> CSE 271 Projects
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 hardcopy!
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 semiotic and social aspects of user interface design. Those who
choose a project applying semiotics should take account of the semiotic methodology in Section 7 of the class notes.
Your project grade will be strongly influenced by how it applies concepts
from this particular course.
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 fifth week, and obtain my permission
before you proceed working on the project; in general, I will provide you with
a lot of feedback, so be sure to put your email address on what you hand
in. Here is a link to an
example of a good project.
- Analyze the interface (i.e., what users see) 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; you can use this to infer some
values of the designers and users, which can help you infer the goals of the
site (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
- 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
- Study clocks and/or dates and/or calendars, 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. (noting that all these are parts of various source semiotic spaces).
- Design, build, and test a website the goal of which is to explain
classical semiotics and algebraic semiotics; the website should provide some
graphics, and maybe some dynamic applets. (For example, it would be helpful
to provide some pictures for the webpage Formal Notation for Conceptual
Blending.) You should use semiotics, especially semiotic
morphisms, to justify your design decisions, and include a description of
how you did this in the website. This project will be evaluated in part by
how useful it would be to future students of CSE 271.
- 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 explain why 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. You
may use Actor-Network Theory, but be sure to take a user interface design
perspective towards the technology.
- 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. You could look at the
design of two books on the same subject (such as Java programming), one of
which is pretty good and the other of which is not so good (from a design
point of view, not content). Or you could look at the signs to help
visitors around UCSD and around some other campus (it need not be a
university, maybe a hospital or some industrial complex). You need not
formalize everything, but the semiotic systems and morphisms that you
analyze should not be trivial.
- 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: Thu Jun 19 21:51:35 PDT 2003