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Assignment 10 by Jun Chen and Sarah Kim-Warren

Fischer, G. (2002) Beyond 'Couch Potatoes': From Consumers to Designers and Active Contributors, in FirstMonday (Peer-Reviewed Journal on the Internet), at http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue7_12/fischer/.

1. what do you consider the main argument of the article?

This article mainly argues that, in many situations, users actually play a role of designer and active contributor rather than a passive consumer. However, most systems today assume users to be just consumers. To change this situation, we need to develop computational media to contribute to the invention of cultures where humans can express themselves and engage in personally meaningful activities. The article suggests meta-design as an approach to create such a culture.

2. do you agree or disagree with the main argument? give a answer based on your own experiences?

We agree very much with the main argument. Closed systems just doní»t work in many situations. First of all, developers often have limited or even biased understanding about the domain, therefore, the system designed by developers might not work for many real-world situations or do not have all functions users need. Second, for a specific funtion, there are often many design strategies. Closed system supports one or several design strategies chosen by the developer. This might work for some users but not for all users. Third, the world is not static but is changing very day. Respectively, the system should evolve too.

Jun once designed an exception handling component for workflow systems. As a designer, she wish she could enumerate all possible exceptions and then design respective solutions for each of them. However, the fact is that we can never what new exceptions might happen in the future. Therefore, in order to support exception handling, the only solution is to create an environment that allows end users to define exceptions and their solutions. We think this is an example of Meta-Design.

3. enumerate in which situations

3.1. you acted as a designer/active contributor


As designers, we are working together in the group on this class projects. Also, we actively participate in other classes and doing homework.


Some software comes with different installation options: compact typical and complete. When we install the software, we choose one of them. Or we can even make more detailed customization by explicitly specifing what features we want. We are playing a role of active contributor in such situations.

3.2. you acted as a (passive) consumer


As passive consumers, we watch TV programs and movies every once in a while. In fact, we act as passive consumers for most electrical appliances, such as refrigerator, cellphone and lights.

3.3. situations in which you believe you should have acted differently


Although we are ok with many electrical appliances we are using, but they don't always meet our needs in the best way. For example, we would like to design the height, size and internal structure of our own refrigerator.

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