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Computers as Theatre
Brenda Laurel
Addison Wesley, Boston, MASS.,1992
Paperback, 272 pages
ISBN: 0201550601

This book is a fascinating classic. Again Laurel was too early; so early in fact that hardly any of her ideas took hold as other concepts and paradigms got more established. To me it seems like a parallel universe of an alternate history.


p. 20 Her old model:
frequency - how often you could interact
range - how many choices are available
significance - do choices affect matters

What is the mental modell that people have of an interactive experience?

The nature of the beast: Think of computers not as a tool but as a medium. :)

She says: "Action is a good balance between thinking and doing. As in spacewars."

"What will a person try to do - rather [...] with a metaphor or a notion the screen can display."

"What is going on" is more important than "talk" between human and computer.

The screen mediates between the human and the computer.

Ben Shneiderman:
1. Continuous representation of objects of interest
2. Physical actions or buttons
3. Immediately visible

Laurel explains the "dramatic foundations" in

p. 9: "Representations of objects and environments provide a context for action."

p.35 "Interactivity is the ability of humans to participate in actions in a representational context."Understanding. "What is a thing?" What is a building, a horse, a church?

house-ness - a formal cause, what it is, what it is trying to be
material cause - what is it made of.
efficient cause - the way in which it is made
end cause - what shoud it do?

translated to computers:
- functionality
- program
- application
- representation
- agent

six elements = one organic whole creating more then just the sum of its parts.

Action = the action
Character = pattern of choice
Thought = internal processes lead to emotion, cognition, reason
Language = selection of arrangements of words make use of language
Melody = everything that is heard
Spectacle = everything on the screen

(Reminds me of the step form Neuromancer simstim to Diamond Ages' "Primer." From egocentric VR to a powerful real world object. Or as Gillian Crampton-Smith would have said: "... becoming invisible - and visible again.)


p. 65 The whole and its parts: "For that which makes no perceptible difference by its presence or absence is no part of the whole." Aristotle, Poetics

p. 67 introduction - rise - climax - return or fall - catastrophe

p. 85-87 Examples of displaying it graphically. Good contraints!

Gustavs' "Fridaycurve": single elements of action receive a value of importance between 1 and 0.

The key differences between Drama and Narrative:
1. Enactment: Drama is action
2. Intensification: selection, arrangement, represented, Narration expands or explodes time.
3. Unity of actions vs. episodes

p. 99 constraints!!!
p. 98 art !!!
p. 119 multisensory experience,
Information communicated as facts loses all its contexts and relationships.


p. 204 the invisible interface
builiding interfaces that speak to the much larger and more elaborate parts of our brain that process and construct worlds and of all human senses working in concert."

p. 205
yin & yang:
yangs' scientific realisation enables perception of patterns easier.
yin: feel, hunch and intuition (emotion via empathy: drama)
VR: "We encounter technology with passion" p. 214

"You either feel yourself participating - or you don't
"without the representation there is nothing at all"

experimental mode: browsing
instrumental mode: good for directional searching

"artistic approach is imagination and inspiration"
Heckel: "filmaking is the artform of communication"
"social cultural and artistic aspects of HCI"

... we aim to design HC activities that are beautiful" p. 65
... aims and goals don't explain most of human behaviour." p. 77 Philip Agre

"Human activity may be divided into two broad categories: productive or instrumental - and experiential. p. 22

"In Brechts' hypothesis, the representation lives between imagination and reality, serving as a conductor, amplifier, clarifier and motivator" p. 31

"... the audience members take what they have assimilated from the representation and put it to work in their lives." p. 31

"End cause: ... experience is an equally important aspect of the end cause; that is, what a person thinks and feels about the activity." p. 48

There is no "Friday curve" in a normal, pseudo interactive-dynamic system! No narration.

last update: 4/20/02010 15:48

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