Not Science, but…?

from HCI as Science | unraveled

“As the class identified, HCI has plenty of current phenomena, but due to advances in technology those phenomena are radically changing and continue to change. This is a strong contrast to traditional sciences such as chemistry and biology where phenomena are generally static. Since HCI phenomena are constantly changing, HCI is constantly moving into new domains, redefining itself and absorbing new types of technology. Basically, there are no static phenomena so there can’t be an HCI paradigm. Furthermore, since there is no HCI paradigm, HCI is not a science.”

I’m not completely convinced that there is no stable phenomena, but suspect we have not observed the matter long enough to see the patterns in apparently various phenomena. from an intellegent comment on that post
“The Wright brothers constructed a working airplane without knowledge of aerodynamics, fluid mechanics, etc. They just applied tried and true engineering best practices which they learned from working on bicycles (plus a ton of trial and error).” Sometimes it takes a while to understand why things work, and see what the laws are.

Still, I have long suspected HCI is not science but craft.

I was teaching personas, and a user researcher in the class approached me after extremely concerned– the idea of making up personas, even with rich data, unnerved her. It just didn’t seem scientific, and one might make a mistake in deciding who to design for. I pointed out 8 users wasn’t exactly a safe procedure either. And I told her something I’ve noticed. if I create a persona… even if I don’t use it again beyond the initial creation… I design better. and I mean that quantifiably: I not only discover more innovative solutions, I also get fewer usability issues later in the lab. If I use the persona for scenarios and task analysis, I get still fewer errors, and of reduced severity.

I’d love ot see a formal study on this, but for now I know my craft is improved by good HCI practices.