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This week, we discussed a quote by Ben Schneiderman that went something like this:

Certain interactive systems generate glowing enthusiasm among users—in marked contrast with the more common reaction of grudging acceptance or outright hostility. The enthusiastic users’ reports are filled with positive feelings regarding:

  • mastery of the system
  • competence in the performance of their task
  • ease in learning the system originally and in assimilating advanced features
  • confidence in their capacity to retain mastery over time
  • enjoyment in using the system
  • eagerness to show it off to novices, and
  • desire to explore more powerful aspects of the system

These feelings are not, of course, universal, but the amalgam does convey an image of the truly pleased user. As I talked with these enthusiasts and examined the systems they used, I began to develop a model of the features that produced such delight. The central ideas seemed to be visibility of the object of interest; rapid, reversible, incremental actions, and, replacement of complex command language syntax by direct manipulation of the object of interest—hence the term “direct manipulation.

Nowadays, I think we increasingly view the design and functionality of internet objects as real world objects. We hear heads of design at Apple claim that the design of personal technologies should be “intuitive”, inspired by modern objects like the Eames Chair. Giant internet companies hire employees to work solely on the “User Experience”–implying that interacting with the internet is an entire simulacra wrapped in psychological and physical experience.

It’s fascinating to see Schneiderman break down exactly what types of factors play into user’s positive feelings towards internet objects.  But I think the common theme is that internet objects should be, “easily masterable”, “intuitive”, “exciting”, “enjoyable”, and “inspiring to explore”. These are fascinating characteristics. And rarely  do we now see objects other than the internet that invoke these feelings. I think it’s almost like we have a higher standard for how 21st century objects need to perform.

I think some interesting questions come with these new developments. How are these new objects creating new expectations for new inventions and innovations in the 21st century? And how are these internet objects changing the way we relate to preexisting objects and tools?