Imaz, Manuel (2001) Applying Experientialism to HCI Methods. PhD thesis, Napier University.
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The aim of this thesis is to incorporate the results of Experientialism in the domain of
Human-Computer Interaction. The purpose is twofold: on the one hand it shows how some
concepts of Experientialism like metaphor, image-schema, stories or conceptual integration
may be used to explain where some concepts of HCI come from. On the other hand it uses the
same conceptual background to support the design activity: the same concepts of
Experientialism may be employed to build new conceptual artifacts in order to design User
Interfaces and application software in general. One of the most fruitful ideas Experientislim
may offer is conceptual integration as the basis upon which to construct new design solutions.
Notwithstanding the pervasive use of metaphor in everyday language and even in HCI texts,
there is a considerable amount of criticism regarding the use of metaphor in designing user
interfaces based on the assumption that this practice may be the origin of troubles when using
such software products. That is why one of the chapters is aimed at showing that not only the
use of metaphor is pervasive in HCI but even the use of figurative language as well. Not only
figurative language is usually employed but it is even one of the main tools for conceptualising
new ideas and concepts required in the activity of software development.
The Thesis proposes a framework aimed at designing User Interfaces based on the concepts
of Experientialism. The proposal integrates two phases (analysis and design) the same way as
most of software development methods do, trying to profit on the broad scope of the cognitive
processes such as image-schema, metaphor and conceptual integration. These general concepts
may be well suited to build conceptual models upon which to elaborate the user interfaces and
the optirnalizy principles proposed to study the suitability of conceptual integration may be also
used as validity criteria to evaluate such design artifacts.
In order to validate such a proposal, the Thesis shows how to use the framework in two
different situations: i) to explain why a problem such as the Mac trashcan -used to eject
diskettes- is not a problem of using metaphors but an unfortunate design decision, and ii) to be
applied in the design of a new User Interface.
Other concepts of Experientialism are proposed in capturing user requirements. The concept
of story is the ground on which to build scenarios or use cases, as stories are a more general
cognitive process and a form of telling things at a more general level. That is why the user
stories may be mapped to use cases, as both are essentially different type of stories and the
capture of requirements is a way of specifying one type of stories (use cases) based on the
original stories (user stories).
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