Chapter 2: Understanding and Conceptualizing Interaction

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The main purpose of this assignment is for you to understand how seemingly similar artifacts can have quite different conceptual models underlying their design and that these can greatly affect the way they are used. Having different underlying conceptual models provides different ways of achieving the core activities of 'planning ahead and reminding'. For example, traditionally, a paper-based calendar (diary) was designed for one person to use; they enter appointments, birthdays, etc., that then act as external reminders each day (or week, month) as to what they have to do. Online calendars, such as Outlook, and iCal, are much more powerful, allowing the user (and others they have given permission to use) to enter items and track their schedule from anywhere, that can be synchronized using different devices. Different views (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly) can be switched between and different calendars can be combined and customized (e.g. home, work, all). Other functions include automatic scheduling and reminders of regular meetings and appointments. Many people have switched over or have only ever used online calendars.

Wall planners were designed for use in a public place, where entries could be made by a number of people and which were available for everyone to see. Their function is to show at a glance when people are planning to take their vacations or when there are certain events that are important to that group (implying that no-one is allowed to take their vacation during those periods). They also provide an externalisation that constrains the planning process. For example, it provides a physical mechanism for allowing only a certain number of people to take a vacation at the same time. While many organizations have switched to using shared calendars online – the external representation of the office wall planner - persists in many places.

We have just outlined some of the main differences between personal versus shared, and paper-based versus online planning tools. As you examine them further you should find many more.

When thinking about what metaphors have been used for paper-based and online tools, think about how the abstract concept of time has been concretized. In our everyday lives we always talk about time in metaphorical ways (e.g. spending time). Think about how much of our everyday usage of such metaphorical terms underlies the design of calendars and how these have been extended.

Talking to people and asking them specific questions about their usage of the different calendars can also be quite revealing. You may find, especially for online ones, that they use them differently to the way the designers intended. For example, it is common now for people to use web calendars both for letting everyone else know what they are doing plus as a personal organizer to remind themselves.