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Ideologies in HCI:
A Semiotic Perspective
Jan Brejcha, Ph.D.
Prague, Czech Republic
Crete, June 26, 2014
Introduction
• The user-interface (UI) is the meeting point between the
system, user, and designer.
• Each of these participants bring into the interaction their set
of values, goals and beliefs (mental models).
• The same holds true for all the stakeholders in the design
process.
• The user needs to make sense out the presented UI,
recognize her role in the interaction.
• Often, there lies an ideology behind the designed
interaction.
UI as a gateway
"The interface is this state of 'being on the boundary.' It is that
moment where one significant material is understood as distinct
from another significant material. In other words, an interface is
not a thing; an interface is always an effect. It is always a
process or a translation."
(Galloway, 2009)
UI tells us not only, how to read an information, but it selects
the information beforehand:
• The UI thus mediates us an object/idea. (Heidegger, 2004;
Derrida, 1993)
• The UI thus always privileges the mediated object/idea.
(Derrida, 1993)
Semiotic foundation
Semiotics is a theory of sense-making:
•Lexical dimension: Generation of basic elements
•Syntax: grammar constituting relations between the
perceivable elements
•Semantics: the “meaning” the UI represents and enables
•Pragmatics: governs how elements of the UI are used, or
understood in their conventional and symbolic form. Using
rhetorics and persuasion techniques in the UI lead users to
interact in a predetermined way
What is ideology?
A "logically coherent system of symbols which, within a more
or less sophisticated conception of history, links the cognitive
and evaluative perception of one's social condition -
especially its prospects for the future - to a program of
collective action for the maintenance, alteration or
transformation of society."
(Mullins, 1972)
Ideology structure
• Cognitive power: “cognition and retention of information”,
when we identify and symbolize our recurrent experience
• Evaluative power: based on this understanding of
information. Political ideology, "incorporates evaluations of
what is conceived" and can anticipate "possible events and
conditions”
• Action orientation: based on the power of the ideology to
"communicate conditions, evaluations, ideals, and
purposes among members of groups (...) and thereby
facilitates the mobilization and direction of energies and
resources for common political undertakings”
• Logical consistency: ”the ideology must 'make sense'
and not result in logical absurdities”
Ideology evolution
Ideology always uses the prevalent media:
• Formerly it was present through text, and image
• At present it is enacted by software, and the UI
Action orientation
Cognitive power
Evaluative power
Logical coherence
Image and ideology
"The concept of ideology is grounded, as the word suggests, in
the notion of mental entities or 'ideas' that provide the
materials for thought. Insofar as these ideas are understood as
images - as pictorial, graphic signs imprinted or projected on
the medium of consciousness - then ideology, the science of
ideas, is really an iconology, a theory of imagery."
(WJT Mitchell, 1986)
Software and ideology
Transition from image to software:
• Ideology builds an ”imaginary relationship to real
conditions" (Althusser, 1971)
• Simulation builds an “'imaginary relationship to ideological
conditions.” In short, “ideology gets modeled in software.”
(Galloway, 2009)
Action orientation
Cognitive power
Evaluative power
Logical coherence
Marcus: Green Machine
UI ideologies
So far we've seen the relation of ideology with image and
techno-image, the main distinctions being:
• ideology has a direct relation to image
• in the image all of the ideological elements are present (at
least in connotation)
• when images are computer-generated (techno-images) the
ideology creation shifts beyond human reach
Different aspects of UI ideologies are being discussed by:
• Jacob Nielsen
• Emily Chang
• Bradley Dilger
Nielsen: Hypertext ideology
According to J Nielsen (2004) there are 3 ideologies underlying
web page design:
• user-empowering approach when the hypertext "makes
individual users the masters of the content and lets them
access and manipulate it in any way they please."
• choice-obfuscation (e.g. when navigation links are not
readily visible) or
• user oppression (when user choice is limited or eliminated,
e.g. in splash screens or ads)
posílení uživatele
potlačení voleb
utlačování uživatele
Chang: The semantic space of UI
ideology
According to a series of interview with web-designers, Emily
Chang (2006) completed a list of the principal terms used in UI
design:
• simple
• fast
• intuitive
• social
• minimal
• choice
• useful
• fun
All of these support mainly the user-empowering principle, see
e.g. in the semantic web, open-source movement, wikipedia
and the hacker-ethic.
Dilger: Ideology of ease
Bradley Dilger (2000) presents the ideology of ease, which
divides users into computer illiterate and techies and
suggests, that this "will ensure that the historical boundaries
of gender, race and class are reproduced in computing
practices for years to come."
Dilger states, furthermore, that ease:
• is gendered
• differs in meaning in work v. leisure
• pictures are privileged
• is connected to speed
• is matched by a loss in choice, security, privacy, or
health
Conclusion
• Ideologies continue to live in the 21. century, perhaps in a
less obvious way
• Different ideologies in the UI are being identified
• In the UI they build upon the Western concept of modernity
• The human control of ideologies shifts in favor of computer
control
For a greater awareness of the "program" present in the UI
there is a need for:
• education in the way the new media work
• an analysis method of how new products shape the society
• a tool for user-annotation of the UI semantics and
pragmatics
Ideologies in HCI:
A Semiotic Perspective
Jan Brejcha, Ph.D.
Prague, Czech Republic
jan@brejcha.name
http://jan.brejcha.name
+420 602 277 588

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Ideologies in HCI: A Semiotic Perspective

  • 1. Ideologies in HCI: A Semiotic Perspective Jan Brejcha, Ph.D. Prague, Czech Republic Crete, June 26, 2014
  • 2. Introduction • The user-interface (UI) is the meeting point between the system, user, and designer. • Each of these participants bring into the interaction their set of values, goals and beliefs (mental models). • The same holds true for all the stakeholders in the design process. • The user needs to make sense out the presented UI, recognize her role in the interaction. • Often, there lies an ideology behind the designed interaction.
  • 3. UI as a gateway "The interface is this state of 'being on the boundary.' It is that moment where one significant material is understood as distinct from another significant material. In other words, an interface is not a thing; an interface is always an effect. It is always a process or a translation." (Galloway, 2009) UI tells us not only, how to read an information, but it selects the information beforehand: • The UI thus mediates us an object/idea. (Heidegger, 2004; Derrida, 1993) • The UI thus always privileges the mediated object/idea. (Derrida, 1993)
  • 4.
  • 5. Semiotic foundation Semiotics is a theory of sense-making: •Lexical dimension: Generation of basic elements •Syntax: grammar constituting relations between the perceivable elements •Semantics: the “meaning” the UI represents and enables •Pragmatics: governs how elements of the UI are used, or understood in their conventional and symbolic form. Using rhetorics and persuasion techniques in the UI lead users to interact in a predetermined way
  • 6. What is ideology? A "logically coherent system of symbols which, within a more or less sophisticated conception of history, links the cognitive and evaluative perception of one's social condition - especially its prospects for the future - to a program of collective action for the maintenance, alteration or transformation of society." (Mullins, 1972)
  • 7. Ideology structure • Cognitive power: “cognition and retention of information”, when we identify and symbolize our recurrent experience • Evaluative power: based on this understanding of information. Political ideology, "incorporates evaluations of what is conceived" and can anticipate "possible events and conditions” • Action orientation: based on the power of the ideology to "communicate conditions, evaluations, ideals, and purposes among members of groups (...) and thereby facilitates the mobilization and direction of energies and resources for common political undertakings” • Logical consistency: ”the ideology must 'make sense' and not result in logical absurdities”
  • 8. Ideology evolution Ideology always uses the prevalent media: • Formerly it was present through text, and image • At present it is enacted by software, and the UI
  • 9.
  • 11. Image and ideology "The concept of ideology is grounded, as the word suggests, in the notion of mental entities or 'ideas' that provide the materials for thought. Insofar as these ideas are understood as images - as pictorial, graphic signs imprinted or projected on the medium of consciousness - then ideology, the science of ideas, is really an iconology, a theory of imagery." (WJT Mitchell, 1986)
  • 12. Software and ideology Transition from image to software: • Ideology builds an ”imaginary relationship to real conditions" (Althusser, 1971) • Simulation builds an “'imaginary relationship to ideological conditions.” In short, “ideology gets modeled in software.” (Galloway, 2009)
  • 13.
  • 16. UI ideologies So far we've seen the relation of ideology with image and techno-image, the main distinctions being: • ideology has a direct relation to image • in the image all of the ideological elements are present (at least in connotation) • when images are computer-generated (techno-images) the ideology creation shifts beyond human reach Different aspects of UI ideologies are being discussed by: • Jacob Nielsen • Emily Chang • Bradley Dilger
  • 17. Nielsen: Hypertext ideology According to J Nielsen (2004) there are 3 ideologies underlying web page design: • user-empowering approach when the hypertext "makes individual users the masters of the content and lets them access and manipulate it in any way they please." • choice-obfuscation (e.g. when navigation links are not readily visible) or • user oppression (when user choice is limited or eliminated, e.g. in splash screens or ads)
  • 21. Chang: The semantic space of UI ideology According to a series of interview with web-designers, Emily Chang (2006) completed a list of the principal terms used in UI design: • simple • fast • intuitive • social • minimal • choice • useful • fun All of these support mainly the user-empowering principle, see e.g. in the semantic web, open-source movement, wikipedia and the hacker-ethic.
  • 22. Dilger: Ideology of ease Bradley Dilger (2000) presents the ideology of ease, which divides users into computer illiterate and techies and suggests, that this "will ensure that the historical boundaries of gender, race and class are reproduced in computing practices for years to come." Dilger states, furthermore, that ease: • is gendered • differs in meaning in work v. leisure • pictures are privileged • is connected to speed • is matched by a loss in choice, security, privacy, or health
  • 23. Conclusion • Ideologies continue to live in the 21. century, perhaps in a less obvious way • Different ideologies in the UI are being identified • In the UI they build upon the Western concept of modernity • The human control of ideologies shifts in favor of computer control For a greater awareness of the "program" present in the UI there is a need for: • education in the way the new media work • an analysis method of how new products shape the society • a tool for user-annotation of the UI semantics and pragmatics
  • 24. Ideologies in HCI: A Semiotic Perspective Jan Brejcha, Ph.D. Prague, Czech Republic jan@brejcha.name http://jan.brejcha.name +420 602 277 588