Nathan Balasubramanian's Response to Assignment 9

Read Fischer, G., Giaccardi, E., Ye, Y., Sutcliffe, A. G., & Mehandjiev, N. (2004) "Meta-Design: A Manifesto for End-User Development," Communications of the ACM, 47(9), pp. 33-37, available at

Briefly discuss the following issues (articulate the answers in your own words) :

1.1 What did you find interesting about the article?

That tools need to motivate their users by showing them a range of possibilities that are achievable using the tool – through examples and demonstrations.

1.2. What did you find not interesting about the article?

Nothing uninteresting.

2. what do you consider the main message of the article?

The design of socio-technical environments that empower users and technologies that facilitate widespread collaboration are the key to successful end-user development.

3. Is meta-design an

3.1. interesting concept? why?

As a means of transferring ownership of the design process to the end-users and promoting abstract conceptual thinking, meta-design is undoubtedly an interesting concept.

3.2. not interesting? why?

I personally don’t know if examples and demonstrations or rewards and recognition alone might motivate end-users. Almost all computer-based tools have examples and demonstrations (even videos) to inspire the users. Motivating end-users is difficult and I know of one that indeed does with a large spectrum of people. Games seem to engage end-users through tangible goal accomplishments and several other characteristics – or what Papert might call, hard fun and challenging problems.

4. What do you consider the major technical and social challenges associated with meta-design?

4.1. technical?

Providing timely and on-demand feedback to users when they use tools seems to me the biggest challenge.

4.2. social?

Despite available and new technologies, for effective contributions and collaboration, providing adequate human contact seems to be the biggest social challenge.

5. Describe your own experience with meta-design

5.1. with ideas associated with meta-design

I am currently struggling with these issues in the design of STRONG (STRuctured-scenario ONline Games) because I recognize the need for these games to be evolving design problems. I think developing design spaces in which students might make the existing scenarios at different levels of STRONG (beginner, intermediate, proficient, and advanced) more difficult for other students is one way of tapping into their creativity, yet developing their conceptual thinking abilities.

5.2. with systems built on meta-design?

The communities that have evolved around the use of computer technologies – such as Physlets – the java applets that were initially developed as physics on-demand simulations but now extend into science education and SketchUp for conceptual 3D design are a source of inspiration. Adapting these for classroom use in K-12 settings for teaching science and engineering is the ongoing challenge for teachers.

Nathan Balasubramanian