CSE 271: User Interface Design: Social and
Your paper should be 10 to 30 pages long, and is due at the last meeting of
this class. You are expected to adhere to the usual standards of good
academic writing; in particular, you should have a good bibliography, where
each item contains the usual scholarly information (author, publisher, year,
etc.) - do not just give a list of URLs. You should provide proper citations
for any theories, methods, or not generally known facts that you use. Section
and subsection titles should be used; use footnotes if they help; be sure to
number your pages. Do not email me your paper as an attachment - I want a
The topic of your paper can be tailored to your interests and talents, but
please note that because this course is about user interface design,
not about implementation, it is not appropriate to undertake a large
implementation project; most of your effort should go into user interface
design and/or evaluation issues. And of course, the content of your paper
must relate to the themes of this particular course, which has a particular
emphasis on social issues and on semiotics. Those who choose a project
applying semiotics should take account of the semiotic methodology in Section 7 of the class notes.
You may wish to form a team in order to make a larger contribution,
facilitate learning, and have an experience more like the (so called) real
world. Because most of your grade will depend on your paper, it should
represent a substantial amount of work and be of a high quality; moreover, if
N people work together, the result should be N times as substantial as a
single author paper. You must disclose if your paper overlaps, or will
overlap, with anything submitted to any other course, and you must disclose
any other persons who were significantly involved in its production.
The following are some suggestions for topics:
You must submit a written proposal, which includes the personnel and an
outline of the project's content, by fourth week, and obtain my permission
before you proceed working on the project; in general, I will provide you with
a lot of feedback. An important criterion in evaluating projects will be how
well they use material from the course.
- Analyze the interface of some popular website, like CNN or Yahoo, using
classical and algebraic semiotcs (especially sign systems and semiotic
morphisms) to see what the designers considered most important and how the
display reflects that; from this, you may infer some values of the designers
and users. (See The Ethics of
Databases, and Section 10 of the class notes.)
You can get a sense of the structure of (for example) the homepage of such a
site (which should serve as a summary of its content) by examining the HTML of
that page, though the constructors used there (many of the most important of
which are likely to be tables) may not correspond directly to semiotic
- Use algebraic semiotics to describe and understand some interesting
representation. The more narrow the representation that you choose, the more
precise you should be in using the mathematical theory. (You can use the
discussion of scrollbars given in class as a model of what such a paper could
accomplish, but of course you should provide more detail.)
- Study times and/or dates and try to discover the tradeoffs involved in
enough detail to explain why certain conventions are used in certain contexts.
One rather easy example is the military time convention, but you should not
confine your attention to the easiest examples. For example, you might
consider things like the 24 time zones, and summer time, maybe even leap year,
the Gregorian Calendar, the date of Easter, etc.
- Design, build, and test a website the goal of which is to explain
classical semiotics and algebraic semiotics; you should provide some graphics,
maybe some dynamic applets; you should use semiotics, especially semiotic
morphisms, to justify your design decisions, and include this in the website.
(For example, it would be helpful to provide some pictures for the webpage Formal Notation for Conceptual Blending.)
- Study the user interface of some popular system like ICQ or a web search
engine, use semiotic morphisms to show that various design choices are
suboptimal, and to suggest some improvements; you may also argue that some
design choices are good.
- Give a careful discussion of several different bibliographic citation
styles (e.g., by examining several books, papers and journal, or by examining
LaTeX bibliographic style files); give precise descriptions of these style as
sign systems, with attention to their social context.
- Study representation issues in detail for some other interesting kind of
information, such as sports scores, or TV listings.
- Discuss problems of applying computer technology to education from a CSCW
perspective; do a thorough literature search; if possible, do a case study; at
least, be sure to cite and discuss some recent case studies. Use
- Use algebraic semiotics to study some metaphors and blends in detail; you
may use any text you like, but probably advertisements, cartoons, etc. will be
easier to deal with than poetry, etc. Covers of The Economist magazine
often feature clever visual blends; a detailed analysis of several of these
(with the math) could be a good project.
- Apply classical and algebraic semiotics to the user interface of the
current Kumo prototype or the websites that it produces, and compare various
design choices with those of previous version; use the quality criteria to
explain why the new design is an improvement (or why it isn't).
- Use algebraic semiotics to prove that some representation is better
than some other representation for the same sign system. The more narrow the
source domain, the more precise you should be in using the mathematical
theory. Use the quality criteria given in the paper An Introduction to Algebraic Semiotics, with
Applications to User Interface Design.
- Design and prototype a simple system using some of the principles in
Andersen's Multimedia phase spaces paper. This could, for example,
be an interactive version of a simple fairy tale, such as Goldilocks and
the Three Bears.
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Last modified: Fri Jun 21 22:47:41 PDT 2002