[AG-TECH] Human factors and AG

Allan Spale aspale at evl.uic.edu
Mon Sep 2 17:25:51 CDT 2002


Very interesting conversations on this topic.  I believe there is an AG
human factors mailing list provided by ANL (however, I believe it has no
postings because I subscribe but receive no mail from there...unless I am
no longer subscribed).  The mailing list is ag-hf at mcs.anl.gov.


On Thu, 29 Aug 2002, Wenjun Liu wrote:

> So many people have responded to this question (though still not as many as
> responses to some of the true AG-TECH questions), it is like a collection of
> what we know and care all about human factors and AG, which makes me believe
> a systematic treatment of this topic may help a little bit.
> (This email is too long to be an email. So I shortened it below for quick
> read. Long version is attached behind for interested readers.)
> Short version:
> "Human Factors" imply cognitive factors that were focuses of traditional
> HCI. What we are talking about these days is actually more than cognitive
> human factors. Computer-mediated group activities and collaborative work are
> what we are interested in and what CSCW is about.
> CSCW is not successful so far due to technical and institutional problems.
> Technical problem is mainly difficulties to translate thick descriptions
> generated by CSCW studies of the sociality of work into practical system
> design guidelines. Pattern languages with an emphasis on interactions
> between the physical and the social provide a promising solution to this
> technical problem. For AG, understanding everyday work practices of AG users
> and their physical (technical) requirements is a systematic way to get
> involved in HF (for lack of a better term) efforts.
> Long version:
> 1. Human Factors
> First all, I guess "Human Factors" is no longer an appropriate term for the
> subject we are talking about. It has been 20 years now since the first major
> HCI conference was held in 1982 and there are have been dramatic changes in
> this field. "Human Factors" more or less means cognitive factors of human
> users of computer systems. Its main purpose is to identify those cognitive
> factors for better user interface design. With the coming of larger computer
> systems that go beyond a workstation, people soon realized that simply
> considering cognitive factors is not enough for system design. Other aspects
> of human behavior, for example, interaction with other people and artifacts
> in a complex technological environment, play an important role in our daily
> work practice and should be considered in system design process. This is the
> beginning of CSCW, whose main purpose is to better support computer-mediated
> group activities, a striking change from emphasis on mere individual
> cognition and user interface design.
> CSCW has not met with a great deal of success so far. Many CSCW systems do
> not cause severe problems; they simply sit there underused. The lack of
> successful CSCW systems is due to both technical and institutional problems.
> Technically, it's not easy to translate thick descriptions generated by CSCW
> studies of the sociality of work into practical system design guidelines.
> CSCW-ists find that in the process of translating their detailed accounts
> into formal requirements, the richness and significance of their work often
> get lost, distorted or misconstrued. On the other hand, designers and
> developers, whose job is to implement new technology and redesign work,
> often find that it's hard for them to use those lengthy analytic ethnography
> found in CSCW. Institutionally, it is easy to get a bunch of engineers and
> social scientists temporarily together but hard to benefit from those
> fleeting level meetings and hallway conversations. As someone said,
> engineers are, by and large, "pleasant and well-mannered people" and social
> scientists "occasionally have surprisingly useful things to say". But to
> have impact, it has to be embedded in the design process, which is not the
> case at this time for most projects. What is more likely to happen in the
> near future is to see a few more individual students working at both
> graduate and undergraduate level on this area and get their theses done
> without leaving many impacts.
> The technical difficulties mentioned above are quickly becoming the new
> focus of CSCW and efforts in this area are often called bridging the gap
> between the social and the technical. There are various solutions offered so
> far. Here I would like to introduce one solution that seems promising and
> acceptable to both sides: pattern languages.
> Before object-oriented programming and design patterns became popular among
> computer scientists, pattern languages were already discussed by architects
> (especially Christopher Alexander) who were seeking a timeless way to build
> towns, villages, and buildings. Pattern languages try to prototype certain
> arrangements of building that can be used again and again. Patterns are
> grounded in the social, with a focus on interactions between the physical
> forms of the built environment and personal and social behavior of the
> inhabitants within it. Different patterns are appropriate for different
> activities. For example, Street Café is built along a busy path for casual
> meeting, people watching, etc. The Flow Through Rooms and Office Connections
> are meant for spontaneous interactions with spatial components of the
> workplace to accommodate activities and roles. Any given pattern may have
> smaller patterns inside and can participate in larger patterns. The whole
> idea is very similar to classes and sub-classes in object-oriented
> programming but has a strong emphasis on interactions between the physical
> and the social.
> Pattern languages provide an answer to problems of translating thick
> descriptions generated by CSCW studies of the sociality of work into
> practical system design guidelines. It is acceptable to social scientists
> who want to go beyond mere case studies of specific workplace and generalize
> their results for broader use. It endorses the ideal type concept in social
> science first used by Max Weber and followed by many. It is useful for
> engineers who usually do not have time to digest thick descriptions of the
> sociality of work of many CSCW studies. To design a specific computer system
> to support certain activities, a pattern of those activities with its social
> and physical (technical) requirements should provide a direct guideline for
> design. Besides, pattern language sounds more familiar to engineers working
> in OOP.
> 2. AG
> Back to AG. Many HF issues raised in AG community are actually technical
> problems, for example, node operator and quality of video. With technical
> improvements, I believe AG will be node operator-less and quality of video
> should make interactions over AG as close to face-to-face interactions as
> possible. But certain social problems will still exist even with better
> technology, for instance, how will interactions over AG (or "intermediation"
> in general) facilitate or inhibit certain activities, for example
> collaboration? Pattern languages of workplace and activities within it
> should help us better understand what work practices we want to support and
> what are their physical and technical requirements. Hence, understanding
> everyday work practice of AG users and start working on patterns of
> workplace activities of those users seems to me an appropriate way to get
> involved in efforts started by HCI and CSCW.
> Wenjun
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Julia Shiela Mullen" <jsm at WPI.EDU>
> To: <ag-tech at mcs.anl.gov>
> Sent: Wednesday, August 28, 2002 2:48 PM
> Subject: [AG-TECH] Human factors and AG
> >
> > Hi -
> >
> > We have an undergraduate who is interested in
> > human factors and the Access Grid.  At WPI
> > we require each student to complete a major
> > project which relates technology and society.
> > (This project is a graduation requirement.)
> > The descriptions and content of such projects
> > is fairly flexible.  We are currently at the
> > beginning of her project experience so I am
> > turning to the AG community for suggestions.
> >
> > What is the AG community most interested in
> > with regards to 'human factors and the AG'?
> > Is there a wish list of studies that folks
> > would like to see?   Are there project ideas
> > that we just didn't have the manpower for?
> >
> > I welcome any and all suggestions - I will
> > present them to the student and we will
> > see what interests her.
> >
> > Thanks for your help on this -
> >
> >   Julie
> >
> >
> > ------------------------------------------
> >   Julia S. Mullen, Ph.D
> >   Academic Computing Application Scientist
> >   Computing and Communications Center
> >   Worcester Polytechnic Institute
> >   Worcester, MA
> >   phone: 508.831.6054
> >   fax:   508.831.5680
> >   email: jsm at wpi.edu
> >
> >
> >

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