Come back to HCI, part Ⅱ.

I like how Aaron reflects the film theory back to HCI. The similarities and dissimilarities between these two are really good insights to review HCI.

Another topic covered both in the reading and the question for in-class exercise might be “realism” and “formalism.” I am not sure if I understand them right. Concerning realism, cinema phtographically copy physical reality. As to formalism, cinema stylistically transfigures physical reality. Trying get back to HCI design, I think to copy physical reality might mean to copy the “experience” and “common sense” of users. For example, the icon design usually uses existing cognition of human beings to make users know what it refers to in a short time.

This is part of it. But the other part, “formalism”, is more tougher to me to understand and to clarify how it relates to HCI. I am trying to address it a little bit. For now, I think formalism to HCI is somehow like what Jeff claimed in class: shaping culture. Mainstream culture is reality. HCI design not only represents this reality, but shapes and develops something new to put back into the mainstream culture. In this way, the reality is transfigured. Also, the interface also communicates particular messages; the designer of the interface design experience, not only copy it.

I might be wrong on both of these. But it is really interesting to see how film theory could be used in HCI. I wonder how HCI designers define physical reality, but it must lead to the discussion of phenomenology. 😀


  1. thismarty

    I think I may have made a comment previously tothis effect, but this line of discussion has a parallel in visual design where folks often talk about the notion of poetic versus scientific portrayal in visual interpretations of things – the former being those that are more abstract and the latter being those that are more literal.

    One aspect of the dichotemy that is of interest is the way that poetic portrayals engage their audience. Since poetic things are designed to invoke and remind, rather than outright tell, they need to be interpretted, as oppossed to scientific works, which spell everything right out). Thus, poetic stuff engages its audience intellectually. Upshots of this can include a deeper sense of involvement and even ownership over the experience. I guess, in this respect, poetic things seek to really exploit the notion of consturcted meaning.

    You can see how this is mirrored in the film dichotemy that Jeff recently introduced us to. Its interesting to consider the way this stuff could play out in HCI products as well, and not just the visual components, but in the interactions and even the overall experience.

  2. jeffreybardzell

    I think you are both on the right track.

    In classical film theory, the basic issue seems to be that realist film shows reality more or less as it is, but formalist or expressionist film shows reality as interpreted by the director. This was an important question, because the realists claimed that by simply portraying reality, it was up to the viewer to interpret it (implying that expressionism was some kind of propaganda or dreamy nonsense). But an expressionist could counter that film is an art, and the artistic vision of the director can craft a greater aesthetic vision, a more “true” reality.

    In later film and literary theory (which had similar controversies), the argument was made (and made convincingly) that “realist” depictions in film and novels are themselves a “style,” and that it is *impossible* to simply capture reality, because it is always framed, edited, and focalized. In this argument, more or less everything is formalist/expressionist, it’s just that some are more honest about that fact than others.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s