Mise-en-scène of HCI Designers

In the last class discussion, I broached about mise-en-scène for film theory. I had taken a film theory and history class when I was a freshman. Although I forgot almost about that lecture now, when I met the question 4, I came across a term, mise-en-scène. I think HCI Designers should have their mise-en-scène for their works. I’d like to apply to a view of HCI designer’s mise-en-scène from a view of movie director’s mise-en-scène.

Mise-en-scène is a French term and originates in the theater. It means, literally, “put in the scene.” For film, it has a broader meaning, and refers to almost everything that goes into the composition of the shot, including the composition itself: framing, movement of the camera and characters, lighting, set design and general visual environment, even sound as it helps elaborate the composition.

Movie directors regard mise-en-scène as a representation means that they are able to command. I think mise-en-scène is like their unique style and a sort of a seal of creators. Therefore, I’d like to make a relation between mise-en-scène in film for space construction by film director and mise-en-scène for lifeworld that HCI designer have to design.

The first thing that I want to talk as a constituent of mise-en-scène for space construction is FRAME. FRAME in film is a frame in a square to make up mise-en-scène. In other words, it is a kind of a border to define an area of a screen. Then, what is the meaning of the FRAME to HCI designer?? They have to know how can define the square area to apply for users context in the lifeworld and have to define the area where people can act without constraints.

The second is ICON. It is one of the means to categorize and analyze with visual motive and style. That is an ICON, which is made up the image by costume, set, color, and texture. Therefore, I think HCI designer should give users the motivation and have the users pay attention to using design works through various, for example, signs, symbols, characters, the meanings of colors, and the cultural context. I believe that designers can extract interaction between users and the designed artifacts from those.

The third one is ANGLE. When a director takes objects by a camera, he or she who constructs the screen space keeps up the angle to express his or her perspective and criticism. It is no wonder that it is one of the basic of HCI designer. When they design something for users, a goal for it should be concurred by users and should focus on users’ level just like eyelevel of camera.

The last one is COMPOSITION. When a director wants stable and harmonious images, he or she frequently use the highly symmetrical composition. In my point of view, HCI designers have to solve keeping balance between lifeworld and their design works for computer interaction by users’ purpose to provide stable and congruous experience.

In Wikipedia, it says mise-en-scène is “grand undefined term”, but that is not because of a lack of definitions. Rather, it’s because the term has so many different meanings that there is little consensus about its definition. From this definition of mise-en-scène, I feel a similarity that the design process has so many different ways to approach for a purpose and a goal but it is not easy to reach consensus by all the users.


  1. jeffreybardzell

    This is an excellent post! I love how you took a complex concept from film theory, broke it down into parts, and then thought about each of those parts in the context of HCI. Excellent post!

  2. thismarty

    … I feel a similarity that the design process has so many different ways to approach for a purpose and a goal but it is not easy to reach consensus by all the users.

    I used to think I understood the design process in a very formal, structured, dependable, almost even templatized form. That was before this class though – before phenomonolgy, phenomenomethodology, structuralism, Garfinkle, Heidegger, intersubjectivity, lifeworlds and horizons, bits as material, and so on. Now, I’m not so sure. 😉

    At this point, I see the potnetial value in these tools and perspectives we’ve discussed, and my intuition tells me they could be very valuable in informing the design processes I have used and taught. What I need now though is to see *how* they work in a design process. Some workflow examples, success-stories, and other examples of how all of this lives in a design process – that’s what I need now.


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