Q&A: Pierce @ Bardzell

Jimmy has sent me a deluge of questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them here. Some answers I am more confident about than others.

AMM
>What are the defining characteristics of AMM? What is it NOT?

I think the defining characteristic that I am settling on is creativity practiced by populations, rather than the individual or a small team of homogenous professionals (e.g., professional designers). It typically involves the following clusterings of technologies: low-end authoring tools (e.g., iMovie), or high-end authoring tools used in narrow ways (e.g., 10% of Flash; 5% of Lightwave); a Web 2.0 environment. New multimedia releases come out with blazing speed. Works with impact are copied and iterated on. They usually aren’t made for corporate profit or any deliberate “mainstream” use, though they are sometimes appropriated that way.

Platforms v. Products
>Why is this distinction important?
>What does implications does AMM have for the design of platforms?

The distinction matters, because with platforms, the thing produced by the Big Company or mainstream publisher is incomplete; it offers the capacity for completion, but not the content. Examples include Second Life, Facebook and MySpace, GirlSense, SlideShare, blogs, Twitter, and anything with an API (from WoW to Flash itself). Users create the content with the platform.

As for implications, that is harder to answer. I think they need to do better to support social production, criticism, and interaction; quick authoring (especially with prims); accessibility (anyone can pick it up and do basic stuff with it in a couple of hours).

“unfinished aesthetic” & “aesthetic of crap”
> Can you elaborate on this?
> Is it an aesthetic of products, process, tools?
> It makes me think of some notion that there is not final product…

“Unfinished aesthetic” comes from an essay by Peter Lunenfeld. The idea is that rather than delivering finished media (like a traditional film or a published novel), publishers instead offer incomplete media, which are completed by the end user. Video games and Web 2.0 are examples of this. I guess really all software with an end user is.

The “aesthetic of crap” is my term for the value expressed by Neil Cicierega and others that bad animations (e.g., animutation) is better than good animation (e.g., Disney). There is a severing of the notion of “high quality production” and “effective message.”

Mass collaboration and the role of the individual

> Does AMM collaboration reduce the role of the individual in some sense? Or enhance?
> MAss collaboration and authoring leads to multiple identities?!
> Creates microcommunities? more domains/cultures?
> What IS the role of the author in this setting?

I think the role of the individual is lessened. This is a philosophical predisposition that I have to begin with; that is, I always think that the individual as a unified, coherent agent is overrated. This will come up later in the class, but the short version is that the structuralist and especially poststructuralist traditions vigorously question the individual as a single, coherent entity. Phenomenology does too, by the way, but not to the same degree.

The idea of multiple identities is simply that in each software interface, I have a different identity (set of permissions, set of capabilities and limitations, and representation or construction of my self). That is, my avatar has a blog, a Second Life friends list, a MySpace page, etc., but each of these is distinct from the others, and very distinct from my Facebook or Oncourse identity.

We will talk lots and lots about the role of the author. I personally do subscribe to the poststructuralist “death of the author” concept and that is reflected in everything I do. A recent reviewer of a journal article I wrote asked me if I left any room for the designer, or if I killed the designer off too. I guess I probably killed the designer, too, but only in a special, technical sense, which deserves elaboration that I don’t want to offer here.

HCI creates culture
> Does HCI accellerate the production of culture?
> What do you (JEff) exactly propose as ethical or moral responsibilities of HCI, given your understanding of AMM and argument that HCI produces culture?

I don’t know about “accelerate,” since that implies a measurable amount of production that can be increased or decreased. I definitely don’t know how to do that. But I am comfortable saying that culture is being produced primarily with technologies today, and that means it is mediated by interaction design. To what extent are interaction designers cognizant of this? My interactions with Adobe and Macromedia designers suggest the answer is “not very much.”

I think of ethics and morals as two different categories. I think of ethics in the Greek sense, about the practice of living the good life. I think of morals as a codification of rules that are collectively designed for an ethical life. Ethics is a philosophical practice; morality is policy, implementation.

HCI has an ethical obligation to stem the effects of technological nihilism, which is what happens when technology (and the rhetoric of technological “progress”) replaces human agency in the design and development of new software, interactions, practices, institutions, and social arrangements. This is a difficult force to resist. One way to do this is to critique interfaces and interactions (and the social practices they effect) in terms of the major categories of the humanities: enlightenment, self-transcendence, social justice, bliss, etc. Digital technology mediates practically every aspect of our lives. It’s not just in the workplace anymore, and it’s not good enough for it to perform well and be usable.

HCI must examine the extent to which our interactions with technology and with each other through technology adds value to human life.

knowledge/info v. affect and experience
> Can you clarify this distinction? Why is it important?

> Is the distinction between reflective and experiential cognition?

Knowledge and information are not the sum and total of human existence, though looking at information science and HCI, you might think they are. People who celebrate technology often promise that it will lead to a knowledge society, where people have more access to better information, and thus are able to make better decisions (e.g., democracy). These are laudable goals.

But we also need to be entertained and loved; we laugh, fear, have sex, feel bliss and rage, cultivate our tastes, play, speak nonsense, dress up, pet cats and walk dogs, miss our parents, mourn, wax nostalgic. So much of life isn’t about acquiring more information to make decisions; it’s about experiencing the fullness of life, the decency of our fellow humans, dealing with the fears that threaten to paralyze us, the joy of our senses. When technology mainly helped professionals do their jobs, knowledge/information was obviously a priority. Now that technology is a part of every part of our everyday, everywhere lives, we need to expand the desired outcomes of interactions to include more than just information/knowledge, and I use affect/emotion and experience to get at this more robust notion of human life.

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About jeffreybardzell

Jeffrey Bardzell is an Associate Professor of HCI/Design in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University - Bloomington. His research foci include critical design, interaction criticism, research through design, and digital creativity, which he approaches from a perspective that reflects his background in the humanities.
This entry was posted in Aesthetics, Amateur Video, Interaction Design, Leisure, Phenomenology, Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, Questions, Semiotics, Social Networking, Structuralism, Video Games. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Q&A: Pierce @ Bardzell

  1. jimmypierce says:

    wow. thanks for taking the time to answer my deluge of questions! this helps a lot.

    I really like this:

    “One way to do this is to critique interfaces and interactions (and the social practices they effect) in terms of the major categories of the humanities: enlightenment, self-transcendence, social justice, bliss, etc. Digital technology mediates practically every aspect of our lives. It’s not just in the workplace anymore, and it’s not good enough for it to perform well and be usable. HCI must examine the extent to which our interactions with technology and with each other through technology adds value to human life.”

    and this:

    “So much of life isn’t about acquiring more information to make decisions; it’s about experiencing the fullness of life, the decency of our fellow humans, dealing with the fears that threaten to paralyze us, the joy of our senses.”

    At times, it seems so odd that we focus so much on “perform well and be usable” rather than “adds value to human life.”

  2. i think you must have added few more examples to it ,

  3. are these social networking sites providing the good buisness , and are they reliable?

  4. thismarty says:

    At times, it seems so odd that we focus so much on “perform well and be usable” rather than “adds value to human life.”

    I think it’s (part of) the mission of your generation of digital designers to convince the world of the importance of both aspects. Designer, of whatever ilk, are inherently valued for their utility in creating useful and suitable and functional things – it’s what we do. The second tier, of using our work product to enhance life beyond merely being suitable to task, doesn’t always register for clients. Not usually, not yet, at least.

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