CSE 271: User Interface Design: Social and Technical Issues

1. Homework will not be graded, because there is no TA; but if the homework were graded, the grades would be strongly influenced by how well the concepts in the readings and lectures are used.

2. We will do some problems together in class. For additional feedback on homework, please see me during my office hours.

  1. Due 10 April.
    1. 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.)
    2. 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.
    3. Design a webpage for your work in this course; hand in a print of the page, and a sheet stating your goals for its design. You will be graded on the quality of the design, and to some extent the appropriateness of the goals. Do not include information about solutions to homework problems on this page! Appropriate topics might be comments on readings, questions about content, further details of examples, further references and links, and new examples.
    4. Find at least two inconsistencies in the 1998 CSE 271 class website at the design level - not spelling, syntax, etc.
  2. Due 16 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).
    1. Write a one paragraph statement of its goal;
    2. Write an interface guideline capturing its current style; and
    3. Write a brief social impact statement for the site, following the checklist on pages 113-114 of Shneiderman.
    4. 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 week's homework.
    5. Explain how social issues and values come into your answer to the question above.
    6. (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.
  3. Due 24 April.
    1. Give an example of a (in Peircian terminology) representamen that has two different objects, and explain how the interpretant differs in the two cases.
    2. Show how to construct "menu signs" along similar lines as the "button sign" in section 3 of the class notes. Are these signs consistent with the original HTML philosophy described in section 3? Why or why not?
    3. Give three examples of recipient design from your everyday life. (There is also a later problem on recipient design.)
    4. Give two real examples of mitigated speech from your own everyday life; please give real examples, not imaginary examples.
    5. Write a semiotic analysis of some 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.)
    6. Write a proposal for your class project. You should start writing the paper as soon as your topic is confirmed. The proposal should be on a separate piece of paper from other homework, and should include your email address, so that if necessary, we can discuss it quickly and easily.
  4. Due 1 May.
    1. Make as many suggestions as you can for improving the Wireless Questionnaire, using material in Chapter 4 of Shneiderman and the papers Communication and Collaboration from a CSCW Perspective and Techniques for Requirements Elicitation.
    2. Write approximately one page on dates and times and how they are represented; use semiotic morphisms in your discussion.
    3. The ordering of items in the readings and homework pages of an old 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.
    4. Use semiotic morphisms to justify placing scrollbars on the right side of a window in the same color as the window border (with the unshown part represented by a different shade).
    5. (Optional) Write approximately one page comparing chapter 14 of Shneiderman with Communication and Collaboration from a CSCW Perspective by Mark Ackerman.
    6. If you have no already done so, please hand in your project proposal! It should be on a separte page from the rest of your homework; please include your email address, so we can discuss it quickly and easily. You should carefully read the projects page, and also look at future class notes (in the website for last year's class), because some of the most interesting topics have not yet been covered. You can start writing as soon as your topic is confirmed.
  5. Due 8 May:
    1. 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.)
    2. 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 whatever).
    3. 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).
    4. Explain in some detail how a scrollbar is a semiotic morphism: at least sketch the structure of the source semiotic space, including some sorts, constructors, priorities, and levels. Say what is preserved, and what is not. Explain why. Also, consider also whether scrollbars should be on the right or left side of a window.
    5. Use CSCW ideas to explain the phenomenon (described p.197 of Shneiderman) that users of computer games generally prefer a display of highest scores over computer generated feedback during play.
    6. 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.)
  6. Due 15 May:
    1. 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.)
    2. Describe the structure of the simple narrative in the webpage The Structure of Narrative with a parse tree using the notation given there. Also describe the semiotic morphism that maps narratives to their Labov structures.
    3. Write about 1 page applying Shneiderman's ideas on user interfaces for search capabilities in chapter 15 to the Yahoo! websearch engine.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. (Optional) Do the same as in problem 3 for the story in the Darwin Award Nomination.
    7. (Optional) 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.
    8. (Optional) Give a careful discussion of the list of problems with video on p.491 of Shneiderman, paying careful 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.
  7. Due 22 May:
    1. 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.
    2. Modify the code in this link as described there; hand in printed copies of your XML source, your XSL source, your DDT source, and the display that is produced. You may need to use Internet Explorer (version 5 or later) for this assignment, since Netscape Navigator may not yet support XML. Also follow the other instructions that are given on the linked page.
    3. 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.
    4. 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).
    5. 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.
    6. (Optional) Use OBJ notation to define the Labov narrative structure defined in The Structure of Narrative, and also the structure of the particular story given there. Describe how semiotic morphisms enter into this situation. (See Formal Notation for Blending.)
    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 pure Java.
  8. Due 29 May:
    1. 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.)
    2. Pick 3 "oxymorons" from the list of 50 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).
    3. Write the structure given in the DTD for bibliographic entities in OBJ, and test run this code on some simple examples.
    4. Write about one page using semiotics, especially morphisms, blends, and iconicity, to analyze some specific everyday object, such as a favorite coffee mug, couch, or table (see the semiotic methodology in Section 7 of the class notes).
    5. (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.
  9. Due 5 June:
    1. 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 description.
    2. 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).
    3. Write an outline of the most important points in this class, with an explaination of the relevance of each one to user interface design.
    4. Note: Your project is also due today.

To CSE 271 homepage
Maintained by Joseph Goguen
© 2000 - 2003 Joseph Goguen, all rights reserved.
Last modified: Sat Jun 14 08:46:49 PDT 2003