to Lucio, geolocation is especially necessary to show users others in their area and create public game rooms that are dependent on the location of the players- think of an online Among Us game room but constructed with other people of your age and area preference.
  • Discovery Settings: Users may change their settings in order to find matches and game rooms that are set to their preferences. Advanced algorithms will need to be used in order to do so. The algorithms will need to store the following data in order to fine-tune and update itself to fit each user (According to CometChat):
    • How many profiles did a user discover in that session,
    • How many profiles did a user respond to,
    • The average amount of time spent by the user on a profile to make a decision,
    • The number of times a user responded negatively or positively,
    • The location where a user found the most number of matches or where he/she found the least number of matches,
    • How many profiles did a user visit per day,
    • How many matches does a user get on average and how many do they respond to,
    • How many players the users interacted with during gameplay,
    • What kind of players users exchanged player cards with post-game-play.

“Saving all these preferences helps the app understand user behavior which in turn enhances the user experience. Such algorithms harness the ability of machine learning techniques to learn from successful or failed matches, thus adjusting the future suggestions accordingly,” (CometChat, 2018).

  • Data Protection and Security: Strong Authentication and authorization is a must with an application that houses so much data. The application will enforce multi-factor authentication, rather than just relying on usernames and passwords alone. Users must also submit an application to verify their profiles and identities. This is essential in making sure that users don’t create fake identities or use another person’s identity for their private dating profiles. Since the app stores personal data like name, number, email, pictures, and also user location, encryption has to be done in information databases (CometChat, 2018).
  • Audio/Visual: The application will use the speakers of the mobile device in order to give users feedback on their actions. They will get notifications and accompanying sounds when getting a match or a message. It will also access the microphone and camera modules of the mobile device in order to allow users to call and video chat with each other through the application.
  • Matchmaking and Profile Access: Once two people have matched, whether it be through the feed of profiles or the online game room, their private profiles will be made available to each other. Once that has happened, they now have the functionality to message each other and play asynchronous, turn-based games in the chat.
  • Graphical User Interface that is supported by IOS and Android devices: The Graphical user interface must draw upon the available modules and functionalities afforded by IOS and Android devices, i.e. picture resolution capabilities, capacitive touch screens, all of the screen and software layers that are designed to monitor changes activated by touch and gesture motions. The screens must also be pixel-based in order to become a, “two-way medium for representation and directing human agency into a computing system while it is in the process of processing symbolic structures,” (Irvine, 2019).
    • Gestures/Interactivity: The application will register gestures such as swiping and tapping so that users may interact with and get feedback from the application/game. The swiping gesture will be used for the matching section and for gaming.
  • Gaming: The chat will contain only asynchronous, turn-based games but the online, streaming game portion of the application will house hundreds of games that can be subscribed to. The application team will either hire video game creators to create an array of web-based games that can be housed and used in the application or collaborate with cloud game-streaming services such as Microsoft’s xCloud. Algorithms within the app will place players in rooms/teams in the online game that align with the users’ preferences.
    • 5G Network Connectivity: Fast and easy game streaming is one of the affordances that the current 5G network infrastructure gives game developers and users. Not only does it allow for faster streaming and download speeds, it also affords higher resolution graphics and even larger multiplayer experiences, (Leong, 2018).
    • Spine Animation– Spine is a 2D skeletal animation software used for video game development and animation.
    • Constraints: Apple’s App Store does not allow multiple streaming games per application (Apple Store Review Guidelines, 2020). However, redirecting to web browsers is how companies such as Microsoft bypass the artificial constraints that apple imposes on developers.
      • However, a simple game such as Among Us provides a strong technical foundation for the exchange of human meaning, therefore possibilities are endless through the use of human logic and strategy. Creating a game that follows a similar human-centered interface design could be a first step to creating the online game module. It would only require updates now and then in order to stay relevant, user’s logic, meaning-making, and varying group dynamics will do most of the work in keeping the game interesting.
      • In order to bypass the constraints set by Apple in the development of the application, the application team can also create collaborations with already established games, such as Among Us. users could sign in to these gaming applications with their LUSIO profile in the same way that you can sign in to many applications with social media accounts such as Facebook.  In using the LUSIO gaming function, once you’ve selected the game you want to play in, you would be redirected to that game either through the application for the game or the web. However, through using the LUSIO account profile, the algorithm will still sort you into rooms or tournaments that have players of your location and age preferences.
      • Other constraints are the RAM and processing capabilities of mobile devices used. The RAM and processing power needed to run the application and the games within should not exceed those of the “weakest” devices. Therefore, native games should be simple and require little memory/processing power, and any of the larger more complex games should be housed outside of the app to be streamed on the web.
  • Payment: Because it is an application that will require a large team and plenty of collaborations due to all of the working parts and modules, LUSIO will require payment from users. The basic version of the application will be free, however, to access the more advanced functionalities, such as the library of games, there will have to be some kind of payment system in place. The download of the application will be free, and the basic matching/chat system will be free. However, users will have to pay a monthly subscription in order to have access to a majority of the games that are capable of being played on the app and other useful functions such as: going back to a match you accidentally swiped left on and seeing users who have already swiped right to your profile. Extra customizations to their public avatars, i.e. outfits, accessories, pets, etc. can be purchased using EXP (expression points). expression points can be purchased in-app. The EXP can then be used to purchase the avatar customizations. The application will employ subscription payments and in-app purchases in order to avoid using advertisements and disrupting the user experience.
    • In order to process the in-app purchases, the application will integrate Apple and Google’s wallet for the app (CometChat, 2018).

The design of the application is participatory because it interacts with users in a meaningful way. The various modules contained within the application allow users to interact with it in different ways because of its procedural affordances. By utilizing the affordances of the capacitive touch screen that is used by most, if not all, touch screen enabled mobile devices, the application allows users to swipe through matches or swipe a ball in a game of ping pong, creating meaningful interactions between the user and the application. The design of the application is spatial because while the design of the application is fixed with regards to colors and fonts, etc. the public profile/player card that users can create is highly customizable. Users are able to create a space within the application that is unique to them. The application is also encyclopedic in nature because it stores information on users’ preferences, gameplay history, matching success, and more in order to inform and fine-tune the algorithm.

Interface Design

Example of the LUSIO Application

Schneider identified 8 Golden Rules of Interface Design, and I believe that the application will be successful because it will abide by most, if not all, of the rules (2016, p. 95-97).

  1. Strive for Consistency: The tasks, roles, and markers of the main online game will aim to stay consistent throughout all gameplay. The players can be confident in the consistency of the interface and will therefore able to glean meaning through how other players interact with it. The dating portion of the application will also be consistent with the experience that users have on other dating applications. There will be clean designs and icons that indicate the function, i.e. the heart indicates other users who have liked a user’s profile and the world indicates the online, free-world game. 
  2. Seek Universal Usability: The application facilitates the gameplay for all adults above the age of 18, expertise levels, and international variations. It uses visuals and task demonstrations in order to bridge cultural/language differences. It utilizes language censorship in the chat function in order to protect users/players. Once it has been established in North America, language translation modules will be introduced into the application design in order to expand to other regions and markets. 
  3. Offer Informative Feedback: When a task isn’t done correctly in a game it will notify the user. When users interact with tasks in a game, they will receive feedback. If a user is swiping in the match section of the dating application, they will receive feedback in the way of a match notification or the introduction of a new card to swipe through. 
  4. Design Dialogs to Yield Closure: The app will notify users when a message has been sent and been read. In gameplay, it will also notify users when a task has been completed. 
  5. Prevent Errors: The creators of the app will continually conduct updates to address any issues or errors. The application will utilize real-time error tracking services such as rollbar to detect errors in the application. It will also use Crashlytics, a crash-reporting solution for Android and iOS.
  6. Permit Easy Reversal of Action: When typing in a chat you are able to delete and change what you want to say before sending, you are also able to go back when you swiped left to someone you intended to swipe right to (functionality afforded by the paid subscription). 
  7. Keep Users in Control: The users are in control of whether or not other users see their private profiles. They also have control over the types of users they meet through online gameplay. Users can also customize their avatars/public profiles. 
  8. Reduce Short-term Memory Load: Users/players are given a list of all of the players/users they have matched with and can organize the list by attributes, i.e. age, location, sex etc. Users are also given short instructions on how to use the various functionalities of the app when they’ve first registered. Each game will have instructions that users can access to learn the rules of the game. 

Conclusion 

Because of the modularity of many existing technologies, it is completely feasible to bundle them together and create a new combinatorial design for a gaming/dating application. Mobile online gaming is now especially possible with the introduction and implementation of 5G. 5G’s technological advancements have given rise to the next wave of mobile innovation, especially in mobile gaming. The exponentially faster download and upload speeds allow mobile games to be downloaded and streamed instantly, (Leong, 2018). Even extremely large games that require heavy processing power such as Genshin Impact are able to be easily downloaded and played on mobile devices. As discussed, there’s clearly a demand for both dating and mobile gaming applications, and now, we have the technical capabilities to provide the functionalities of both in one application design.

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Watts, S., & Shiff, L. (2018, October 9). Monolithic vs Microservices Architecture (MSA) – BMC Blogs [Blog]. BMC. https://www.bmc.com/blogs/microservices-architecture/

What are Socio-Technical Systems? (n.d.). The Interaction Design Foundation. Retrieved November 3, 2020, from https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/socio-technical-systems

Wohn, D. Y., Lampe, C., Wash, R., Ellison, N., & Vitak, J. (2011). The “S” in Social Network Games: Initiating, Maintaining, and Enhancing Relationships. 2011 44th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1109/HICSS.2011.400

Wohn, D. Yvette, Lee, Y., Sung, J., & Bjornrud, T. (2010). Building common ground and reciprocity through social network games. CHI ’10 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 4423–4428. https://doi.org/10.1145/1753846.1754164

Yee, N. (2006). The Psychology of Massively Multi-User Online Role-Playing Games: Motivations, Emotional Investment, Relationships and Problematic Usage. In R. Schroeder & A.-S. Axelsson (Eds.), Avatars at Work and Play: Collaboration and Interaction in Shared Virtual Environments (pp. 187–207). Springer Netherlands. https://doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-3898-4_9

The Appification of Tumblr

Victoria Gomes-Boronat

For this week’s case study, I’ve decided to revisit an old friend: Tumblr. During my high school years, the visual blog platform, Tumblr, was all the rage. It also happened to give me my first coding experience, and at the time, I didn’t even realize/consider that I was acting as a coder. Tumblr is a highly customizable blog building website. I consider it a less formal version of WordPress. Users are able to share, like, reblog, and send photos, videos, texts, audios, etc. When constructing your own blog, you have the capability of customizing the theme (color, background, fonts, layout, etc.) of your blog, and all of these themes are coded with HTML and CSS. More experienced coders are able to write their own codes for themes and widgets in order to customize their blogs. As professor Irvine explains, HTML “allows a flexible, unlimited nesting of content and structure layers, embedded media types, interactive functions, and
behind the scenes communication with multiple network sources and services for
fetching and updating real-time data — all customizable for any device, OS,
interface, and screen form factor,” (2018). This essentially means that HTML is a metadata structure that is completely independent of any device or operating system.

When analyzing Tumblr as a socio-technical and modular system, it is clear that there are various unseen forces that drive the design of the site. Tumblr is still a business and therefore, there are various ads across the site and many of the already made themes hide behind a paywall. If the site detects that you’ve found a way to copy a paid theme’s HTML code without paying, it will revert your site to the default Tumblr theme,

Tumblr makes available specialized HTML and CSS code (“Tumblr Template Code”) for the design and layout of blog pages available for use on some of the Services (“Themes”). Certain Themes are available for purchase as a Paid Service (as defined below) (such Themes, “Premium Themes”). Purchased Premium Themes may not be transferred between Accounts, between blogs, or between Services on a single Account and are subject to the payment terms herein. (Tumblr Terms of Service, 2020)

However, how does the experience change with the “appification” of the website? One of the greatest functionalities of Tumblr is completely removed in the application. Users are no longer allowed to adjust the code of their theme to customize the interface of their blog on the application. The application includes a very simple, default theme and the only adjustments that one is able to make is background and accent colors. Why is it that Tumblr took away the functionality that made it so succesful in the first place? Well, as professor Irvine exaplains, “App development is Web standards-based in principle, but in practice app development is detached from the general Web and designed for the proprietary architectures of corporate brands and manufactures (Apple iOS, Google Android, Microsoft are the major device platforms), so that an app can run as a “native” piece of software in the proprietary device,” (2018). The creation of an application must abide by the regulations of and be exclusively installed and downloaded through the provider’s store i.e. the Apple App Store, “Apps thus de-Webs the Web on many levels by simultaneously exploiting modularity (and black-boxing a device as one module)
and the open architecture of the Web and Internet for bundling specific functions
and services that work only on the device-branded app,” (Irvine, 2018). If you compare the website version of my site and the appilcation version below, you’ll see their are huge visual/interface differences, even though they are the same site.

The application also differs with the website in that it has a camera capability. It draws on the modular design and camera capabilites of the phone in order to allow users to take photos and videos and post them through the application.

My question is: How can we take advantage of the safety and easy usability of app designs, while also encouraging customization and innovation? Is there a way for us to have both?

References

Irvine, M. (2018, Nov 12). The World Wide Web: From Open Extensible Design to Fragmented “Appification.” Unpublished Manuscript.

Tumblr. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2020, from https://www.tumblr.com/policy/en/terms-of-service

Twitch as a Socio-technical System

Victoria Gomes-Boronat

According to this week’s readings, the internet and the applications that function through the use of the internet are inherently modular in design and belong to a “socio-technical system”.  A sociotechnical system is any system that “considers requirements spanning hardware, software, personal, and community aspects” to inform its design decisions (“What Are Socio-Technical Systems?”, n.d.). A sociotechnical system embodies and tries to understand the social structures, roles, and rights of systems that involve communities of people and technology. It is interdisciplinary in that it requires the contributions and research of experts who study various types of systems, i.e. sociologists study social systems, psychologists cognitive systems, computer scientists information systems, and engineers hardware systems, (ibid.). All of these systems are valid and important in the study of socio-technical systems. Today, we will discuss the socio-technical system that informs the design of the extremely popular streaming platform, Twitch.

The website and video-streaming platform Twitch is the overwhelming market leader in the live broadcast of user-created videos over the internet, especially for video game-play, “In both 2016 and 2017 over two million people regularly broadcast on the platform, resulting in over a million years of video content in total viewed by over one hundred million people,” (Johnson & Woodcock, 2018, p. 1). Content creators on the platform create an online channel that attempts to bridge the gap between themselves and their audience. Twitch streamers usually intend to create large communities where people can come together and share ideas. If we were to examine this using a network view, each Twitch user is a node in the Twitch network, with the edges being the relationships and interactions that connect them all. In attempting to build a community through their channels, Twitch streamers, are trying to become a “hub” of information and influence in their network (Denning & Martell, 2015, p. 237). However, to successfully do this, they must understand the sociotechnical systems that inform the ever-evolving design of the platform.

Recently, my best friend started his own Twitch Channel, and in discussing all of the components that go into building a twitch channel, I realized how complex and modular the design and socio-technical systems for Twitch are. Originally, I had assumed that all you needed was a good computer with a camera and streaming capabilities. However, I was very wrong. In order to build a quality Twitch channel, there are various hardware requirements, software requirements, social structures, roles, and rights of the systems that need to be addressed. With regards to hardware, my friend explained that not only should you have a good quality mic, a camera with streaming capabilities, lighting, headset, desktop, multiple monitors, gaming hardware (if you want to go the gaming route), you also need to purchase game capture cards in order to be able to stream both your game and yourself at the same time. Let me tell you, streaming is not a cheap hobby. knowing the amount of financial investment that goes into doing a quality stream also helped me understand why users would subscribe to or send money to support their favorite streamers. Below is a picture of my friends set up.

With regards to software, your computers must have a fast enough processor and enough memory to properly stream. Your internet connection also has to be incredibly strong in order to run all of the streams and programs at once. I used to believe I had fast internet, however, my friend informed me that any quality streamer has to have a wifi speed of at least 100 Mbps. His is around 120 Mbps. When I tested mine, I received a whopping 80 Mbps, meaning that while my speed was good enough to game online, stream services like Netflix on multiple devices and download large files, my speed would not be enough to stream UHD on multiple devices. Therefore, if I ever did have all of the hardware necessary to be a Twitch streamer, I would not be able to stream quality UHD video.

When I first started supporting my best friend on his channel, I also had to learn the social structures and roles of the platform. Twitch has its own culture and in order to fully utilize it, I had to work to understand it. For example, Twitch is extremely modular in its design and affords users the capability to completely customize their experience with the creation of “panels” to decorate your channel, emoticons and sound commands to customize a chat, the assigning of roles within channels as a sign of trust and authority (i.e. mods for a channel), and the creation of clips to capture your favorite streamer moments. These were all new and foreign concepts to me because they were norms that were not found on other platforms. Twitch streamers must also be aware of their demographics. If a user is not young audience-friendly, meaning that they use expletives and talk about more adult topics on their streams, they employ warnings and market their channels as 18+. If a channel does want to be open to all ages, they utilize rules of the channels and will employ mods to censor the chats of any explicit content. The website/application itself also categorizes content in order to help users and content creators build strong communities based on similar interests, i.e. art, among us, just chatting, food, etc.

With regards to streaming rights, a user is afforded the right to stream anything that is their own creation, including video gameplay, however, there are some constraints. Twitch users do not have the right to stream content they do not own such as copyrighted music and movies/shows. If a user fails to adhere to these terms of service, their videos could be taken down. Twitch has addressed the music problem by creating a soundtrack of licensed music that streamers may use in the background of their streams, “We understand that music rights are complex and that many of you would like a simpler way to add high-quality music to your Twitch live streams. That’s why we built Soundtrack by Twitch, to give you the ability to feature a curated library of fully licensed music within your live streams,” (Twitch, 2020).

After learning about the socio-technical system that informs the design of Twitch, I have developed a deep appreciation for the creators who put their hearts, souls, and money into creating quality content and strong communities. I also am incredibly impressed by the modularity and complexity of the application design that affords creators the ability to do this.

References

“What Are Socio-Technical Systems?” The Interaction Design Foundation, The Interaction Design Foundation, www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/socio-technical-systems.

Johnson, M. R., & Woodcock, J. (2018). THE SOCIO-TECHNICAL ENTANGLEMENTS OF LIVE STREAMING ON TWITCH.TV. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research. https://doi.org/10.5210/spir.v2018i0.10489

Denning and Martell, Great Principles of Computing, Chap. 11, “Networking.”

Twitch.tv – Music. (n.d.). Twitch.Tv. Retrieved November 4, 2020, from https://www.twitch.tv/p/legal/community-guidelines/music/

Applying the Golden Rules of Interface Design to Popular Video Game: Among Us

Victoria Gomes-Boronat

When doing this week’s reading I couldn’t help but think about how the interface design principles discussed could be applied to the latest trending applications, specifically, the extremely popular video game, Among Us. In prior classes, we have discussed how successful technologies have human-centered designs, and I believe that the success of Among us is largely attributed to its human-centered design. The goal of the application is to become a technological platform for a socially deductive game with rules that are reminiscent of Mafia and Werewolf. It allows users to play a pretty complex game with players around the world which normally wouldn’t be capable of being done on such a large scale. How were they able to digitize a game that is so reliant on human logic and interpretation?

When first entering the application, it becomes obvious as to how the game became successful. Immediately you are confronted with an aesthetically pleasing and directly manipulated interface.

Schnieder explains that using techniques to get the user’s attention is vital to a satisfying interface experience. The start screen marks the various functions within the applications by enclosing them in white boxes. The game is also incredibly popular with old and young users alike because of the simplicity of its design. Schneider states, “Novices need simple, logically organized, and well-labeled displays that guide their actions,” (2006, p. 86).

Once you click on the “How to Play” box, the application pulls up a visual presentation that clearly demonstrates the rules of the game and explains the various roles that players and tasks may have throughout. The use of visuals in the instructions makes it understandable to various age groups. Throughout the game, colors and markers are used meaningfully to indicate various actions and roles. For example, imposters and their actions are marked by the color red. The icons for sabotage, kill, vent, and lock doors are exclusive to the imposter and are colored in red and white. The crewmate’s tasks are colored using green and blue, with the exception of the report button, which is used when a body is found. They also define the roles of the players who have been killed. Players are marked with an X to indicate that they no longer can vote and chat with living players. Ghosts continue to do their tasks, however, they are see through- and can only be seen by other player ghosts.  

Schneider identified 8 Golden Rules of Interface Design, and I believe that the application is so successful because it abides by most, if not all, of the rules (2016, p. 95-97).

  1. Strive for consistency- The tasks, roles, and markers of the game stay consistent throughout all gameplay. There are three maps that can be used with different tasks, however, the tasks for each map do not change or swap. The players can be confident in the consistency of the interface and are therefore able to glean meaning through how other players interact with it. For example, if an imposter is pretending to do a task, but the taskbar does not go up, a crewmate observing can find suspicion in that.
  2. Seek universal usability- The application facilitates the gameplay for all age groups, expertise levels, and international variations. It uses visuals and task demonstrations in order to bridge cultural/language differences. It also allows for customization of gameplay with regards to difficulty in order to appeal to different levels of expertise. It utilizes language censorship in the chat function in order to protect younger players.
  3. Offer informative feedback- when a task isn’t done correctly it will notify the user. If the task is done correctly they will be notified and the taskbar for the crewmates will go up. If there is still a kill cooldown or sabotage cooldown, the icons will not be fully illuminated in order to indicate to the imposter that they may not be able to use that function yet.
  4. Design dialogs to yield closure- There are tasks that must be completed in order within a series. The tasks are identified as completed as you go, for example, once you’ve completed one of the three trash disposal tasks, your tasks list will notify you where the next trash disposal tasks are and that 1/3 are done.
  5. Prevent errors- because of its booming popularity, the servers sometimes encounter errors because of high traffic. To address this, the creators of the app are continually conducting updates and are now planning a second game. They will now be providing a very sought after functionality- voice chat through the application.
  6. Permit easy reversal of action- when typing in a chat you are able to delete and change what you want to say before sending, you are also able to open and close menus with the click of a button.
  7. Keep users in control- because of the consistency of the tasks and platform, the control is entirely in the hands of the players. They interact with the game and must make their own interpretations with regards to other players’ behaviors in the game in order to find the imposter. It is a game of stories, truth-telling, manipulation, and lying in order to win (depending on what role you get). Most of the game is dependant on the players’ analysis of the actions taken by other players.
  8. Reduce short-term memory load- players are afforded a list of tasks and maps of where these tasks can be found each and every game. Many of the tasks are simple and provide demonstrations on how to complete them.

The strength of this application/game is that it provides a strong technical foundation for the exchange of human meaning. The possibilities are endless through the use of human logic and strategy. This was afforded by its human-centered interface design.

 

 

References

Irvine, M. (2019). From cognitive interfaces to interaction design: Displays to touch screens. Unpublished Manuscript.

Shneiderman, B., Plaisant, C., Cohen, M., Jacobs, S., Elmqvist, N., & Dikopoulos, N. (2016). Designing the user interface: Strategies for effective human-computer interaction (6th ed). Pearson.

Contemplating the Future of Mixed Reality Technology Through the Lens of Combinatorial Design

Victoria Gomes-Boronat

This week’s reading was especially exciting because it explored the various directions that computer technology development could have gone and also introduced computer science as a world of possibilities and “happy accidents”. As Professor Irvine explains, “the development of personal computers happened by happy accidents of convergence where multiple forces and histories intersected: technical developments, research, and new philosophical contexts for developing computing beyond industrial, business, government, and military applications,”(2018, p. 8).

Tim Mott stumbled upon one of those happy accidents in a bar of all places. He was waiting for a friend and constructed an “office schematic” interface which would later be known as the desktop. And while many other computer scientists were attempting to make similar interfaces using three dimensional, true-to-life simulations, Tom’s colleague, Larry Teslar, realized the genius of the simple two-dimensional icons as representational symbols of everyday office functions (Moggridge, 2007, p. 53). Therefore, the 3D simulation designs were dropped, and icons became king.

However, with the advancement of camera technologies, processing power, Bluetooth capabilities, and high-resolution interfaces, augmented reality has emerged as a disrupter of the status quo. If computer scientists can agree that computing needs to, “be preconceived and redesigned for ‘augmenting human intellect’, that is, for enhancing and expanding human intellectual abilities and creativity through symbolic representation processes,” (Irvine, 2018, p.8), then wouldn’t augmenting reality using computing be the next logical step?

Because of their combinatorial design, modern phones and tablets are able to augment reality for a variety of purposes: entertainment, education, and design to name a few. Apple has been a huge supporter of AR technology and its website demonstrates how AR can enrich the lives of its product users and includes a list of some great augmented reality applications. Even social media applications such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok use augmented reality to create various filters and tools to customize their photo and video experience. Games such as Pokemon Go! allow fans to experience a more fantastical version of their world.

But that’s not enough. Augmented reality is still not perfect because of the constraints of physical technology, i.e. small phone screens that limit your immersion in the augmented reality. The following video explains how transparent screens/devices could make augmented reality more realistic, however, in order to truly make a mixed reality world possible, we need to use combinatorial design to create technologies that don’t have the same constraints as a phone, i.e. augmented reality glasses. Soon the beloved simplistic icons of design’s past may become obsolete and replaced by the three-dimensional, real-world representations that used to be considered impossible.

References

Bill Moggridge, ed., Designing Interactions. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007.

Irvine, M. (2018). Computing with symbolic-cognitive interfaces for all media systems: Design concepts that enabled modern “interactive” “metamedia” computers. Unpublished Manuscript.

Augmented Reality. (n.d.). Apple. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.apple.com/augmented-reality/

Why Samsung’s Transparent Phone will fail. (2019, April 14). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI58Itw9B7A

Exploring Python & R with a beginner’s HTML/CSS Background

Victoria Gomes-Boronat

Prior to taking a basic HTML and CSS coding class in my undergraduate program, I was absolutely terrified of programming. I believed that computer programs were made up of a combination of numbers, specifically 0s and 1s, and it took a super genius and lots of memorization to interpret/create it. Once I took the beginner’s HTML course, however, I understood it more as a language of variables and commands. As discussed in the readings and the python tutorial videos by Annyce Davis, each language has its own syntax (rules of the programming language) and semantics (meanings) (2017). I always knew that programming heavily consisted of STEM, however, I also realized that my extensive background in language (journalism) could actually be an asset to learning these languages. As Evans explains, computer science and programming actually have strong connections to language liberal arts, such as grammar, logic, rhetoric (2011, p. 15). You can see that with how code is constructed, or the syntax of it.

HTML and CSS are optimized for webpage creation, therefore it is important to be very specific with your commands and where they should function. For example, in HTML, every command must reside within <html> </html>, and you must also specify whether it resides in the head (the metadata) or the body of the page (visible on the webpage) by inputting it within those markers, i.e. giving the body of your predominantly blank page the title, “Hi, World!”, would look like this <html>
<head>
<meta charset=”UTF-8″>
<title>Untitled Document</title>
</head>
<body>
<h1> hi world </h1>
</body>
</html>

You can see you how creating a full webpage could become thousands of lines long very quickly. And if you forget even just one closer tag it can cause so many bugs and crashes. The most frustrating part about the HTML language is that it becomes very difficult to find the source of the problem within in so many lines of code. However, the longer you work with it, the better you become at finding issues in the code’s syntax that are affecting the code’s semantics (meaning/resulting outputs). The work of troubleshooting is very akin to the work of an editor revising papers for grammatical mistakes that could change the semantics (meaning) of the work.

When working with python, I was floored by how concise and simple the commands were! As Davis explains, Python is an extremely popular choice for beginner coders because it can be used for a multitude of computations, is user-friendly, and clean/concise. I found the syntax of Python to be much more user-friendly than that of HTML and CSS. Learning how to use Visual Studio Code was also extremely helpful in understanding how codes could be constructed and troubleshot. Python and python interpreters could be easily installed, allowing for code auto-complete, making the process of writing code that much easier. It is important to note that Python can’t be used to create webpages, rather it is optimized to create web applications and various computational functions that can then be added to web pages.

Python also reminded me of another language I have just started to learn: R. R is a programming language that is used for statistical analyses. Many of the rules or syntax of the language are actually very similar to python. with concise commands, you are able to run statistical analyses and create resulting graphs. From what I’ve found, learning one programming language helps tremendously in learning others, especially when you learn and understand the process of how each programming language is constructed of expressions (syntactic values) and evaluations (the meaning of the value associated with an expression) (Evans, 2011, p. 40).

 

References

Davis, A. (2019). Programming foundations: Fundamentals. LinkedIn Learning. https://www.linkedin.com/learning-login/share?forceAccount=false&redirect=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.linkedin.com%2Flearning%2Fprogramming-foundations-fundamentals-3%3Ftrk%3Dshare_ent_url&account=57879737.

Evans, D. (2011). Introduction to computing: Explorations in language, logic, and machines. http://computingbook.org/.

Miscommunitexting and how we find meaning in information

Victoria Gomes-Boronat

We have grown up in a time where communicating is both easier and harder than before. What do I mean? Well, with a few taps on a phone you are able to communicate with people halfway around the world. Through digital technology such as text messaging systems, we are afforded the ability to communicate with people anytime, anywhere. So why has it also made communication more difficult? When doing this week’s reading I couldn’t help to think about my (undergraduate) freshman year communications course. In the course, we discussed the concept of “miscommunitexting”. Miscommunitexting is when the intention or meaning of the informant’s text is misinterpreted by the informee due to overanalysis, different languages/symbolic systems, culture, generational differences, etc.  Miscommunitexting is possible/common because, as Irvine explains, “meanings, values, and interpretations are not physical properties of a symbolic medium (in this case, the text message); they are inferences and correlations made by agents (the informant and informee) in symbol-using communities,” (p. 13).

It is important to note that the “information” sent in the communication system does not refer to what we know as meaning or content, rather it consists of the bits that create representations of data i.e. numbers, letters & words, graphics patterns, etc and operations i.e actions. According to Shannon’s Information Transmission Model, a source sends a message -> an encoder generates a signal for the message; a channel stores and and carries the signal; a decoder converts the signal back into a message; the receiver receives the message, (Denning & Bell, 2012). The meaning is then interpreted by the agent reading the message (the symbols displayed on the screen).

The way we interpret the message depends on our language, culture, and symbol systems.  For example, my father is Spanish and my mother is Argentinian- although they share a language, there are some cultural differences in semantics. In Spain, there is a word that means swim cap, the same word in Argentina is understood as a female body part. The semantic differences due to culture could cause miscommunitexting seeing as the meaning would not be communicated, rather, the receiving agent would interpret the word with their own meaning. Ethnic culture is not the only factor in the way we interpret messages, the generation you are a part of, the interests you have, and your personality are all contributors to the way we interpret information.

I think that to a certain extent, people of a certain generation share the same understanding of texting language/etiquette. Most American Millenials/gen zers could probably tell you the difference between, “hey” & “hiii”, “okay” & “ok”, “I love you” & “Love ya”, while older generations might have more trouble discerning the differences in their semantics.

Then you must also take into account the personality and interests of the agents on each side. For example, one of my friends is the shortest texter. He will send one-worded responses all of the time. If he were a stranger, I’d be inclined to interpret his responses as disinterest or anger, however, knowing his personality, I know that’s not the case. He loves to draw and do hands-on activities in his free time so he prefers calls over texts- that way he can work on his drawings while also talking. I only knew the true meaning behind his short, straight-forward messages once I got to know him. On the other hand, if I have a friend who usually sends frequent, long, thoughtful texts and when she breaks her usual pattern and starts to send curt, infrequent messages, that signals to me that there may be a deeper meaning, for example, she may be extremely busy, upset at me, going through a hard time, etc. The message or information sent through the communication channel and decoded by the phone did not tell me this, but I used my knowledge of how she normally acts to interpret these meanings.

 

References

Denning, P. J., & Bell, T. (2012). The information paradox. American Scientist100(November – December), 470-477.

Irvine, M. (n.d.). Introducing information and communication theory: The context of electrical signals engineering and digital encoding. Unpublished manuscript.

Luciano, F. (2010). Information: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press.

Affordances of the iPhone Home Screen

Victoria Gomes-Boronat

In this week’s reading, Janet Murray starts by explaining that, “everything made of bits is part of the same digital medium,” (2012, p. 8) because it exploits the representational power of a computer and can be used for symbolic communication. According to Murray, the affordances provided by digital media can and should be considered within the context of procedural, participatory, encyclopedic, and spatial design strategies, therefore, I will analyze the affordances of the iPhone home screen interface within these contexts (2012, p. 23).

Murray argues that digital media is unique to earlier media of representation, such as books and art, because of its ability to “represent and execute conditional behaviors” (2012, p. 51). Murray cites the example of Joe Weizenbaum’s Eliza, an interactive program made possible by coded algorithms and procedural design. Weizenbaum’s Eliza program is reminiscent of and an antecedent to iPhone’s Siri.

The iPhone also acts as what Murray likes to call, a participatory medium, meaning that the relationship between the interactor and the iPhone is reciprocal, active, and sometimes susceptible to frustrating miscommunication (2012, p. 55). For example, the iPhone interface allows us to directly manipulate the home screen by creating folders/boxes, dragging/moving applications, and now with the new IOS update, personalize signifiers (more on that later). The human-computer interaction elicited by a participatory design also relies on the mental models formed based on the appearance and behavior of an object (Norman, as cited by Murray, 2012, p. 59). For example, when grouping applications together to organize the home screen, the iPhone uses the appearance of a box to signal to users that applications may be stored there, in the same way, that you would store files in a box at home. It is also important to note that the iPhone also scripts our interactions with it, for example, when rearranging the home screen, the interface indicates it is possible to edit the home screen by continually shaking the applications.

The most obvious affordance of the iPhone interface is access to a vast amount of storage space for data and information, classifying it as what Murray would call an encyclopedic medium. With regards to being a spatial medium, The iPhone home screen GUI creates a digital space where the interactor can navigate it through afforded actions like swiping through pages and tapping on applications. With the new IOS14 update, widgets can also now be created with shortcuts to/glimpses of various applications and their functionalities, for example. a weather widget that shows the weather throughout the day on one of the home screen pages. These various affordances allow users to interact with the digital space by tapping, dragging, reorganizing, and personalizing.

The iPhone IOS14 and many of android GUI’s now also allow users to more directly personalize their experience by affording them the functionality of creating their own signifiers. Norman (2013 as cited in Kaptelinin, 2013) explains the difference between affordances and signifiers by writing, “[a]ffordances define what actions are possible. Signifiers specify how people discover those possibilities.” Applications shown on the home screen have various affordances, however, their signifiers (the icons used for the application displays) are “any mark or sound, any perceivable indicator that communicates appropriate behavior to a person,” (Norman, as cited in Kaptelinin, 2013). Users are now able to create new signifiers, however, the affordances granted by the applications and the interface stay the same.

Kaptelinin, V. (2013). Affordances. In The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction (2nd ed.). https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/book/the-encyclopedia-of-human-computer-interaction-2nd-ed/affordances.

Murray, J.H. (2012). Inventing the medium: Principles of interaction design as a cultural practice. MIT Press.

Discussing Mediation: IOS14

Victoria Gomes-Boronat

This past week, Apple released its latest software update, IOS 14. With the update, came some highly anticipated changes. In order to fully de-BlackBox this new update, we must analyze the socio-technical system in which it resides. According to Professor Irvine, a sociotechnical system “is a system of interconnected agency and co-dependency.” This definition erases the culture/technology dichotomy and, “redescribes media technologies as necessary and
co-dependent mediations which societies use to mediate and transmit cultural
institutions as well as the dominant artefacts of culture.” The iPhone mediates various functions, including the way we interact with photography, text, organization, speech, and human interaction/relationship building.

The iPhone remediates text through imessages, comments, ebooks, emails, posts, etc.  Speech has also been remediated through calls at the tap of a screen, and voice messages. Gone are the days where users would have to physically dial buttons or turn the dial of a rotary phone to talk to another person. Now, users can speed dial with a few taps of their screen. The actions of leaving a voice message have also been completely altered with the introduction of voice messages. Users no longer have to call a number and leave a message. They are able to go into iMessage or applications such as WhatsApp, record, and then send voice messages instantly.

Video conferencing apps on iPhones such as Zoom and Discord have completely changed the nature of socialization tasks, such as hanging out with friends. For example, the Corona Virus pandemic has ushered in a demand for safe ways to interact with others while staying socially/physically distant, and the goals of video conferencing have been translated from professional meetings to casual hangouts with friends. For example, My anime group and I used to spend every Sunday hanging out and watching our favorite shows together in the same room, however, the pandemic caused interference in the realization of our goal. Latour refers to the first level of mediation as “goal translation,” (1999). Goals, such as connecting with friends for an anime night, can be achieved through the touchscreen and applications of an iPhone, but the goal in question met interference by the pandemic and resulted in alternative actions such as using an application and a touchscreen. The touch screen adds a level of convenience to the task, which can also change the task. Being able to meet up just by the opening of an application in the comfort of one’s home or any other desired location, can increase the frequency of the meetings seeing as there aren’t as many impediments when compared to doing in-person hangouts, i.e. car breaking down, being out of town, etc. It also can change the group dynamic and communication, seeing as eye contact and body language aren’t as noticeable in an online setting.

Now with regards to the new IOS14 update. The iPhone’s home screen has always had a very minimalist design that didn’t afford users a lot of customization. The organization was limited to same-size square applications/widgets and the organization functionality of “folders”. However, with the new IOS14 update, the home screen has completely changed and remediated how users can organize and interact with their home screens. Below are some of the changes:

iOS 14 – Features- Apple. https://www.apple.com/ios/ios-14/features/

Users have been taking to social media (shown below)  to share the ways in which they have interacted with the new update in order to completely customize their home screens and therefore, their experience with the technology. As someone who has tested it out and altered my own home screen, I have to say that the update and the changes I was afforded by it completely remediated the home screen experience for me. However, as my android user friends like to (repeatedly) point out, this kind of personalized experience isn’t very new for them 😅

Video credit: @Keanejin

Video credit: @Kaylamarie126

References

Latour, Bruno. 1999. Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Irvine, Martin. n.d. “Working with Mediology and Actor Network Theory: How to De-Blackbox an iPhone.”

iOS 14 – Features. (n.d.). Apple. Retrieved September 23, 2020, from https://www.apple.com/ios/ios-14/features/

Analyzing everyday cognitive artefacts

Victoria Gomes-Boronat

According to Cole, a cognitive artefact is, “an aspect of the material world that has been modified over the history of its incorporation into goal-directed human action,” (117). The keyword “goal” is what allowed this week’s readings to finally click for me. I couldn’t help but think of Trello, the organization website that my consulting firm uses to assign tasks, store information/media for clients, and keep clients updated on progress and updates. The website’s and application’s design is optimized to help users meet their personal and professional goals.

Trello descends from the memory and performance aid that we call a “to-do list”. Its design resembles a typical stacked to-do list, and you are able to mark the level of progress, due date, and who the task is assigned to for each task. You can also include descriptions, media attachments, and links in the tasks for further aid.

As you can see, you are able to create stacked to-do lists. However, you can also use that functionality to create a list of resources.

Looking at Trello through the system view, you would see it as a memory aid that enhances performance, however, through the lens of the personal view, Trello would actually be changing the user’s task. As norman explains,

The use of a list instead of unaided memory introduces three new tasks, the first performed ahead of time, and the other two at the time the action is to be done:

  1. The construction of the list;
  2. Remembering to consult the list;
  3. Reading and interpreting the items on the list. (21)

The act of creating a list on Trello would be considered to be “pre-computation”. Not only does it require some sort of pre-planning, but it can also be done whenever is convenient and by anyone on the team (Norman 21). That’s right- Trello boards can be shared with members of your team and/or clients. Team members and clients may then consult the lists, add information, message others, and create and assign tasks. This functionality leads us to distributed cognition.  Distributed Cognition is defined as:

A process in which cognitive resources are shared socially in order to extend individual cognitive resources or to accomplish something that an individual agent could not achieve alone. (Lehtinen)

Trello is a prime example of an “artificial device designed to maintain, display, or operate upon information in order to serve a representational function” (Norman 17). In this case, it’s primary functions are information storage, task delegation, team cooperation, and memory/performance aid.

Another cognitive artifact that we can focus on is a photo-sharing application called VSCO. VSCO serves as an online photo album and journal with the added functionalities of photo editing. What differentiates it from photo social media apps such as Instagram, is that while you can follow accounts, the interaction between accounts is very limited. There are no likes or comments on photos so it creates a vastly different online environment. Users are encouraged to create art with their photography and to not be limited by social constructs or what would be socially acceptable or “liked” on other traditional social media platforms. According to Cole, this characteristic would classify VSCO as a tertiary artifact, meaning that in the world of VSCO  “rules, conventions, and outcomes no longer appear directly practical, or which, indeed, seem
to constitute an arena of non-practical, or ‘free’ play or game activity,” (121).

As I said before, VSCO also functions as a sort of photo album and journal, therefore, it also aids in information storage and memory. It is a wonderful app that allows users to craft/represent the world they live in without the social constructs that you would normally find in other applications.

References

Michael Cole, On Cognitive Artifacts, From Cultural Psychology: A Once and Future Discipline. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996. Connected excerpts.

Lehtinen, Erno & Hakkarainen, Kai & Lipponen, Lasse & Veermans, Marjaana & Muukkonen, Hanni. (1999). Computer Supported Collaborative Learning: A Review.

Donald A. Norman, “Cognitive Artifacts.” In Designing Interaction, edited by John M. Carroll, 17-38. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Read pp. 17-23.

Andy Clark, Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, USA, 2008) (Excerpt).