Human-Machine Interaction Design

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Technology to masses of India

Nowadays the thought of ‘Technology to masses’ is taking prime processing time of my mind. I am trying to explore the same & reasoning behind low penetration of that. At the same time I think of solutions for the problem.

· Accessibility
· Awareness
· Experience

Lacking of these three seems the major drivers for the problem. There is something else also besides all these listed down factors in the domain of it. Here come the design issues. All above arguments notwithstanding, one ultimately needs to get down to brass tacks: Assuming some form of computing is available & all above solved what compelling reason does a common man of India have to use it? This is the first domain I want to explore more.

In spite of solving individual problem of different domains the solution in general to help people understand their needs & think solution themselves for that seems more appealing to me this time. I want to explore the possibilities for this & if possible want to come up with some logical solution.

New paradigms always throw up new questions. And in the case of PC penetration and technology usage among the Indian masses, it’s quite clear that there is no one solution that will solve all problems and neither is anything going to happen overnight. So, there continues to exist dozens of linked problems (literacy, language, geography, content, women/children/adult access, business generation, etc.) But ultimately, it is only an amalgamation of the various ideologies and hypotheses that will throw up a suitable line of action. With this approach and collective initiative, we should find a solution to bringing ‘technology to the common man in India’ in a meaningful manner. For the sake of the nation, let’s hope this happens sooner rather than later. & Let’s do it.

Programming Language for Children

A conceptual gap exists between the representations that people use in their minds when thinking about a problem and the representations that Computers will accept when they are programmed. For most people, this gap is as wide as the Grand Canyon.

People who are not trained programmers have great difficulty in “moving closer to the system.” -The biggest problem is that even if they learn the techniques, they don’t like the result. They don’t want to think like computers; they want to control computers. During the past 30 years there have been many attempts to enable ordinary people,
people who are not professional programmers - to program computers. Researchers have invented languages such as Logo, Smalltalk, BASIC, Pascal, and HyperTalk. They have developed techniques such as structured programming. They have approached programming from a pedagogical perspective with technology, such as the goal-plan editor, and from an engineering perspective, with CASE tools. Each of these is a brilliant advance in its own right. Today, however, only a small percentage of people program computers, probably less than 1 percent. A single digit percentile is not success. We believe that there are at least two reasons for this low rate. First, traditional programming forces someone to learn a new language. Learning another language is difficult for most people. Consider the years of effort that it takes to master a foreign language. Second, programming languages are artificial languages rather than natural languages. They have a different epistemology. They deal with the unfamiliar world of computer data structures and algorithms.

The solution is to make programming more like thinking. A research project at Apple Computer has attempted to do this for children’s programming. The key ideas are to use representations in the computer that are analogous to the objects being represented and to allow those representations to be directly manipulated in the process of programming.

I have gone through a lot of research papers from Piaget to Papert on various subjects like children cognitive development, their thinking & learning process, computers & children. There are some words coined by different people like visual programming, programming by example, programming by demonstration. I would like to work in the field & explore them. I found some books also like Mind storms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas by S. Papert, Cocoa documentation from apple computers & started reading them. I am very fascinated about programming languages & actually am an experience programmer too.

Nowadays computers are compulsory in the school. The programming languages like LOGO are there in their course structure. I learnt BASIC in my 3rd standard. My Daddy taught me. As my project I want to do something in the field. Want to study my users. I will search for some possible solution to make them ready for the future of programming. The project will explore the fields of HCI, Contextual Inquiry, Communication theory, Visual Design and Interface design. I would like to have your suggestions on the subject.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Welcome to Human-Machine Interaction Design web log of Pranav Mistry

welcome to HMI. Here you will find ideas, thoughts, project updates by me. keep watching for updates