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Assignment 8, Phong

1. what did you find (articulate the answers in your own words)

1.1. interesting about the article? Many folks have made the charge that the computer industry has ignored the users. But his suggestion that computers should be thought as tools, albeit cognitives tools that can simplify conceptual tasks and increase our cognitive power (e.g. notational tools), and that their form should fit with the type of activity and its location, is interesting. Finally his argument that networked computational tools can help to expand our capability to deal with complexity is also compelling but like Buxton I don't believe that we have gotten far with being able to do so. Mainly perhaps because cognition itself is a hard problem to understand.

1.2. not interesting about the article? Entire topic was interesting.

2. what do you consider the main message of the article? The article's main message is that we have missed the boat in exploiting the full potential of information technology by focusing too much on the technology itself and not enough on how human relate to (and use) information technology. As a whole we focus entirely too much on the visible characteristics of computing technology (how fast, its size compared to performance, etc) and not enough on the invisible characteristics (how easy it is to use) that determines how useful it is to us. To turn the tide we need to focus on the user instead of the technology, how the user interact with the interfaces, understand that interfaces will diversity, and these interfaces will be designed by truly interdisciplinary teams.

3. Please comment on the following claim: “Despite the increasing reliance on technology in our society, in my view, the key to designing a different future is to focus less on technology and engineering, and far more on the humanities and the design arts.”

3.1. agree / disagree? I would agree. However, I believe that society deal with technology, especially new technology, in a cycle where we get really excited by technology for its own sake, then assess whether is it really useful to us, then incorporate it into our own lives (where they become invisible). I would argue that with respect to information technology we are in the early stages of infatuation and we are just beginning to assess how and in what form it would be useful to us. Buxton's criticism – and I agree with most of it – is among the efforts to place info tech in context (literally).

3.2. which are the personal consequences which you draw from this statement? Among the personal consequences as a software person it that I need to pay a lot more attention to the way software interact with the users. In addition, they way I need to think about software is not software for its coolness factor but how it enable folks to do their job. Third, that I need to learn the skills for working with folks from different disciplines.

3.3. are the educational programs you are involved addressing this claim? Not in the computer science undergraduate curriculum; at least not in a serious manner.

4. Please comment on the following claim: “Given the much discussed constraints on human ability, how can we expect an individual to maintain the requisite specialist knowledge in their technological discipline, while at the same time have the needed competence in industrial design, sociology, anthropology, psychology, etc., which this essay implies are required to do one’s job?”

4.1. agree / disagree? I would agree that it is impossible to know everything needed to gain a holistic perspective. However, to begin to do a good job you need to know your own area of specialization well and a basic understanding of the other disciplines; enough so that everyone on a team can understand all the conceptual frameworks being used. Having a basic shared understanding is important. And learning the knowledge and skills required to thrive in an interdisciplinary team will be challenging.

4.2. which are the personal consequences which you draw from this statement? For me the challenge is to understand more than the computer science domain and begin to learn about enough about other social sciences (and humanities) to understand some of the conceptual frameworks used by other fields.

4.3. are the educational programs you are involved addressing this claim? Not in a structured and institutionalized way. I have to go searching for it on my own. I have heard of CU-Boulder's TAM program but don't know much about it as a computer science major. That's on my to-do list.

5. Do you feel that the “Design, Learning, and Collaboration” course addresses these two claims? Yes, we are getting a taste of the theory but not necessarily the practice (yet). That is, we get good theory but the hard part is doing it.

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