Dissertation and Defense

October 22nd 2009 I defended my PhD dissertation entitled On Human-Computer Interaction in Complex Artefact Ecologies.
A PDF version of the dissertation is available (Warning approx. 55mb).


The personal computer has lost its monopoly as our sole access-point to the digital world. Today we surround ourselves with a myriad of different interactive artefacts with vast computational capabilities. Modern music players, gaming consoles, entertainment systems, smart phones, netbooks, and e-readers offer internet access and functionality that a few years ago only were accessible on chunky beige desktop computers. Seen through the optics of an HCI researcher, this development is magnificent – but it also challenges the foundation of our field.

Our analytical vocabulary for describing human-computer interaction and the frameworks and tools we use to build interactive software rest on a conceptual foundation that takes personal computing for granted, and are therefore challenged by the plurality of heterogeneous interactive artefacts that are used interchangeably or in conjunction. In this PhD dissertation I present a theoretical and technological perspective of the challenges of human-computer interaction in these new landscapes of multiple, heterogeneous interactive artefacts, what I refer to as Human-Computer Interaction in Complex Artefact Ecologies.

I propose The Human-Artefact Model, which is an activity theoretical model for structuring design oriented analysis of interactive artefacts that are, or are to be, part of complex artefact ecologies. By reinterpretation of the activity theoretical foundation, I present a framework that helps better address mediators in plural. I show how the human-artefact model helps structure the understanding of the action possibilities of an in relation to the artefact ecology which surrounds it. Essential to the model is that it provides four interconnected levels of analysis and addresses the possibilities and problems at these four levels of activity.

From the technological perspective I propose an alternative interaction paradigm inspired by activity theory and based on Beaudouin-Lafon’s work on Instrumental Interaction and I propose an architectural model for realising the paradigm. The interaction paradigm Ubiquitous Instrumental Interaction pushes forth an idea of interaction as being mediated by dynamic configurations of instruments applicable across different domain objects and interactive artefacts, hence creating an interaction environment that transcends the isolated interactive artefact. I present VIGO (Views, Instruments, Governors, and Objects), which is an architectural model embodying the principles of the new paradigm. I show that it offers new technical and interactional potential to HCI.

Below you can watch a video of my presentation at the defense, and a bit further you can browse my slides. A draft manuscript is available if you want to read what I said.

PhD defense by Clemens Nylandsted Klokmose from Clemens Nylandsted Klokmose on Vimeo.

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