Licentiate Thesis

Towards new Interaction - A Content Centric Data Surface Approach


The Examiner Björn Lisper
 Main Advisor: Ivica Crnkovic
 De-facto Advisor:   Jussi Karlgren
Defense 2004-11-29  14:00 Lecture room ZETA
The opponent Morten Fjeld
Report Version  
Final Version     
Report Version 2004-11-04
Report  Version 2004-10-28
Report  version V0





This thesis presents a content centric interface paradigm. The paradigm design is based on reassessment of the fundamental design values of the desktop metaphor interface. Open-ended tasks and creativity in action, collaboration, and information navigation and retrieval were properties taken into account in the design process. The design case throughout the thesis has been the openended task computer music creativity. Interviews and observations of novice and expert users of music creativity tools elicited inspiration and requirements. The starting-point of the process was to intellectually remove the underpinning of the current metaphor: windows, menus, icons, applications and files. File systems can be traced in today’s graphical user interfaces, for which the desktop metaphor helps explain to users how to treat their documents (files) and folders (directories), to yesterday’s command line user hostile DOS (Disk Operating System) interfaces. Instead, I have introduced the concept of a content aware database. Multiple views of content in the desktop metaphor utilise the concept of windows that make up for limited screen space and that break users context. Instead, I have visualised content data on an infinitely large two-dimensional surface. The surface is navigated by non-semantic zoom and pan, and incremental search. Menus of the desktop metaphor are based on recognition instead of recollection, good for learnability but not for efficiency. Efficiency is brought by key-chord shortcuts that are hard to learn, arbitrary, and idiosyncratic. I have reintroduced written commands as remedy. Content affords the commands and context help makes it easier for users to learn. Visual feedback and text completion of command substring create a unified model for command invocation and shortcuts. The command invocation model has smooth transition from recognition (context help) to recollection (shortcut command substrings). Icons in the desktop metaphor are often arbitrary and do not aid navigation when many files of the same type are located in the same folder. In my approach the visual appearance of the content itself constitutes the visual cue for navigation. Size, structure, and type of the content are preserved and makes it easier see the difference between content elements. Monolithic application programs in the desktop metaphor implements services, the interaction is focused on what tool to use. If users need an unimplemented service for their content, they have to severely break their work context to get the service in another application. In my approach, I have introduced the concept of components. Each content information item modality has its services implemented by components; the users do no longer have to consider what application to launch. The paradigm let users focus on content, and is thus content centric. By leverage on methodology from cognitive science, observations, interviews, and usability evaluations I have been able to find strong indications that the approach presented in this thesis supports users’ expectations of services, users’ creativity in action, and users’ awareness in collaboration, in a manner that the observed users found fresh, fun, and pleasing. The subject users did not need windows, icons, and menus to say: it feels free; its good for creativity; its easy and fun.

Last update: 2004-12-01

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