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Monday, June 7, 2004

More Metaphor Readings
David Jones recommended the challenging Rule of Metaphor by Paul Ricouer as an addition to my thesis paper reading.

A chance meeting with Ben at the library got me a copy of the impossible-to-find yet seminal essay "Metaphors for Interface Design" by E. Hutchins in The Structure of Multimodal Dialogue. I'm also checking out his thesis paper, which, unbeknownst to me, was also about metaphor: Human Interaction as a Metaphor for HCI.

posted at 07:57 PM in readings, thesis paper | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Friday, June 4, 2004

Summer Reading
I've been compiling my summer reading list for my thesis paper. Nothing like laying on the beach reading some good books on semiotics and interaction design, now is there? (As if I'm laying on the beach at all this summer...)

posted at 10:51 AM in readings, thesis paper | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Thesis Paper Proposal
After seven (7) different ideas and proposals(!), I've selected a topic for my thesis paper: The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design. My proposal (35k pdf) was signed off by my advisor Shelley Evenson this morning. Hooray!

In case you're wondering what the other, unchosen ones were:

  • A Taxonomy of Digital Adaptive Tools
  • Visualizing the Behavior of Adaptive Monitoring Tools
  • Designing for Creative Misuse
  • Cinematic Interaction Design: Using the Language and Conventions of Film to Enhance Applications, Web Sites, and Operating Systems
  • Refreshing the Desktop Metaphor

I'm not sure whether there was a progression in there or not...

posted at 05:19 PM in thesis paper | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, May 4, 2004

There's not much worse than watching your classmates each get their thesis proposals signed off, one after another, while I sit here, agonizing because I have neither a solid project nor a paper proposal that is workable. It's really disrupting this week. And it's finals week, when I can't afford to be waylaid.

posted at 10:29 PM in thesis paper, thesis project | comments (3) | trackback (0) | link


Monday, April 26, 2004

All Your Theses Belong To Us
As of this post, I've gone back to the drawing board about three times on my thesis paper AND project. Meetings with John Zimmerman, who might co-advise on at least one of them with Shelley Evenson, convinced me that my original concepts might be too large in scope and not meaningful enough (the paper) or not feasible because there simply aren't enough adaptive tools to create a monitoring tool for them yet (the project).


I have roughly the next week to cobble together my proposals, get bibliographies together, and get my advisors to sign them. Suggestions welcome.

posted at 08:05 PM in thesis paper, thesis project | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Saturday, April 3, 2004

The Origin of Theses
The first-year grads had our kick-off (or, really, kick in the ass) meeting about our thesis papers and projects on Wednesday, during which the faculty, led by Director of the Graduate Program Bruce Hanington, urged us to get started with finding topics, project ideas, and faculty advisors, because by the end of the semester, we have to turn in proposals for both parts of our Master's thesis, signed by our faculty advisor(s). This set off a flurry of activity, as people began to scramble to find topics and advisors.

We also saw the general schedule for the deliverables for them next year. It's fairly daunting. The bulk of the paper is supposed to be written in the fall, and presented in early spring. The project should be ready for testing at the end of fall as well. We present the paper to the school in January and present the project next May.

The thesis paper is a 25-30 page essay on a rich design topic in an established area of design. The point of the thesis paper, we were told repeatedly, is not to create new knowledge, but rather to show mastery of a design subject. It's to comprehend, synthesize, and summarize the best thinking around a certain design topic.

If the paper is to show our mastery of the "thinking" part of design, the project is the creation of an object that shows our mastery of the "making and doing" parts, plus documentation of the design process and visual documentation (a poster) of the results.

As it turns out, over the last few weeks (months really), I've been mulling over my thesis paper and project. For a long time, I thought my paper was going to be on Reinventing Products and my project on a system to bookmark physical spaces. But ever since John Rheinfrank's talk on adaptive worlds, I've been very intrigued with the idea of adaptive tools: what they are, how you design them, and how you configure and manage them. Adaptive tools change their form and content based on their interactions with humans and the systems they "live" in. Agents are an example. There's a very limited set of these right now, but in the next decade or so, they are likely to grow exponentially. So it is a good area to explore.

Thus, I've gotten Shelley Evenson to be my thesis advisor for a paper and project about adaptive tools. My paper will be a taxonomy of digital adaptive tools, trying to categorize general types, define some characteristics for each, and begin to outline how they might work as part of an ecosystem. (Some of this, will, of course, be educated guesses since many of these tools are just being created.) Then my project will be an adaptive tool to (get this) manage and configure adaptive tools. How meta.

I'm choosing these theses topics for a few reasons. I think it will be challenging, but not overwhelming. I want to do something forward-thinking. I want to do an application for my thesis project. I'd like to maybe get a paper or two out of it for publication. I wouldn't mind getting a patent or two out of the project either. I think I'll learn a lot from Shelley. And the topic is interesting enough that I doubt I'll have trouble writing a 30 page paper on it.

I'm going to start keeping track of my thesis work on a separate site, devoted strictly to it: adaptivetoolbox.com.

posted at 04:59 PM in faculty, meta, thesis paper, thesis project | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Saturday, March 20, 2004

The Student Circle of Life
They've chosen next year's Master's students and have sent out acceptance letters. Now it's just a matter of who will accept the offers--and who will show up once classes start. We got slightly less applicants this year (probably because the economy is marginally better), but it was still over 40 applicants for each program. We're all curious about who our classmates will be for next year.

Meanwhile, the second-year students are scrambling to finish their thesis projects and, at the same time, find jobs (or wait for PhD acceptances, if they are so inclined). Bilge Mutlu was already accepted to CMU's HCI PhD program. It's a hectic time for them. And frankly, I don't want them to go. I rely on many of them for their friendship and advice, so I will definitely feel it when they are gone.

For the first-years, it's time to decide on thesis papers, projects, and advisors. It is tough to pick something you want to work on for a year. You don't know what topic is going to be so interesting and rich that you'd want to spend a year of your life researching, writing about, and designing it. I've worked on year-long projects before, but never one I've chosen for myself. It's an interesting dilemma because it can be a hell of your own making.

posted at 08:24 AM in classmates, cmu, preparation, student life, thesis paper, thesis project | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Saturday, January 24, 2004

2004 Thesis Paper Presentations
I spent most of yesterday in a small room listening to the second-year design students present their thesis paper topics and then field questions from the audience of students and faculty. As with previous years' thesis papers, it was a mixed bag of topics, but some of them seemed pretty interesting and I can't wait to read the final papers.

Unfortunately, I didn't see all of them, but of the ones I saw, there were some standouts: Maggie Breslin's Ziba/FedEx case study, Erin Eisinger's look at military leaflets, Ian Hargraves' idea of "dynamic commonality," Chad Thornton's examination of one-to-many communication systems, and Brian Haven's "Designing for Participation."

Watching the presentations is an interesting foreshadowing for this semester and next year. Later this semester, I'll have to pick a thesis paper topic (and a thesis project) of my own, plus faculty advisors for both. Half of the second year is spent working on them, so it's not a choice to be taken lightly. But seeing what the second years are doing gives you an idea of the scope of the paper and the types of papers that certain faculty advise.

posted at 09:10 AM in classmates, thesis paper | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Thursday, December 11, 2003

Reinventing Products
Some good advice from Chad had me think of my final paper for Design Seminar as more of a "date" than of something I was going to be married to. After coming up with, oh, 10 or 12 topics, I settled on Reinventing Products (48k pdf). It met my criteria of being not too theoretical while giving benefit to companies, designers, and users. Not sure if it will actually be my thesis topic, but it is interesting to consider as a possibility.

posted at 07:52 PM in papers, thesis paper | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Sunday, December 7, 2003

Damn You, Hong
Our final paper for Design Seminar is a brief examination of what we think our Master's thesis might be about and how that relates to the materials we've covered in class. Well, up until a few days ago, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what that was going to be: Making Addictive Products or How People Become Devoted to Products. But after our class on design ethics and a subsequent discussion with Hong, I'm probably going to abandon the idea altogether.

Those who profit the most from addictive products are the companies who make them, not necessarily those who use them. Yes, some addictive products are useful (email), fun (games), or both (IM). But when you see surveys like these that rank losing email more traumatic than getting a divorce, then clearly the benefits of addictive devices to mankind are questionable.

So it's back to the molten middle for ideas.

posted at 11:11 AM in papers, thesis paper | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link





All straight lines circle sometime. - The Weakerthans