Friday, October 5, 2012

Artist of the Month at FabMo

I was recently invited to be featured as the Artist of the Month for FabMo, a local art supply recycling and distribution service. FabMo has monthly events that allow you to get reclaimed materials for a small donation. I also like going by FabMo to get inspired by talking to others about what they are grabbing supplies for!
Display board with craft write-ups and examples
As part of my display, I provided some DIY write ups of some of my craft inventions and adaptations. I'll be posting them as time permits here on my blog!

How to Make a Fabulous Fabric Boa

Below you will find the steps to create fabulous fabric boas that can be made from recycled and reclaimed fabric. These are great accessories to add some texture and fun to your outfits. I've worn them to Burning Man events as well as at at the office!

You will need:
  • Yarn - I like to use 2 strands at once - eyelash yarn and a thicker yarn
  • Fabric Scraps
  • Fabric Scissors

To Do:
Step 1Learn the basic steps of finger crochet. A finger crochet “chain” will form the base of the fabric.

Step 2Gather fabric scraps. I usually choose a color theme and collect an assortment of fabrics that match well together and have a nice variety of textures. Thin, airy fabrics, like chiffon, silk, organza, and tulle work well. I’ve also had success with velvets and velours. Choose things that feel soft. A person will wear the boa around their neck and it shouldn’t be unpleasant or scratchy.  Because you are going to cut the fabric up into small pieces, this is a great project for using up remnants or irregular shaped pieces.  I have even gotten clothes from garage sales and cut them up for my boa projects!

Step 3Cut the fabric into small strips. I generally cut the strips into about the size of a feather, about 1-2 inches wide and 5-6 inches long, with some variance. If they are too small, your boa will seem thin. If they are too long, it will get droopy.

Step 4Gather yarn. You can use a standard yarn that matches the color scheme, or something more festive. I’ve had fun with using “eyelash” yarn as it adds to the shaggy look of the boa. I will sometimes double up on the yarn too – one eyelash, one thicker wool – to make the boa thicker.

Step 5Begin the boa. I usually will start by finger crocheting a small “tail” to get started. Make a few loops. When you are ready to start adding fabric, make a loop as you would normally do, but before you pull it through, lay one of the scraps across the loop so that it gets tied into the knot.

Step 6Continue. Note that you can make thinner, sparser boas by making one or two regular loops in between laying a fabric scrap. Or you can make thicker, fuller boas by adding fabric every loop.

Step 7.  Vary for balance.  Alternate between fabrics of different weights and textures to get a nice, artful distribution.

Step 8.  Easily undo mistakes.  A nice thing about using a simple finger crochet chain is that undo-ing is easy and painless.  If you don't like how a fabric looks in the mix, simply undo the stitch to remove it, and go on.

Step 9Measure the length of the boa. Keep going, alternating between scraps. Try to balance the textures and fabrics so you have a nice variety. Periodically measure to see how long your boa is by holding it up to your body. You can make it long and glamorous, or shorter and more practical.

Step 10Have fun with creative additions! You can add illumination to your boa by weaving everything around a battery operated LED light string. Add ribbons periodically, or attach buttons or fake flowers to the ends. Add something creative to make it uniquely yours!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

CHI Day 4.  Remote CHI

Below are a few additional papers that have relevance to topics of interest that I was not able to see "live."

Exploring User Motivations for Eyes-free Interaction on Mobile Devices - Yi et al.
The authors conducted an exploratory study with four focus groups on eyes-free solutions, and suggest a classification of motivations for eyes-free interaction under four categories (environmental, social, device features, and personal). 

Evaluating the Benefits of Real-time Feedback in Mobile Augmented Reality with Hand-held Devices - Luo et al.  Modern smartphones make it possible to use AR, by using the phone as an augmented "window on the world."  This has obvious advantages for overlaying annotations and information on top of the real world, but raises new challenges for the usability of AR in this context: small screen, occlusion, operation “through a lens”. The authors present a user study of Augmented Reality (AR) in a mobile device, and showed that the optimal system includes AR and real-time feedback (visual).  Haptic feedback would be an interesting extension because it does not present the same occlusion problems.

PocketNavigator: Studying Tactile Navigation Systems In-Situ - Pielot et al.  The authors report on a large-scale in-situ study of tactile feedback for pedestrian navigation systems, based on usage data collected from a freely available Android navigation app that generates pulse-based tactile feedback during navigation tasks. The authors show that tactile feedback is successfully adopted in one third of all trips and has positive effects on the user’s level of distraction.

Using Shear as a Supplemental Two-Dimensional Input Channel for Rich Touchscreen Interaction - Harrison and Hudson.  The authors demonstrate the value of adding shear force as an additional input to augment touchscreen interactions.  They created a test device that had a sliding screen and build demonstrations showing the interaction design space opened up by the additional degrees of freedom.

Funneling and Saltation Effects for Tactile Interaction with Virtual Objects - Lee et al.  The authors explore the use of funneling and saltation effects for perceiving tactile sensation from a virtual object in an augmented reality setting. Experimental results show solid evidence for phantom sensations from virtual objects with funneling, but mixed results for saltation.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

CHI Day 3.  Agile UX Methods and Bezel Menus

Attendees storming the morning coffee break before the creamer runs out

Morning - Agile UX Adaptations, Course

Desiree Sy (
John Schrag (

[Link to the course slides are here.]

Agile UX  - What is it?
Agile should be iterative, incremental, continuous, collaborative.
What is a user story?
-User problem, with acceptance criteria
-It is not a feature, a specification, only fitting in one iteration, and do not have firm estimates at time = 0.

Writing your story well
Often user stories are too big - how to break them down and prioritize what you have written?
Break the story into small pieces, where each piece confers incremental value to the user.
Determine the minimum first step.
Schedule the pieces in the order of importance
Design incrementally, as if the next piece were the final one
Change your future plans between iterations if you have learned new things

Benefits of being incremental - when dev runs out of time, resources, etc., the solution delivers maximum value and is complete without holes.  It's a lot less work.

You want things to be small, but not too detailed.  Each iteration you want to be delivering a complete sub-story each iteration.

Example.  Doorway.
What is the minimum piece of work that you should do to give incremental value toward their goal?
Cut a hole in the box.  Check against the criteria.

Text editing document
User needs to be able to move text around.  We need a way of moving text.  Our design is: Cut/Copy/Paste/Delete

What do you do first
Paste - can't test that
1 - Cut - yeah, it's useful by itself
2 - Paste next
3 - Copy
4 - Delete

The purpose of incremental implementation is to get feedback early and often.  After each iteration, gather feedback.  Who evaluates your product?  Is it always the same people?  Are your target users internal or external?

You don't have to release everything you produce - can be released selectively.  You may get feedback from:

  • Internal "expert users"
  • Beta testers under NDA
  • The general public
  • Internal users in a protected 'sandbox'
  • Internal users after general deployment

Write staged specifications - a best guess at breaking the design into one-iteration story increments
Then "break" the stories with developers into Tasks.  They own the Tasks.  But you need to know how to map those back to Stories and Capabilities.

Agile UX Tactics
Design Chunking
It's not just technical things that you find out about putting out a release.  Can also find out about how the change influences the workflow.  What are the capabilities

Capability goals
Description of user's problems to solve for a workflow or user story + acceptance criteria
For each iteration, solve a few goals
Defined through chunked research
Used to chunk designs
Used to define when design is "done"

How do you get to an idea or solution for design?
We LOVE Goals (The Power of User Experience Goals) - John Schrag (2008)

Brush Resize

  • Users wanted to resize the brush within 5 minutes, but had difficulty doing this
  • Design Goals
  • First 5 minutes, resize without the brush editor
  • One control for size, not 2-5
  • Keep focus in the canvas
  • Fewer dialogs covering the work
  • Stylus only (no keyboard)

What are some smaller chunks of the story
How do you research and usability test?
Break capability into smallest stories
Which goal
The harder it is to get your users, the more important it is to get user proxies (internal & external) to give you feedback on code/prototypes that doesn't do full workflows
Add detail to design for each chunk at the latest possible moment

Participants could be:

  • QA/support
  • Students
  • End-users in house - don't waste these guys to uncover usability problems you could have identified earlier!!
  • Site visits - "

Design activities you do early - To investigate/prototype/test
Solutions that don't require domain knowledge
prototypes that need a lot of facilitator intervention (paper prototypes)
The person you test that with, needs to be comfortable with the context
Solutions you can check independently of each other
Prototypes outside of the main build
Fundamental designs that will have others built on top of these designs
Designs that will be re-used in other contexts

Build "disposable code prototypes"

Late stage design chunks
Solutions that require specific contexts (specific users, environment, or device-dependent)
Solutions that depend on other technology or build on a prior implementation
Workflow-level of user task
Discoverability or learnability goals
Higher fidelity/lower facilitator intervention
Hub designs (designs that depend on other fundamental designs)
First-experience studies, installation investigations
Designs from multiple teams

Litmus test:  Ask yourself, "Is this a prototype where only a specific user or context can validate?"

Mid-stage design chunks
Solutions that require partial domain knowledge (user proxies are acceptable)
Solutions that combine previous implementations
Part of a workflow known to end-users
gather workflow-level scenarios for late-stage design
Parallel designs
Other designs that aren't obviously early or late stage

Recurring User Studies
Set up regular, recurring usability investigations
Contextual inquiry & usability test whatever you have available at the time
Bring people in-house at regular intervals!!  Just set them up.  It makes you test things earlier than you thought you could test them.

In-house - bring in users every other sprint, or at some regular interval
On-site - set up regular visits at a specific site

Contextual inquiry and usability testing in the same session
The most expensive cost of user investigations is scheduling
Get more data in less time
Test and investigate much smaller chunks
Have them bring their work with them to the usability test (don't have people test cubes, they should test monsters)
"Formative usability investigations for open-ended tasks" UPA 2006

Formative design tips:
Schedule sessions with enough time to iterate between
Know the design goals prior to the session
Start from the simplest solution to the problem
Prototype the solution in the fastest, most malleable way to validate the solution

After each session, go back to the design goals - are you done yet?
Can you change the prototype to get closer to done in a way you can validate effect?
If a problem is blocking investigating other design goals, make the change
If you uncover a solution that doesn't require validation, don't bother changing the prototype (you already know the solution)
Only investigate what you don't know for sure

Developers who are working on a story
Interaction designers should be observing all tests of their designs
All team members should be invited

Test reporting should take about an hour to write up
Should be lightweight
An idea - problem uncovered
on a card
users who had that problem on back

Afternoon Sessions

"Uncomfortable Interactions" - Benford et al.  The authors discussed how discomfort can enhance the entertainment, enlightenment and sociality of cultural experiences. The authors explored how four kinds of discomfort - visceral, cultural, control and intimacy - can be ethically embedded into experiences.  So often we are taught that design means delight.  In entertainment situations, the ability to evoke all kinds of affective states, from the visceral to the cultural, as relevant to the unfolding narrative, is a more appropriate design goal.

"User Learning and Performance with Bezel Menus"  - Jain and Balakrishnan. The authors discuss an implementation of a bezel menu and design implications based on performance and learning on a text-entry task.  In my opinion, this is a promising area for further research and text entry is only scratching the surface in terms of relevant applications.  Moreover it's not clear the author solved the problem of eyes free interaction on such a complex task.  As the physical features of the bezel are provided through haptic perception, IMO we should have a position around this design space and be informed of research in this area.

"Rock-Paper-Fibers:  Bringing Physical Affordance to Mobile Touch Devices"  - Rudek and Baudisch -The authors explored how to bring physical affordances to mobile touch devices. They created Rock-Paper-Fibers, a supplementary device that is functionally equivalent to a touchpad, yet that users can reshape so as to best match the interaction at hand. They presented a prototype that achieves deformability using a bundle of optical fibers, demonstrated applications with an audio player and a simple video game each featuring multiple widgets.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

CHI Day 2. UX Evaluation in Entertainment and Temperature UIs

 Morning.  Course on UX Evaluation in Entertainment and Games 

Can we measure user experience in games? Need to have a description of what is important to UX in games, and this can vary based on context.
Some parameters:

  • Fun 
  • Enjoyment 
  • Challenge 
  • Flow - can be measured with retrospective think-aloud 
  • Immersion - can be measured by facial coding
  • Presence 
  • Playability 
  • Interest 
  • Social interaction 

Exercise - take a paper-based game from childhood.  Change one rule that you think makes the game more fun.  How would you evaluate your intuition?

Our game
Key attributes of our game -

  • Challenge 
  • spatial thinking 
  • Strategy
  • Social interaction 
  • Fun 

Research question: does the rule change impact the UX of the game? How challenging is the game? Are the subsequent moves more broadly distributed across the board? Is the game more fun? Measures of game-related conversation, such as prosody, gesture, laughter, game-specific terms.

Afternoon sessions -
"A Hybrid Mass Participation Approach to Mobile Software Trials" - The authors present a method for doing mobile software trials that use a mass deployment over an app store coupled with a local deployment and triangulating findings for more robust analyses.

"Yours is Better!” Participant Response Bias in HCI"
Interviewer demand characteristics can lead to serious experimental biases in HCI. This study was done in India and showed that by simply referring to one of two identical products as "my new product" led to significant response biases.  Researchers should expect significant response biases, especially when interacting with populations where there may be a power differential perceived between interviewer and participant. It is very important to dissociate from a particular design or solution.

 "Digital Pen and Paper Practices in Observational Research"
The UCSD Distributed Cognition and HCI lab present a user evaluation of ChronoViz for flexibly creating observational research digital pen-and-paper notetaking systems.

Late Afternoon:
We got a private demo on pressure sensing and temperature interactions by Stephen Brewster and his grad students.  Danny and Vincent joined.  Below is Vincent testing the temperature UI.  We learned some interesting things about temperature perception and affect!

Interactivity Exhibits [MORE TO FOLLOW]

CHI Day 1.  Catching Up with Colleagues and Somaesthetics

Today I met with several colleagues, some new and some old, and attended a variety of sessions that were of interest. In the morning, I met up with Vincent Levesque, and we discovered that we each look quite different to each other at real-world fidelity!  We spent some time reviewing the CHI schedule together so that we cold negotiate to be sure that one of us would be able to attend most all haptics-relevant sessions.  We also discussed the state of the ESF project and did a bit of sketching together in person.

I also ran into some old colleagues from Cisco!  Rainbow enjoyed saying HI to everyone...

Below is a list of the talks I attended in the morning and their relevance highlighted:

 "Keep in Touch" - investigation onto digitally-simulated remote touch on the upper arm and how it might influence the sense of connectedness when compared to a visual stimulus. The authors found that the touch condition resulted in more feelings on connectedness in a storytelling task between a speaker and listener.

"Tap and Play: an end-user digital pen toolkit for augmenting language learning activities" - research work done by my old group at UCSD.  Really nice paper on a real-world deployment and appropriation of a system in a variety of surprising ways.

Invited talk - "Somaesthetics and implications for HCI" - Richard Schusterman. Really inspiring talk about somaesthetics, a philosophy of understanding the lived relationship and use of the body and cultivating a sensory appreciation of design.  Schusterman discussed a framework for approaching design that involved intentional training of body knowledge, even seeing a user's perception of interaction as involving training of a perceptual aesthetic.  Moreover, Schusterman claims that our lived bodily experiences are not private or personal, but are embedded in a social and artifactually rich environment.  He has a book coming out in the fall that may be of interest to the team, as haptics is such a lived, bodily experience, and likely will involve the development of a user's haptic sensibility.  "Thinking through the body"

"Touché: Enhancing touch Interactions between Humans, Screens, Liquids, and Everyday Objects," Poupyrev, Sato, Harrison.  Using swept frequency capacitive sensing, the authors are able to sense touch interactions on a sensor-coupled object, which can take any number of forms, such as a mobile device, a doorknob, or a dish of water.  They show remarkable accuracy for a number of unique touch events, such as one finger, multitouch, hand grasp, and multi-user touch.  Also explored their demo booth in the evening and experienced Touché myself!

"How Do Couples Use Cheek Touch in Phone Calls?". Possibly the most relevant paper of the day.  The authors created a 3x3 array of actuators and coupled it to a mobile phone device.  Users were able to transmit spatial vibrotactile "touch" over a distance.  They monitored the use of is system on a set of romantic partners and how they appropriated e system for transmitting nonverbal, affective information during phone calls.  I asked the author a question at the end of the session about technical details and was filled in by Don Norman.  He introduced himself later!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

CHI Day 0.  Workshop on Defamiliarization in Usability and Innovation.

Defamiliarization - What is it?
Workshop Description:  Designing for innovation, with the aim of eventual user adoption, requires that standards be broken and user habits be challenged. In this context, designers need to ask themselves how they can offer a non-disruptive, and indeed enjoyable, user experience while they are at the same time not meeting users' expectations. A concept whose employment can assist here is defamiliarization. Defamiliarisation has been coined by Viktor Shklovsky to account for an artistic technique that describes common things in an unfamiliar or strange way in order to bring vividness to audiences' perception of the familiar. In interface design, defamiliarization causes users' perceptions to slow down and their attention to be averted from the task before them to the process or system through which they are attempting the task. Such a 'distancing' can, and often does, facilitate a discovery process that yields the take-up of innovative features, and is rewarding.  In addition to assisting with user adoption, defamiliarization can also be employed to determine where a design can support a new user experience, and where, in contrast, the design is simply creating a usability problem by causing confusion or disorientation in users.

In the morning, each workshop member shared a brief presentation on our prior work on defamiliarization.  We then attempted to sketch out a framework for a process that has commonalities.  We realized that the framework is a typical User-Centered Design framework (more or less), but that includes certain exercises that involve defamiliarization.  We continued to work on refining this framework throughout the day.

Moreover, defamiliarization is a mindset for design that is applied when analyzing or synthesizing ideas and data. 

Defamiliarization Themes (A draft)

Here are themes that emerged as we presented our work.  

The product of a defamiliarization design process promotes:
  • Discovery
  • A vividness of perception
  • A shift of attention from the goal (content?) to the presentation (interface?)
  • Novelty in the familiar
  • An interaction that is inherently rewarding (aesthetically or emotionally)

Other important themes that emerged:
  • A balance between familiarization and defamiliarization is important for ensuring adoption
  • Defamiliarization is a useful technique because it reveals the often unspoken schemas at play in interactions.  These schemas can be cultural, physical, affordances, or cognitive metaphors.
  • Important to undergo multiple iterations as more of the underlying constraints are discovered through the process.
We also discussed some exercises or techniques that can be used during a defamiliarization exercise - primarily in a brainstorming session with designers and internal stakeholders at various points during the UCD cycle.


  • Strange hybrids (for instance, how can 
  • Appropriation in the wild (such as "Thoughtless Acts")
  • Chingodu
  • Memorystorming
  • Playing with Scale
  • Intentional Violations (cultural or physical)
  • Decontextualizing/Recontextualizing
  • Explaining to an Alien

Exercise - In the afternoon, we were challenged with coming up for a design for a music player, and paper prototypes and a protocol for testing it, using defamiliarization.  Our goal was to see how well our process sketch worked, given the UX exercise we engaged in.

Our team's challenge - use defamiliarization inspired by HUMOR

Brainstorming a tangible music player app!

The original napkin sketch of the concept

User Testing Our Paper Prototype: 
the participant is a bit defamiliarized...

Close-up of the Paper Prototype of our Music Player App:  
I want to build this for real!


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Where I'll Be Hangin' at CHI 2012

I've been spending the better part of the week reviewing the CHI 2012 conference schedule.  Man, I wish I could bring an Amaya Clone because there are many times I'd like to be in two, or even three, places at once! That being said, below is a schedule of where I'll be likely to be during the conference.

Friday, May 4 - 
  • Travel
Saturday, May 5 - 
Sunday, May 6 - 
  • Sightseeing and visiting with old colleagues
Monday, May 7 - 
  • 11 - 12:50 - Touch in Context, 16AB
  • 2:30 - 4 - Practical Statistics for Usability, Course
  • 2:30 - 3 - Brain and Body (Touche paper), Ballroom E
  • 4:30 - 6 - Hot Moves and Shape Changing Interfaces, Ballroom E
Tuesday, May 8 - 
  • 9:30-12:30 - UX Evaluation in Games and Entertainment, Course
  • 11:30 - 1 - Personas in Design, 16AB
  • 11:30 - 1 - Tools and Stats in Evaluation Studies, 12AB
  • 2:30 - 4 - Promoting Educational Opportunity, (McSig paper, 1st) 18AB
  • 2:30 - 4 - Tools of the Trade (Chronoviz Paper, UCSD, 3rd) 16AB
  • 5:30 - 7 - Interactivity Session
Wednesday, May 9 - 
  • 9:30-11 - Future Design, 18AB
  • 11:30 - 1 - Sensory Interaction Modalities, Ballroom E
  • 11:30 - 1 - Beyond Paper, 16AB
  • 4:30-5:50 - Tablets, Touch, Tables, 17AB
  • 6:30-8:30 - Hospitality Dinner Off-Site
Thursday, May 10 
  • Flight home

Monday, February 6, 2012

Studying Defamiliarization in Embodied & Tangible Interactions

[My position paper accepted at CHI 2012 for Defamiliarization in Innovation and Usability workshop]

Tangible and embodied interactions are becoming more and more prevalent in our day-to-day experiences with technology.  Take for instance the smartphone revolution, which has put touch screens in the hands of millions of end users [1].  A common goal amongst those who design tangible and embodied interactions is a desire to craft physical interactions with technology that fit with our innate abilities, such that they feel natural and intuitive to use at first ‘touch.’ 

One way to distinguish between well- and poorly-designed technologies is by noting the extent to which they require a person’s immediate attention during use (as opposed to attention upon the task, experience, or work product).  In contrast to a keyboard/command line interaction, a user in a direct manipulation experience, such as a touch interaction, may achieve such a sense of integration with the experience that the technology may become almost invisible in use.  Philosopher Andy Clark refers to these technologies as transparent, and contrasts them with those that are opaque – “requir[ing] skills and capacities that do not come naturally to the biological organism [2].”  Clark notes that technologies often require a period of training before they become transparent in use, the trajectory dependent upon how well such technologies summon our innate abilities and understanding of the physical world.  However, others require little training, and immediately feel so natural and intuitive that even babies [3] and non-humans [4] experience this transparency.

As tangible and embodied interactions become more and more pervasive in our daily dealings with technology, instances of defamiliarization may be even more jarring.  Designed based on principles and behaviors of everyday objects, these technologies are often feel deceptively familiar, until they’re not.  What prevents some moments from being a turn-off, and rather a motivating breakdown – essentially a “teachable moment” - is an interesting avenue understand more deeply – and parameterize – especially by those practitioners tasked with developing innovative ways of interacting with technology.

Learning to Use the Tools at Hand

What is the process by which a technology becomes transparent in use?  What is the role of defamiliarization in this process?  How can we a) study this process so to anticipate how a novel interaction may be adopted and used, and b) intentionally design for supporting it?
Heidegger’s conception of different modes of tool use may be an interesting avenue to explore in the context of embodied interactions with technology [5].  He posited that in one mode, ready-to-hand, a person uses a tool as though it were an extension of themselves.  In another mode, present-at-hand, a tool is treated as a separate entity and a person is aware and cognizant of its physical properties.  A third mode, located in between ready-to-hand and present-at-hand, which he calls “un-ready-to-hand,” can result from instances of disturbance – indeed defamiliarization - of a previously ready-to-hand state.  This moment of breakdown can result in automatic, real-time adaptive behavior, or in conscious and reflective phenomenal experiences.  When do such moments produce a user experience that is rewarding?  Why do other such experiences present usability problems, disorientation, and/or lead to abandonment of the technology?  Through exploring and understanding such moments, we can begin to identify patterns and develop a framework for conceptualizing defamiliarization, and ultimately anticipate how better to intentionally design for adoption.

Methods for Studying Defamiliarization Episodes
I have a history of using micro-ethnographic methods for studying technology adoption and change within real-world domains of practice.  My dissertation work involved studying professional training environments to document the practices by which novices begin to develop a professional perception in the context of tool use [6].  For instance, we reported on several action-scaffolding practices that instructors use with novices within intentionally designed contexts of tool-based action (such as guidance, see Figure 1).

Figure 1.  An instance of “guidance” in professional training.  The speaker on the right is an instructor, and she has both her hands directly on the novice’s, who is holding a dental instrument over a simulated mouth model

These practices facilitate the perceptual development of novices as they use the “tools of the trade” by emphasizing certain features and movements.  Some are made salient, whereas others fade into the background.  Such practices organize the perceptual field and prime the motor system of a novice.  Understanding these practices are important because technologies and tools are not adopted and learned in a vacuum – rather, they are often learned in a rich social context – ranging from a structured apprenticeship-type environment, to a loosely structured discovery environment.  This is essential to note because the process of defamiliarization may be dependent upon the embedded social environment.

I have also participated in research investigating a “smart cruise control” system for Nissan [7], studying instances of embodiment in car-driver interactions.  The smart cruise control system behaves differently than a typical one in that it attempts to maintain a constant distance between the driver’s vehicle and the vehicle in front.  We had drivers take a car out on the road equipped with this system and drive a familiar route, capturing the entire session on an extensive set of recording devices.  Content analysis of spoken interactions when drivers were reporting on instances of expectation violation indicated that they often switched from an ego-centric reference frame (the vehicle is an extension of themselves, e.g. "I'm moving into the right lane,"), to using a third-person framing when describing the vehicle, disparate from the self (e.g. "Uh, now it's speeding up!").  Micro-ethnographic methods, like content analysis of speech and gesture, show promise for elucidating moments of defamiliarization – such as alternate person-framing – and giving researchers evidence of the nature of such transitional states.

In my current work, I am challenged with developing methods to understand new and sometimes unfamiliar haptics interactions with hardware devices.  Studying adoption trajectories can reveal interesting moments of defamiliarization.  For instance, we have received reports that early in the adoption curve, haptic feedback must be “loud” in order for novices to make sense of it.  Over time, this can become irritating, as users begin to attune their haptic sense to subtle changes in the vibrotactile output.  However, understanding the boundaries of tolerance and usefulness is not easy in the absence of a) realistic contexts of use, and b) time and a number of interaction instances. Developing a set of methods for studying the process by which interactions with technology become transparent, and understanding why they don’t, is of great importance for developing useful and usable innovations.

Amaya Becvar Weddle is a Senior UX Research Analyst at Immersion Corporation, where she is developing new methods for researching haptics interactions.  Amaya has done ethnographic research on gesture and tool-based learning in vocational training environments through the course of her professional career.  She holds a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from UC San Diego and loves studying interactions with technology “in the wild [8].”  Amaya also greatly enjoys experimenting with and advancing the field of methods for studying how people and technology interact.

[2]    Clark, A. Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, technologies, and the future of human intelligence. Oxford University Press, 2003, 37.
[3]    UserExperiencesWorks  “A Magazine is an iPad That Does Not Work.”
[4]    Rautiocination “Iggy Investigates iPad.”
[5]    Heidegger, M. Being and Time. State University of New York Press, Albany, 1996.
[6]    Becvar Weddle, A. and James D. Hollan. “Scaffolding Embodied Practices in Professional Education.” Mind, Culture, and Activity: An International Journal, 17, (2010), 119-148.
[7]    McCall, J.C.; Achler, O.; Trivedi, M.M.; Haue, J.-B.; Fastrez, P.; Forster, D.; Hollan, J.D.; Boer, E.; "A collaborative approach for human-centered driver assistance systems," Intelligent Transportation Systems, 2004. Proceedings. The 7th International IEEE Conference. (2003), 663- 667.
[8]    Hutchins, E. Cognition in the Wild.  MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1995.