Semiotics, Compassion and Value-Centered
Joseph A Goguen
Dept. Computer Science & Engineering
University of California, San Diego
- Introduction and Motivation
- Algebraic Semiotics
- Groundlessness and Coemergence
- Compassion, Ethics and Values
- Value-Centered Design
Click here to see the Abstract
1. INTRODUCTION AND MOTIVATION
Computing hardware shows integration on ever larger scales:
But this view is too narrow -
- vacuum tubes to LSI, VLSI, chipsets, PCs, LANs, WANs, and the global
Progress on the human side is just as dramatic and important:
There is parallel evolution of organizations, with integration of
communication and computation (``convergence'') enabling closer coordination
of quasi-independent units.
- from isolated single users, to time sharing, groupware, support for
community activities, to the frontier where ubiquitous, wireless, to
context-aware multimodal mobile computing, with unknown social possibilities.
A mature design discipline would have to:
- lacks mature principles and methods,
- is more art than science, and
- often fails to deliver satisfying results.
Take design in broad sense, including
- develop reliable ways to discover requirements taking account not just
cooperative, distributed, dynamic social aspects of use, but also values of
- formulate precise definitions for notions like structure, action, event,
representation, and metaphor;
- develop an abstract specification notation, with both dynamic and static
(display) aspects, building on 2. above;
- find and use general measures for designs quality, especially as in
- find general principles for use of media and their combinations,
especially new media;
- automatically generate realizations from abstract descriptions (as in
3. above), e.g., for information visualizations; and
- integrate all this with software engineering and other disciplines.
Much literature seeks methods in the style of math or physics.
- crafts like interface design, industrial design, book and magazine
- organizational aspects of management, like re-engineering, flexible
organization, and synergy with IT support.
But rapid evolution of fads, buzzwords, and spectacular failures shows lack
of significant progress.
But these are not real problems, they arise from misguided reductionism.
- precise formulations of real problems; and
- realistic metrics for the adequacy of solutions.
Instead, designers should live in the groundless semiotic world of social
Most important management and design problems are not reducible.
Extreme reductionism is harmful, raising expectations that cant
be met, leading to disappointment, fueling cycles of hope and fear.
But semi-formal approaches involving social process can work.
- Values are key to understanding the enormous opportunities and
dangers of contemporary technology.
We must understand not just what users want, but more fundamentally,
why they want, i.e.,
their fundamental underlying motivations.
We also reject extreme relativism, that all human values are equally valid.
But denying absolutism and relativism solves no real problems in design or
Instead, we claim groundlessness can spark compassion, ethics, and even
Focus on practical results, not ideological purity.
CSCW, ethnomethodology, and sociology of technology motivate
- seeing values in all situations, and
- seeing that values give situations the coherence that lets us understand