Desktop Metaphor
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Desktop Metaphor
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Statement of Purpose - OpenSPACE

Statement of Purpose - OpenSPACE | Desktop Metaphor |
  • Critically assess the desktop metaphor (DM) in order to compare its offerings to the needs and wants of contemporary users
  • Determine how the DM aligns with the principles of Human Computer Interaction, HCI
  • Demonstrate how the computer has changed from an intended single user workstation, to a multi-purpose tool 
  • Outline a possible alternative to the DM, that is more in sync with the principles of HCI
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DM And Collaboration

  • Technology is about users' interactions with other users
  • DM as a "closed" space
  • Instant e-access to individual documents
  • Shared access to a shared draft
  • Shared access to a shared desktop
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Design Manifesto

I. Computer human interaction is shifting, striving to be more like human human interaction.


II. Computers need to be reflective of living in the moment, the ever changing context.

III. Computers need to reflect the collaborative and social potential of technology.

IV. Computers need to be customizable.

V. Interface design should be three-dimensional.

VI. Computers need to generate their own source of energy.

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Target Users

Target Users | Desktop Metaphor |
  • Geered toward the average computer user
  • Balances ease with customizability and functionality
  • Doesn’t have too high of a learning curve
  • Streamlined, intuitive design suitable for all ages and backgrounds
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Design Strategies/Tactics

We propose then a space that is more encompassing of the user's reality and variety of uses of the system. Instead of a desktop and its conventions associated with traditional notions of work, we suggest openSPACE. OpenSPACEs are customizable environments designed by the user, allowing them to create a digital space reflective of their needs, wants, and interests. Instead of using folders to organize items regardless of the type of item, OpenSPACEs lets the user create structures of their choice. These could be representative of the content within or not. As an example, MP3s no longer have to be stored in a folder marked "my music", but could rather be stored on a MP3 player or other music icon of the user's choice. However, music could also be stored in the icon of a palm tree. 

The “building blocks” of a new design: type, images, color, patterns, concept

Narration and sequence:

  • Reality-based tasks (can be very meta – ex. icon-object computer opens the internet)
  • Parallels people’s everyday routines

Visual hierarchy:

  • Larger visuals (“icon-objects”) are more prominent, while smaller visuals recede
  • The hierarchy is “zoomable,” making the relative size of the icon-object somewhat arbitrary

Progressive disclosure:

  • Zooming reveals more options
  • Interaction with icon-objects reveals content (desk to drawer to folder to document)

Advance organizers:

  • Menus offer headings and subheadings for more options

Matching content structure and visual structure:

  • Visiual structures may be “realistic” but customizability gives license to creativity (“idealistic”)

Viewing “units”

  • “Units” are the screen, icon-objects, and menus

Information sequence, chunking, and density:

  • Realistic displays, chunking based on logical organization
  • Example: DVD tower can be organized by shelves representing genres or type of video (home videos, movies, TV shows, etc.)
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DM and Power Management

DM and Power Management | Desktop Metaphor |

- In the current desktop metaphor, battery life is indicated by the battery icon, and the machine is powered by either AC or DC charge.

- A ubiquitous and intelligent interface should be one that is intelligent enough to be self-powered and self-sustaining.

- openSPACE interface be available on systems that utilize photovoltaics, freeing the user from reliance on traditional forms of energy.

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  • SPACEs are intended to serve as an extension of the user
  • Allows for user’s creative input to emphasize each user’s individuality and interests
  • They can be as idealistic or realistic as a user desires (the default template offers intuitive icon-objects, designed to parallel their real-world counterparts)
  • Comes programmed with pre-built, or stock, icon-objects that can be placed anywhere in the SPACE
  • Users may draw and program their own SPACES and icon-objects
  • User-generated content may be uploaded and shared
  • Icon-objects can be linked to applications, programs, macros, websites, and other tasks; or serve as décor
  • Décor options are virtually endless - vases, posters of bands, etc.
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What We Have Learned So Far

What We Have Learned So Far | Desktop Metaphor |


The Desktop Metaphor 

is an interface metaphor which is a set of unifying concepts used by graphical user interfaces to help users more easily interact with the computer. It provides a space for displaying the content of currently active documents in overlapping windows, while the hierarchical file system facilitates access to stored documents and tools.



developed as sub-disciplines in three fields: human factors, management information systems, and computer science to study understand the forces in play and thus will influence our future.


Early and Important History of UI

1960s: Ted Nelson describes hypertext as non-linear browsing structure

1968: Douglas Engelbart, Stanford Research Institute, “father of the GUI”

1970: XEROX establishes Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) to develop first mainstream GUI

1985: Microsoft Windows 1.0


Main Principles/ Designers

Mark Weiser, Bell and Dourish - Ubiquitous Computing
"The best computer is a quiet, invisible servant.The more you can do by intuition the smarter you are; the computer should extend your unconscious."


Vannevar Bush - Engineer

"Analog computer and Memex"


J. C. R. Licklider - Computer Scientist

"Man–computer symbiosis" calls for simpler interaction between computers and computer users


Sherry Turkle - Professor

"MUD and the Second Self" focuses psychology of human relationships with technology


Philip Agre - Professor
"Privacy and surveillance issues"


Lucy Suchman - Social Anthropologist/ Professor

"Plans and situated actions"


John McCarthy - Computer and Cognitive Scientist 

Peter Wright - Professor

"User experience must take into consideration the emotional, intellectual, and sensual aspects of our interactions with technology"


Jakob Nielsen - Usability Consultant

"Ten Usability Heuristics for user interface design ~ rules of thumb"


Don Norman - Professor/ Usability Consultant

"Design based on the needs of the user, leaving aside what he deems secondary issues like aesthetics" 

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What is Wrong with Desktop Metaphor?

What is Wrong with Desktop Metaphor? | Desktop Metaphor |

- DM presents the user with a standardized environment that assumes one wants to "work". 


- Limitation of 2D space.

- Requires an outlet to charge their batteries.

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DM and Customization

DM and Customization | Desktop Metaphor |
  • The interface needs to change with the user
  • Shift in the computer paradigm from "work related tasks to lived experiences" (McCarthy and Wright 2004)
  • "Context is something people do" (Dourish 2003)
  • "Frequency, range, and significance" (Laurel 1986)
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DM and 3D Presentation

DM and 3D Presentation | Desktop Metaphor |

- The current 'view builder' tool (Bakshi 2004) that let users design new views for given information types and allow users to rely on menus and dragging to specify a particular layout and properties


- Restraining of the usable space to the resolution of the monitor, which often results in a cluttered virtual workspace filled with overlapping windows (Silverman et al., 2006). 


- There is a lack of intelligent and humanoid interaction.


- An openSPACE should be viewable in 2D and 3D, letting users decide how they want to interact with the space, and how similar the space should be to the real world.

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Limitations | Desktop Metaphor |
  • Tailorable GUI
  • Bob
  • Constraints

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1. Agre, P.E. (1995). "Conceptions of the User in Computer Systems Design". In P.J. Thomas (Ed.), The Social and Interactional Dimensions of Human-Computer Interfaces, pp. 67-106. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

2. Bakshi, N. 2004. "Tools for end-user creation and customization of interfaces for information management tasks." Master’s thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
3. Dourish, P. (2004). "What We Talk About When We Talk About Context". Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 8: 19 -30.

4. Grudin, J. (2011). "Human-Computer Interaction". In B. Cronin (Ed.), Annual Review of Information Science & Technology (ARIST), vol. 45, pp. 369-430.

5. Kaptelinin, Victor. 2007. “Creating computer-based work environments: an empirical .... Human factors in computing systems.” Presented at the Human Factors in Computing Systems Conference, San Jose, CA April 28-May 3.
6. Kaptelinin, V., and Czerwinski, M.P. (2007). Beyond the Desktop Metaphor: Designing Integrated Digital Work Environments. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

7. Laurel, B.K.(1986). "Interface as Mimesis". In D.A. Norman and S.W. Draper (Eds.), User Centered System Design: New Perspective in Human-Computer Interaction, pp. 67-85. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Association.

8. Licklider, J.C.R. (1960). "Man-Computer Symbiosis". IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics HFW, 1(1): 4-11.
9. McCarthy, J. and Wright, P. (2004). "Living with Technology". In Technology as Experience, pp. 1-22. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

10. Microsoft Windows.
11. Nielsen, J. (2005). Ten Usability Heuristics.

12. Silverman, B.G., M. Johns, J. Cornwell, and K O’Brien. 2006. Human behavior models for agents in simulators and games: part I: enabling science with PMFserv. Presence 15 (2): 139-162.

13. Orlikowski, W. (1993). “Learning from Notes: Organizational Issues in Groupware Implementation” . The Information Society, 9(3): 237-250.
14. The Desktop Metaphor.

15. Turkle, S. (1980). "Computer as Rorschach". Society/Transaction, January-February, 15-24.

16. Suchman, L.A. (1990). “What is Human-Machine Interaction?” In S.P. Robertson, W. Zachary, and J.B. Black (Eds.), Cognition, Computing, and Cooperation, pp.25-55. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

16. Suchman, L.A. (2007). Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions. New York: Cambridge University Press.

17. Winograd,T. and Flores,F. (1986). “Using Computers: A Direction for Design”. In Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design, pp.163-179. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

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