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ABSOLUTE PHD 1.0

Arrangementet er afholdt
(blev afholdt onsdag, 11. november 2009, kl. 14:00-16:00)

Brand New HCI Researchers Present Highlights from their PhD Research

Where: IT University
Who:  Alessandro Canossa, Anna Vallgårda and Rune Nørager

ABSOLUTE PHD 1.0

Join us at the IT University for the first event in a series of HCI related PhD-talks.

Rune Nørager:
Myths in HCI and cognitive psychology

Abstract
As a practitioner, researcher, and teacher I often encounter a number of myths, which are pervasive and generally accepted. These myths are problematic and counterproductive in our understanding of human beings and in the development of useful technology. In this talk I will challenge and nuance the myths.

Myths in HCI:

  • New technology is a generational problem
  • Users are different
  • The user interface is a window that should be optimised to the task itself

Myths in cognitive psychology:

  • Our senses are bombarded with information
  • The brain creates meaning from sensory information
  • We construe the world differently according to culture and language

 

Anna Vallgårda:
Computational composites addressing computer as a material both in theory and through prototypes

Abstract
The project is generally shaped by a sensation that something is amiss within the area of ubiquitous computing. Ubiquitous computing as a vision—as a program—sets out to challenge idea of the computer as a desktop computer as means to explore the potential o the new microprocessors and network technologies. But the understanding of the computer represented within this program poses a challenge for its own intentions. The computer understood as a multitude of invisible intelligent information devices confines the computer as means to solve well defined problems within specified contexts—something which rarely exists in practice.

Nonetheless, the computer will continue to grow more ubiquitous as moors law still withold and as it becomes ever cheaper. The question is how, and for what we will use it? How will it, for instance, be implemented in design and architecture and in what new directions we will take the technological developments? We need a new understanding of the computer to guide these developments as none of the previous withhold these new conditions and new oppertunities.

I propose that we begin to understand the computer as a material alonge any other material we would use for deisgn, like wood, aluminum, or plastic. That as soon as the computer forms a compositions with other materials it becomes just as approchable and inspiering as other smart materials.

I will here present a few out of a series of investigations of what this understanding could entail. The investigations are carried out in relation to or as part of three experiments with computers and materials, called PLANKS, copper computational composite, and Telltale. Through the investigations I show how the computer can be understood as a material and how it partake in a new material strand of materials whose expressions come to be in context. I uncover some of their essential material properties and potential expressions. I develop a way of working with them in a design process despite their complexity and non a priori existence and finally I argued how these investigations form both valid and valuable research results within the context of design research.

 

Alessandro Canossa:
Player experience in single player action games

Abstract
This thesis proposes a framework to sharpen the focus on player experience when designing and evaluating levels for single player action games.

This framework is both based on an analysis of what a level is (for the designer and for the player respectively) and a theoretical exploration of modeling of players.

From a developer’s point of view, game levels are the confluence of art, code and gameplay. From a player’s point of view, levels are a succession of spaces that contain events.

Due to its intrinsic multidisciplinary nature, level design has been historically difficult to define both in terms of scope of the discipline (what is the result of the process) and the skill set required from the level designers. In different game studios it is possible to see how the role of level designer can be covered by artists with a good understanding of space, architects unbound from gravity and materials and even the specific subcategory of programmers called scripters1. The core focus of designing game spaces is also often disputed exactly because of the heterogeneous composition of its ranks. Some teams see gameplay as king, and every other decision is secondary; in other contexts it is the story that rules and at times even the code, under the appearance of outstanding technical achievements, can become the compass that orients the design process. Another problem often encountered in level design is the lack of an irrefutable, quantifiable assessment of quality and success ratio. QA departments in leading developer’s studios around the world are starting to devote enormous resources to track players’ behaviour through metric data and provide an unquestionable answer to issues such as “is this level good enough?” In this setting, the main concern seems to deal with which parameters are necessary to monitor in order to insure a proper feedback on questions regarding the success rate of game levels and how to relate the analysis carried out on the raw data.

This project intends to look for an element that can be the pivot, flexible and solid at the same time, around which all the other fields and disciplines will harmonically dance, structuring the game space and providing it with consistency, focus and variety. The result is not a cumbersome normative procedure, nor a merely descriptive framework, but instead it provides mental and practical tools for level designers. That central pivot is the play-persona concept, initially inspired from the field of Human Computer Interaction as a mean to imply players during the design phase of games. Play-personas are ways of modeling player behavior and understanding players’ relationship to the ludic and aesthetic affordances of specific computer games. Play personas are defined as clusters of preferential interaction and navigation; they can be employed as a means of assisting the computer game design process, or as an a posteriori method (lens) for better understanding games. Since there seem to be no single universal experience of play that can fulfil the needs of every player, it is necessary to design for a multitude of approaches that players may bring with them to the game, depending upon their psychological traits. This is the design function that play personas fulfil.

Persona-oriented game design can connect quantitative analyses of player behaviour (game metrics) as well as psychological studies of player types, studies into game design processes, and analyses of level design in computer games.

1 A scripter’s role is to define behaviour of non-playing characters, enemies and events by scripting them in a high level language such as LUA, Python, etc.

ABSOLUTE PHD 1.0

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