CSE 171: User Interface Design: Social and
- Your homework is due in class, but you may hand it in earlier in the
same day in the discussion section. There will be homework due every week,
starting second week.
- 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 9 April.
- Select two interesting but quite different websites and criticize
their design with respect to meeting their goals. (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.)
- 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.
- Find at least two inconsistencies in the 1998 CSE 271 class website, at the design
level - not spelling, syntax, etc.
- Due 16 April.
- Use the "Eight Golden Rules" (pages 74-75 of Shneiderman) as a basis for
critiquing the websites that you discussed in questions 1 and 2 of last
- Give an example showing why it is important for a website designer (or
critic) to know the goals for a site.
- Explain how social issues and values come into your answer to question
- (Optional) 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 (page
60) of Shneiderman, and then rewrite the paragraph without them. Draw a
brief conclusion from this exercise.
- Due 23 April. The first three questions concern the Information Awareness
Office website (note that the link takes you to just one page of
that office, devoted to the Total Information Awareness program).
- Write a one paragraph statement of its goal;
- Write an interface guideline (capturing its current style); and
- Write a brief social impact statement for the site, following the
checklist on pages 113-114 of Shneiderman.
- Give an example of a (in Peircian terminology) representamen that has
two different objects, and explain how the interpretant differs in the two
- (Optional) Write a semiotic analysis of a small but non-trivial sign,
such as the cover of the text by Shneiderman, 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 30 April.
- Make as many suggestions as you can for improving the Wireless Questionnaire, using material in
Chapter 4 of Shneiderman and in the papers Communication and Collaboration from a CSCW
Perspective and Techniques for Requirements
- Give two real examples of mitigated speech from your own everyday life;
please give real examples, not imaginary examples.
- 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.
- (Optional) Write approximately one page comparing chapter 14 of
Shneiderman with Communication and
Collaboration from a CSCW Perspective by Mark Ackerman.
- Due 7 May. These are all optional problems, intended to help you review
some of the more recent material in the course.
- 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
- Do a heuristic evaluation (p.126 of Shneiderman) using the "Eight
Golden Rules" (p.74-76) and the 5 display organization guidelines (p.80)
for the DTUI website; note that this
should include a consistency inspection (p.126).
- 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.)
- Use CSCW ideas to explain the phenomenon (see p.197 of Shneiderman)
that users of computer games generally prefer a display of highest scores
over computer generated real-time feedback during play.
- Describe in some detail (e.g., who, when, where, why) an example of
recipient design that you actually observed in your own experience. (Note:
this can be brief. Please give a real example, not an imaginary example.)
- Due 14 May.
- 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.)
- Describe the structure of the simple narrative in the webpage The Structure of Narrative with a
parse tree based on the notation given there. Also give an intuitive
description of the semiotic morphism that maps narratives to their Labov
- The first version of the popup explanation windows for the semiotic zoo
included all the same links as the exhibit pages themselves; however, I
soon deleted them. Explain why that was a good idea - or why it wasn't, if
you think it wasn't.
- 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.
- Due 21 May.
- Apply both classical and algebraic semiotics to the "plumbing"
representation in Figure 15.18, page 543, of Shneiderman (see the semiotic methodology in Section 7 of the class
notes). Say what aspects of this representation you think work, what
aspects you think do not work, and explain why.
- 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.
- (Double credit) 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. You will
need to use Internet Explorer version 5 for this assignment, since Netscape
Navigator does not yet support XML. Also follow the other instructions that
are given on the linked page.
- (Optional) Use semiotics to explain why some features of scrollbars
work well and others do not, expanding the discussion given in class.
- (Optional) Give a careful discussion of the list of problems with video
on p.491 of Shneiderman, paying attention to the fact that the list
contains items of completely different character, for example, that some
items have a social origin, whole others merely reflect short term limits
of current technology. Explain why each item might be a problem.
- Due 28 May.
The last two "very 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. Source code for OBJ3 version 2.04, and compiled code for Sun
workstations, can be obtained by ftp from 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 BOBJ variant of OBJ from the BOBJ ftp site; it is in
- 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 (see Shneiderman, p.575). Describe a case
where this usual rule does not work.
- Write a paragraph explaining how Andersen's notion of
manifestation can be seen as a semiotic morphism; give a simple
example, and describe what should be preserved.
- Explain how the display in Plate B4a of Shneiderman (after page 514)
could be seen as a semiotic morphism. Do the same for Plate B5, and then
explain why it is better than B4a (if it is).
- Describe in detail your actions in trying to answer three simple but
non-trivial questions using a web browser. Say whether your search breadth
first, depth first, or neither, and whether it was adaptive. (An example
would be to find the birth date of Galileo Galilei, by first placing the
keyword "Galileo" into a browser.)
- 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). Note: A correction to the reading assigment from this
problem was posted late, so you may hand in this problem one week late if
- (Very Optional) Write the structure in the DTD for bibliographic entities in OBJ, and test run
this code on some simple examples.
- (Very 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 4 June.
- 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 of the class notes); a good answer could range
in size from a longish paragraph to a full page.
- 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
- Pick 3 cartoons from the comics section of a 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).
- 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: Thu Sep 25 14:57:21 PDT 2003