Understanding Context

Hinton, A. (2014). Understanding Context. O’Reilly.

Whenever we’re trying to figure out what one thing means in relation to something else, we say we’re trying to understand its context. 3

The embodiment argument claims that our brains are not the only things we use for thought and action; instead our bodies are an important part of how cognition works. 42

Affordance is about the structural and chemical properties that involve relationships between elements in the environment, some of which happen to be human beings. 55

[O]ne reason why lab-based testing can be a problem: test subjects can be primed to assume too much about the tested artefact, and they can overthink their interactions because they know they’re being observed. Out in the world, they are generally less conscious of their behaviours and improved actions. 63

Invariants are persistently stable properties of the environment; they persists as unchanging, in the midst of change. 87

[P]erception depends upon invariant structure, we see it and use it whenever it seems to be offered to use, even if a software code release can upset those invariants in am moment’s time. 93

[U]sers perceive the passage of time differently depending on context … Ten clicks might be fine, if the user is getting value out of each one (and feels like she’s getting where she needs to go); three clicks can feel like forever if the user is floundering in confusion. 109

When we sweat over content inventories and taxonomies, or we devise iconography standards and style guides, we are factually working with the beams, girders, ducts, and panels that create invariant structure for organisations, markets, and user experiences. 170

Our immediate experience of the environment is a deeply intermingled mixture of signification, affordance, cultural conditioning, and interpretation. Similar studies confirm that the aesthetic styling of websites can strongly affect users’ opinions of their value. 179

Designing … objects based mainly on concerns of aesthetics and style runs the risk of ignoring the most important challenges of simulating affordance through semantic function. 226

There’s always a point at which simplifying the environment obscures too much important information. The best way to handle a situation like this is not to fake simplicity but to embrace the complexity and clarify it by making it more understandable. 243

Mapping is action toward understanding. 264

Information architecture can’t concern itself with only the surface labeling within a particular context – it has to consider the cross-contextual meaning of such a label, and what rules behind the scenes might change what the label signifies. 289

Ontology is a way of constructing a fully defined label; taxonomy is a way of associating labels with one another in a system of meaning. 354

Taxonomies are the ways we arrange the world with language. 361

Design for Dasein

Wendt, T. (2015). Design for Dasein.

For Heidegger, the essential qualities of an object are not the physical properties but rather the actions it allows users to perform. We know something by what we do it with. Form essentially means nothing to Heidegger. 24

At its core, phenomenology is concerned with how we make sense of the world, and the objects we use are the means by which the world reveals itself. 45

Design might be the most meaningful demonstration of how empathy plays itself out as a conscious phenomenon. That is, design as a field relies on empathy, not simply to fuel the design process but also because the nature of design inserts a gap between those who make an those who use. 57

the problem-solution paradox states that we cannot think about solutions until we understand the problem, and we cannot understand a problem until we think about solutions. 73

The designer creates the conditions of possibility for certain outcomes, but the actual outcomes lie outside both the designer and the user. They exist in a system of entities including designers, users, and object/experiences. 105

The complexity of experience design lies in its attempt to do what its name implies: to design experiences. We can design objects according to intention, constraints, specifications, etc., but the experience of those objects is always idiosyncratic and inherently subjective. 117

Experience designers, then, are the ones discovering those purposes and attempting to understand both the conditions of purpose and the potential variation of introducing a new thing into the existing system. 121

The failure of experience design is the inability for many practitioners to differentiate between the interaction and the experience of an interaction. 137

Ethnographic methods provide insight into systems of meaning that blend categories commonly separated by design. [E]thnography, at least in its anthropological form, tends to not separate designers from users but rather views them within the same system. 151

Experience design always has an object; it is the experience designer who crafts the experience of products and services by ensuring an understanding of things and meaning systems. The designer is concerned with both systems and things, attempting to create the conditions of possibility for intended results, and to craft clear affordances and play with the movement from embodiment to external. 155