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t3knomanser's Fustian Deposits

Some notes on technological complexity

How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policy

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Mad science gone horribly, horribly wrong(or right).

Some notes on technological complexity

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Given all my Smart Reality musings lately, I've been thinking about some of the things we can do to rate the complexity- or really, the "quality" of user interactions with technology- and I'm not just talking computer technology here. Or even complex technology- a bow and arrow has a user interface. A car has a UI. A club has a UI. A hammer, etc.

Humans have a natural repository of motions, a "library" of kinesthetic interactions, if you will. Walking, grasping, etc. are ingrained traits. We also can learn new ones, which rapidly become habits. One part of evaluating any UI design for any technology is to examine how it leverages our library of kinesthetic interactions. A club, for example, does a very good job of using a natural striking motion and amplifying it. Fire-making, on the other hand, requires its own highly specialized library of techniques. A good UI then, would leverage both the "natural" repository and the "learned" repository- the keyboard and mouse, for example, has already been built up as a common part of everyone's kinesthetic library.

By the way- that perspective also explains why Dvorak keyboards will never see broad acceptance. Keyboarding is already an unnatural set of motions, and even though Dvorak is superior in every way, it also becomes an entirely new library of unnatural motions to learn.

But it's not just body complexity. There's also temporal complexity. Over the course of the user's interaction with your device, how much do they have to remember from one part of the interaction to the next? With a hammer, the value is almost nil. With fire-making, on the other hand, there is a chain of related steps that must be performed in order, and that order varies based on conditions.

Where there's time, there is also spatial complexity. In the course of an interaction, how much information needs to be maintained about the physical space in which the interaction occurs. A hammer requires a small amount of this, while archery or other ranged weapons require more- especially when dealing with moving targets. Flying an airplane requires an incredible amount of both temporal and spatial complexity, as does driving a car- so much so, that our cars provide mirrors to shrink that spatial complexity and we have rules about how close to space cars to avoid the temporal complexity.

The last one I've come up with so far is the basic ROI- given the amount of effort you put into the interaction, what is the return you get out. Archery, for example, has a poor ROI compared to firearms. A hammer has a good ROI compared with a rock.
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