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RE: (was Re: Is this that 'recovery' stuff I've heard so much about? I thought it was just fables for children.)

There's another perspective on this which is to do with cognitive modeling.

Paraphrasing from memory, it goes something like this:

Simple devices (tools, appliances, whatever) in which the user can easily
"see" the workings of the device have "surface structure". By this, it is
meant that the user can easily and obviously build a mental model of how it
works that is very direct in nature. They can see that turning the knob on a
door moves the metal tongue, for example. Easy. (They may not actually have
the details of the mechanism correct, but that doesn't matter. They have a
sufficient mental model for utility)

Devices with "deep structure" are those where the user cannot create such a
mental model without very specialized knowledge, or where sufficient
structure is simply not directly observable for a fabrication. VCR's fit
this model, especially the clocks on them. This is where the user can, at
best, "imagine" some possible machinery in the astract which helps them to
"figure things out". However, many people balk at this and end up simply
learning by rote variuos "scripts" whereby pushing buttons that have no
perceivable linkage to the results invoked seems to get the desired effect.
Overloaded buttons, that do different things in different modes, further
complicate this, requiring the user to build some kind of abstract "mode
model" in addition to the functional invocation model they're already
struggling with.

Part of the question thus becomes one of how deep your mental model, and
your mental modeling skills and knowledge to draw on, have become.

Software development is at the far end of the structure spectrum, where
programmer's routinely manipulate, and create, highly abstract "machines"
with very very deep structure.



> -----Original Message-----
> From: First Speaker Schol-R-LEA;2 [mailto:scholr@xxxxxxxx]
> Sent: Monday, August 09, 1999 4:23 PM
> To: xanadu@xxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: FW: (was Re: Is this that 'recovery' stuff I've heard so much
> about? I thought it was just fables for children.)
> This exchange appeared recently  on alt.tech-support.recovery, a
> newsgroup where phone support techs got to blow off a little steam
> about their work experiences. User-hostile attitude aside, I think
> that Mr. Buhr has made an excellent point about how people approach
> using and learning to use computers, one that ought to be taken into
> account more than it usually is. The 'computer as an appliance'
> approach that M$ and other major players often promote has always
> struck me as condescending; if Kevin is right, it could also be
> positively dangerous, discouraging users from trying to learn to use
> them effectively (a difficult enough task given current software and
> hardware). Perhaps the best way, though, isn't 'computer as a tool',
> either, but rather, 'computer as a toy'. IME, the people who learn
> fastest and most thoroughly about computers are usually the ones who
> are having fun with them.
> On 09 Aug 1999 16:57:00 -0500, in alt.tech-support.recovery
> buhr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx (Kevin Buhr) wrote:
> >elrondh@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Elrond Hubbard) writes:
> >>
> >> How is it that people can own and even use computers for years
> on end and
> >> not learn anything about the machine? How can they fail to
> generalize from
> >> their experience? How can they learn to use one program fairly well and
> >> not realize that the same principles apply to all programs? WHAT, IN A
> >
> >I was pondering along these lines the other day, and I think I decided
> >it had something to do with most people thinking of their computers as
> >appliances rather than tools.
> >
> >Give a luser a hammer (hypothetically, man, *hypothetically*) or a
> >screwdriver, and they'll generalize soon enough.  Typically, they'll
> >overgeneralize, using the hammer to open beer bottles or the
> >screwdriver to scrape a keyboard clean, but at least they'll be
> >"learning" from their experiences.
> >
> >But give a luser a coffee maker and ask them to make you some hot
> >water for tea, and if you're very, very lucky, they'll spend an hour
> >and a half alternating between searching for a kettle and staring
> >blankly before making you a steaming pot of rich, full-bodied coffee.
> >You're even more likely to end up with your coffee maker, stuffed with
> >tea bags, melting on a stove element.
> >
> >We learn to use tools mostly by playing around with them and applying
> >them to a variety of different problems; we learn to use appliances by
> >memorizing simple "scripts" that allow us to perform specific tasks.
> >These attitudes influence what and how much an individual can learn
> >from using something like a computer.
> >
> >Kevin <buhr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Schol-R-LEA;2 ELF JAM LCF BiWM MGT GS (http://www.slip.net/~scholr/)
> First Speaker, Last Eristic Church of Finagle and Holy Bisexuality
> i with the soul of a hamlet	 ** The only God you need is the one
> doomed always to wallow in farce ** that looks out of your mirror