After reading the articles for this week (the first two, i couldn’t find the third.. is it up and I’m missing it?) , I was blown away by the explanation given of Heidegger’s theories in the Winograd & Flores article. It helped me make sense (I think) of many things… many ideas that were fluttering around my brain like kites with no strings.
I thoroughly enjoyed Winograd & Flores’ explanation of the dominating computer science philosophy. I agree now that this philosophy needs to change. I won’t rehash the article, but see if you don’t agree.
Heidegger’s example of the hammer while discussing readiness-at-hand, which I believe we touched on in class, really began to make sense to me. To quickly summarize:
In driving a nail with a hammer, I need not make use of any explicit representation of the hammer. My ability to act comes from my familiarity with hammering, not my knowledge of a hammer.
I think I get it now (maybe???). I see how this is so very important in HCI and computer science. As I sit and type this post, the keyboard is not of my concern. I’m not thinking about it. I’m not thinking about the world wide web, my internet connection, the symbols I’m typing, the English language, my Firefox browser, my MacBook, my firewall, the memory in my computer, the video card, etc. etc. etc. I’m thinking purely about my idea and how I’m formulating it on the fly. My cat at my feet isn’t really here, my home, my wife in the other room, you – all at your own homes…. You get my point. This seems really obvious now, but it wasn’t so obvious to me before … especially in the sense of HCI and application/web design.
It seems to me Heidegger was basically talking about selective attention. Our brain’s do it ALL the time, 24/7, without our knowledge or our permission. If the brain didn’t filter out the noise, we’d all go nuts. There would be no society, no language, no survival. It’s interesting to look at the effects produced by this phenomenon (oops, i used a buzz word). But it is also a structured process, like binary. On or off. At least that is what comes to my mind when I try to understand it.
And the notion of present-at-hand… When all of a sudden the thing that didn’t exist comes shooting out of the dark to claim our attention. Such as my keyboard, when I must have accidentally pressed the CAPS button and all my words were screaming at me. And the notion of the breakdown, which I agree is much better terminology to use then problems or problem solving, which allows us to notice the object fully for perhaps the first time.
The article then jumps around to understanding and they discuss that we need to focus on social-based understanding of understanding.. not individual-based. They also touch on the idea that mental representations are irrelevant. We need to switch from mental representation to patterned interaction. From an individualist approach to a social approach of understanding.
At the end of the reading, Winograd & Flores state two things that I love:
A design constitutes an interpretation of breakdown and a committed attempt to anticipate future breakdowns.
We design ourselves in language!