CSE 171: User Interface Design: Social and
- Your homework is due in class, but you may hand it in earlier in the
same day. There will be homework due every week, starting second week.
Graded homework will be returned in the section.
- Please put your email address on your homework, so the TA can contact you
in case of questions.
- Problems should be considered tentative until about one week before they
- Grades will be strongly influenced by your ability to use the
concepts that (we hope!) you are learning in class. Be sure to answer the
question that is asked.
- Every problem you hand in will be checked, but only a random subset will
be graded (chosen to be maximally helpful to you, subject to our resource
limitations); you will get up to 3 points for a problem that is handed in
and checked, and up to 10 points for one that is graded. Optional homework
problems will be worth (up to) 2 points extra credit. Of course, the total
for homework will be weighted appropriately when combined with the midterm
- Please hand in homework in paper hardcopy form; do not email me or the TA
an attachment! Computer printed paper is much preferred; if your handwriting
is too hard to read, you will lose points. You may also lose points if your
solution is too difficult to understand, whether due to English or technical
- Please include the assignment set number and problem number for each
question; also be sure to include your name, and the due date. If there are
multiple pages, you should staple them; since there are many students, loose
pages are likely to be lost, and you will not get credit.
- For problems that require use of a computer, always hand in both your
input and your output as part of your solution.
- Please do not ask the TA, grader, or professor for help doing your
homework; this is not fair to other students. Of course, it is encouraged
to ask questions about the content of the course! And you can also ask
about bugs in the homework problems (if there are any).
- Due 5 April.
- Select two interesting but quite different websites and criticize their
design with respect to meeting their goals and values. (Some interesting
websites are linked from my "What's
Cool" page, e.g., that of Victoria Vesna, or items available by clicking
on the walls of Timothy Leary's house-like homepage.) Note that this is a
two step process: first infer the goals and values from the context, and
then criticize the design.
- Discuss Robert Morey's interactive applet proof of the Pythagorean Theorem. In
particular, explain why letting the user size the triangle is a good idea.
What about the pink smiley faces?
- Find at least two inconsistencies in the 1998 CSE 271 class website, at the design
level - not spelling, syntax, etc.
- Do problem 17 of Chapter 1, page 14 of the text.
- Due 12 April.
- Do problem 3 of Chapter 2, page 32 of the text.
- Do problem 4 of Chapter 2, page 32 of the text; also give a brief
intuitive description of the source semiotic space for each, i.e., of what
is being represented.
- Do problem 10 of Chapter 2, page 34 of the text.
- Due 19 April.
- Problem 14 of Chapter 3 (page 56) of the text.
- Problem 9 of Chapter 3 (page 55) of the text.
- Problem 3 of Chapter 3 (page 54) of the text.
- Give an example of a (in Peircian terminology) representamen that has
two different objects, and explain how the interpretant differs in the two
- Find at least three syntactic errors in formal code in the first 10
pages of the XHTML appendix of the text.
- (Optional) Write a semiotic analysis of a small but non-trivial sign,
such as the cover of our text, or the original Total
Information Awareness Logo, or Minard's map
of Napoleon's 1812 defeat. Pay particular attention to colors, sizes,
backgrounds, fonts, etc. of any text, and to the structuring of this single
complex sign as a composition of smaller signs. Point out any instances of
iconicity and indexicality. (You might also find it interesting to analyze
the DARPA logo.)
- Due 26 April.
- The ordering of items in the readings and homework pages of the Winter 2000 version of this course was
reverse chronological. Use semiotic morphisms (in an informal way) to
explain why that was not a good idea - or why it was, if you think it was.
Hint: See the first exhibit in the semiotic zoo.
- Check out Google's answer
service, including the homepage, FAQ, Terms of Service, and some sample
questions and answers. Relate this to issues about reward discussed in Communication and Collaboration from a
CSCW Perspective by Mark Ackerman.
- Describe in some detail (e.g., who, when, where, why) two examples of
recipient design that you actually observed in your own experience. (Note:
this can be brief. Please give real examples, not imaginary examples.)
- Problem 4 of Chapter 4 (page 71) of the text.
- Problem 11 of Chapter 5 (page 97) of the text.
- In linguistics, mitigation is defined to be any use of language
that has the effect of decreasing the impact of a sentence. One important
class of mitigation devices are hedges, which are adjectives and/or
adverbs that decrease the impact of a noun or verb. Some examples are "sort
of", "sometimes", "possibly", "often", "maybe" and "perhaps". Some other
mitigation devices are syntactic, such as placing the main content in a
subordinate clause. List as many instances of mitigation as you can find in
the first paragraph of Section 2.2.5 of Shneiderman
(page 60), and then rewrite the paragraph without them. Draw a brief
conclusion from this exercise.
- (Optional) Give two real examples of mitigated speech from your own
everyday life; give real examples, not imaginary examples.
- Due 3 May.
- Make as many suggestions as you can for improving the Wireless Questionnaire, using material in the
papers Communication and
Collaboration from a CSCW Perspective and Techniques for Requirements
- Give two examples of adjacency pairs (in the technical sense!) that you
actually observed in ordinary conversation, explain why they are examples,
and describe the context in which they occurred. (Hint: See section 6.2.1
of Techniques for Requirements
Elicitation. Your answer could be rather brief. Please give real
examples, not imaginary examples.)
- Apply the notion of adjacency pair to the Windows logout procedure (and
say which specific version of Windows you are considering, NT, XP, 2000, or
- Explain in some detail how a scrollbar is a semiotic morphism: Say what
is preserved, and what is not. Explain why. Also, consider also whether
scrollbars should be placed on the right or left of a window. (Note: you
should use formalization to the extent that it is helpful.)
- Describe in some detail how concepts from algebraic semiotics clarify
the Principle of Contrast in chapter 5 of our text.
- Due 10 May.
On 5 May, the CSE network connection to my computer did
not work well, and I was unable to post the homework; therefore, you may hand
it in ast last as 17 May if you wish.
- Give an example of a noticeable absence (in its technical sense!) that
you actually observed in natural social interaction, explain why it is an
example, and describe the context in which it appeared. (Note: this can be
brief. Please give a real example, not an imaginary example.)
- The first version of the popup explanation windows for the UC San Diego Semiotic Zoo included all the
same links as the exhibit pages themselves; however, I soon deleted them.
Explain why this change was a good idea - or why it wasn't, if you think it
- Give a new item that could be used as an exhibit in the UC San Diego Semiotic Zoo; be sure to
provide a careful explanation for your exhibit, using semiotic morphisms.
- Do problem 11 of Chapter 5 (page 97) in our text, using the notions of
level, priority and semiotic morphism.
- Do problem 17 of Chapter 6 (page 121) in our text, using the notions of
level, priority and semiotic morphism.
- Due 17 May.
- Go to Geisel Library at some fairly busy time; spend at least 30 minutes
observing social interactions that occur there; take notes; then re-read Providing Social Interaction in the Digital
Answer Garden 2: Merging Organizational Memory with Collaborative
Help by Mark
Ackerman; and finally for your assignment, describe in some detail at
least 3 (actually observed) interactions that could not easily be supported
by a computer mediated system, and say why they would be difficult to
- Describe the structure of the simple narrative in the webpage The Structure of Narrative with a
parse tree based on the grammar given there. Also give an intuitive
description of the semiotic morphism that maps narratives to their Labov
- Some pages of the
1998 CSE 271 website used "<hr>" to separate links at the bottom of the
page, but now "<br>" is used instead (but not before the first link or
after the last). Use semiotic morphisms to explain why that is a good idea
- or why it isn't, if you think it isn't.
- Use semiotic morphisms to explain why it is usually better to
present a set of weblinks as a broad list rather than as a tree
with non-trivial index layering. Describe a case where this usual rule does
- (Optional) Do the same as in problem 2 for the story in the Darwin Award Nomination.
- (Optional) Modify the code in this
link as described there; hand in printed copies of your XML source,
your XSL source, your DTD source, and the display that is produced; follow
the other instructions given on the linked page. Warning: Old browsers may
not support XML.
- Due 26 May.
Because there is a lot of reading this week, the
homework is due on Thursday instead of Tuesday.
The optional problems are not difficult, but they do require that you know
some OBJ, which may be difficult to learn. The OBJ3 Survival Guide
may be useful if you are not familiar with OBJ. Source code for OBJ3
version 2.04, and compiled code for Sun workstations, can be obtained by ftp
ftp://www.cs.ucsd.edu/pub/fac/goguen. The latest (June 2000) open
source release, OBJ3 version
2.06 or later, cleaned up from version 2.04 (from 1992), engineered by
Joseph Kiniry and Sula Ma, and built and supported by Joseph Kiniry; this runs under GCL
2.2.2. You can also get the more recent BOBJ variant of OBJ from the BOBJ ftp site; it is
in pure Java, and is upward compatible with OBJ3.
- Use semiotics, especially morphisms, blends, and iconicity, to analyze
some specific everyday object, such as a favorite coffee mug,
chair, or table (see the semiotic
methodology in Section 7.4 of the class notes); a good answer could
range in size from a longish paragraph to a full page. Include a photo or
drawing of the object.
- Describe in detail your actions in trying to answer three simple but
non-trivial questions using a web browser. Say whether your search is
breadth first, depth first, or neither. (An example would be to find the
birth date of Galileo Galilei, by first placing the keyword "Galileo" into a
- Write a short description of some major actants involved with XML
(including potential users and actants in the standards process) and some of
the most important relations among them. Draw a graph summarizing your
- Do problem 4 of Chapter 8 (page 148) in our text.
- (Optional) Write the structure in the DTD for
bibliographic entities in OBJ, and test run this code on some simple
- (Optional) Write the other two blends described in the Formal Notation for Conceptual
Blending in OBJ, and run the code in order to type check it.
- Due 2 June.
- Write a paragraph explaining how Andersen's notion of
manifestation can be seen as a semiotic morphism; give a simple
example, describe what should be preserved, and say why it should be
- Pick 3 cartoons from the comics section of this week's newspaper, and
explain for each how some conceptual space has been recontextualized
by adding new information, and show how the resulting new meaning is a blend
(give and fill in the most pertinent parts of the blend diagram). Include a
copy of the cartoons with your answer.
- Pick 3 from the list of 50 oxymorons, and
explain their oxymoronic meaning as a blend of semiotic morphisms for their
two parts. Because these are jokes, they are also supposed to have at least
one non-oxymoronic blend; both blends should be explained (if they exist).
- Do problem 17 of Chapter 9 (page 169) in our text.
- Write an outline of the most important points in this class, with an
explaination of the relevance of each one to user interface design.
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Last modified: Sun May 22 10:02:16 PDT 2005