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[Nettime-bold] Re: RHIZOME_RAW: GENERATION FLASH: Usability/Interaction
John Klima on Tue, 30 Apr 2002 23:50:02 +0200 (CEST)


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[Nettime-bold] Re: RHIZOME_RAW: GENERATION FLASH: Usability/Interaction




sorry for the typo mark, p-Soup it is.

i have to respectfully disagree, i don't think p-Soup is an abstract
interface (i like p-Soup and don't get me wrong).  i'm not saying that
it *is* a tool, but it has "icons" you click on that are "brushes" that
make "shapes" where you want them, on a "canvas". it is not that
different in design and paradigm than a paint program. of course its
purpose is very different and its sensiblities highly refined, but is it
abstract? or closer to the point, is it an interface that we are
unfamiliar with? not really. the ripple when you click works the same as
tossing a rock into a pond. this is a primal, understandable metaphor.
replace yer icons with rocks, yer sounds with water noises,  and it
ain't abstract. its a pond. i'm focusing on the function of interface
here, not on how the thing looks. it looks great and i wouldn't suggest
you swap graphics to make it a pond. but if you did swap, it would be.
the function of the interface remains the same. so is the interface
abstract because it doesn't have rocks and water sounds?

perhaps i'm just splitting hairs, but when i try to think of an abstract
interface, or just try to focus on the "form of function" it seems to me
that the prize is the creation of something altogether unfamiliar. this
is of course, an incredibly difficult task. most interfaces have been
designed to mimic something in the real world, from a desktop, to a
document, to a file cabinet, to paint, brush, and canvas. an abstract
interface needs to have no reference to the real world, and have no
reference to existing interfaces modeled on the real world.

j


napier wrote:
> 
> At 01:11 PM 4/30/2002 -0400, Kanarinka wrote:
> >The most distinguishing formal property of software from other mediums
> >is that it allows for interaction, that it is rule-based, that it allows
> >the creation of a participatory, experiential environment, however you
> >wanna say it.
> >
> >... in a software-driven artwork I would argue that the primary
> >formal areas that one has to deal with are in the design of the rules
> >for interaction...
> 
> At 01:01 PM 4/30/2002 -0400, John Klima wrote:
> >so what do we
> >discuss? how "well" the interface works? what the user wants to "do?" in
> >peasoup and glasbead there is user goal, make a picture, make a song, so
> >we presented them with "tools" to do so. they are usable. what would a
> >completely abstract interface "do?"
> 
> First, I think of p-Soup as a completely abstract interface.  The piece is
> built on very simple geometry and synthesized notes, so it certainly isn't
> representing anything.  The user creates a composition and music by
> interacting with the piece, but it isn't a tool because there is no end
> goal.  In p-Soup the end is the interaction itself.  The interface is part
> of that end, not a tool to create something else (you never save a song ...
> when you stop clicking the piece stops playing).
> 
> So let's discuss it.  From the usability perspective the p-Soup
> (http://potatoland.org/p-soup) interface is about as usable as it can
> get.  Click on an icon at the top, click in the blue box, you see a
> ripple.  I've never seen a person that can't operate it, and I'm willing to
> accept that there may be techno-phobes out there that won't explore the
> piece.  My audience is anybody with a basic knowledge of the mouse/computer
> interface, and these people will be able to activate the piece easily.
> 
> Now for the interaction aspect.  I agree with Kanarinka that interaction is
> separate from usability.  In p-Soup I don't explain the piece.  If a user
> clicks once they get one animated ripple on the screen.  Not too
> exciting.  The piece is only interesting if they click multiple times, and
> then the ripples combine and overlap to create secondary shapes.  This
> usually comes as a surprise to people using it (came as a surprise to me
> when I made the piece).  So then they start to click quickly, slowly, close
> together, far apart.  They can focus on the visuals and/or on the sounds.
> 
> None of this is about usability.  The user has already figured out how to
> use the interface.  Now we're talking about interaction.  This is the "why"
> of the piece, where usability is the "how".  The user has gotten in to the
> piece, now why should they stay.  The visual language of the artwork
> provides enough material to explore for a while simply out of the fun of
> seeing what the shapes do and how they react to each other.  There's a
> satisfaction for me in seeing a very simple vocabulary combine to create a
> surprising variety of qualities (sort of like programming).  The user gets
> to create something within the boundaries of the artwork.
> 
> The work provides an immediate response.  The user gets that they just did
> something. But then the artwork does something of its own as well, that is
> not predictable.  There is an element of expectation, fulfillment of the
> expectation, but then an element of surprise.  The user can explore the
> subtler qualities of the piece by refining their use of the artwork.  So
> there is an element of layering; the interaction has depth.  There's an
> element of duration: the action continues to animate for about a minute or
> two.  The user can stop and watch to see what they just did and let the
> piece run and fade out on its own.
> 
> All of this amounts to a dialog between the user and the artwork.  But
> there is another element to the interactivity of the artwork, which is that
> the piece is multi-user.  The applet is built on top of a chat client, so
> it networks multiple users together in real time.  Concurrent users see
> what each other are doing.  I don't explain this anywhere in the piece,
> which could be seen as user-unfriendly.  But in terms of interactivity it
> creates an interesting possibility in the work.  While a user is clicking
> away, playing with the artwork, they may see other shapes forming in the
> piece, shapes that they did not create.  Then they have to figure out for
> themselves how those shapes are happening.  Are they random?  Are they
> generated by some algorithm?  Or are they created by another user online,
> playing with the artwork at the same time.  This moment of meeting of two
> people in the space of the artwork always comes as a surprise, even to
> me.  Immediately people try to find a way to respond to the other user, as
> if to show that they exist in the work too.  When the group of concurrent
> users is large enough somebody usually takes over and clicks a hundred
> times in one spot, as if to dominate the space or bring order to the noise.
> 
> I don't announce the multi-user nature of the piece, and I'm still not sure
> if I should.  That's an aspect of interactivity.  Should the user expect
> this feature of the piece, or be surprised by it? I ruled out that people
> can talk to each other (using a text chat interface alongside the graphical
> window) because I wanted visitors to use the visual language and try to
> find a way to "talk" without words.
> 
> I'm just throwing out ideas here, about what aspects of this work matter to
> me.  There are many questions that interaction brings up, even in an
> abstract piece.  How much noise should be allowed?  How many options are
> there in the piece?  Should the visual language (of a piece like p-soup)
> contain many elements or very few.  Should all the features of the piece be
> visible up front or should some be hidden?  Is the piece about creating
> something using a plainly visible interface, or about exploring a
> deliberately obscured interface.
> 
> BTW I think the same way when I look at a site like http://www.turux.org,
> that I think would qualify as completely abstract interfaces.  The pieces
> create expectations and then fulfill some of them, but contradict
> others.  Sometimes I'm in total control of the piece, sometimes it seems to
> do something on it's own that is only partly in response to my actions.  I
> like that level of depth.  It intrigues me and then I want to explore the
> piece more, to figure it out, or simply to find what I can get it to do.
> 
> In all of these works there is an element of authority.  Who is in control
> of the piece?  Is it the user, the artist, perhaps multiple users.  Or some
> combination of these three.  In the static art object this is not an issue,
> except in the very rare case that somebody splatters blood on a painting.
> 
> mark
> 
> napier {AT} potatoland.org

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