Assignment 14: “User Modelling” – Summary by Jodi Kiefer

source: Fischer, G. (2001) "User Modeling in Human-Computer Interaction," User Modeling and User-Adapted Interaction (UMUAI), Kluwer Academic Publishers, 11(2), pp. 65-86.

The majority of the class enjoyed the “User Modeling in Human-Computer Interaction” article. The concept of designing a system for a multitude of users while creating the image that it was designed for a particular user remains an interesting and complex problem. This is directly related to the concept that has been discussed several times within this course – “The ability to say the right thing, at the right time, to the right person.” While this article included topics relating to HCI that have been previously discussed in this class, the discussion on HFAs and a user’s knowledge of the corresponding HFA, as well as the comparisons between adaptive and adaptable systems were found to be particularly interesting.

Even though the research efforts within the HCI field greatly outweigh the gained benefits, the potential for high payoffs still exists. The class agreed that the main message of the article dealt with how user modeling within HCI, designed with specific techniques and features, can greatly contribute to the development of usable systems. These concepts that were presented within the article were recognized as topics and issues within design, learning and collaboration that the class has been discussing throughout the semester. The majority of the class brought up critiquing as one of these topics that are directly related. The CLEVER and the EDC projects were also quoted as supporting similar concepts. In looking at which computer systems incorporate a user modeling component, the class thought that most operating systems and software applications today offer a form of user modeling from the ‘tip of the day’ applications to spell checkers. In particular, programs such as MS Office, Dreamweaver and the Postgre Database were listed as examples of such programs.

Looking in depth at a HFA the majority class detailed their experience with MS-Word. The knowledge base of Word varied from 10-50% of the full functionality. Various techniques of gaining this knowledge included using the built-in help documentation, online documentation, Google’s search capabilities, consulting others and a simple trial-and-error method. The class is not aware of transposing letter functionality within Word (outside of the automatic spell corrector’s use of it), however, some students reported knowledge of the supported functionality with the Vi and Emacs text editors.

When exploring the learning on demand concept, the class provided a wide range of personal experiences. Learning computer programming was quoted to be the most prominent learning on demand experience for most people (not surprising in a class dominated by CS majors). However, other examples ranged from travel related experiences to moving to a new city to learning how to become a bartender. There is a consensus among the class that in order for one to be successful in learning on demand, one must know what they want or need to know, and what resources and tools that they have available to them to aid this process. Other skills that were listed as beneficial in aiding learning on demand were motivation of the user, base knowledge, persistence and an open mind. Learning on demand was viewed by the class as superior to use on demand. Learning on demand implies that one understands the material and is able to apply it to future problems and situations whereas using on demand implies using something without fully understanding it thus requiring one to look up the information each time it is required. In looking at which computer systems support learning on demand, the class believed all systems that either provide access to the internet or offer built-in help systems do just that. In particular, Linux and Unix with their manual pages, QuickTime, Dreamweaver, Flash and Photoshop were provided as examples.