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Computers as Theatre Reprint Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
This said, I wish I wish that we would see a book from Laurel (or from one of her other usability guru companions) that treats with more recent issues-- particularly the Internet. I think she's one of the smartest people out there in the field, and I try to read what she's written, but I'm getting tired of reading about Habitat, Guides, and the Holodek on Star Trek. That's not the fault of the book, given that it came out pre-Internet hype, but it did inflect the reading experience with some weariness.
It is also one of those books which does not do a good job of unifying its material, in my opinion. Rather than being a progression of ideas that builds to some intellectual climax, it meanders through various interesting points not quite aimlessly. The book introduces two useful diagrams: 'flying wedges' which describe how the space of possibilities in a drama go from the 'possible' to converge on the 'necessary', and 'freytag triangles', which measures the rise and fall of a plot. If these are used to describe this book (a slight abuse?), it doesn't fare well. The freytag diagram never peaks, and the wedge doesn't converge to the 'necessary'. This may be because the objectives for the book were not clear. As a reader, I didn't realize she was not (mostly) speaking to the modern commercial software world for quite a while into the book. The book also ended with two chapters about virtual reality (the substance, not the hype), and I was left wondering if perhaps *this* was what the book was really about (if so, I didn't see it coming).
All that said: there are many good ideas in the book, some of which will make you stop and think for a while (e.g. those diagrams). It is valuable because of this. As an individual, I simply wish the book had been better structured, for I'd have gotten more out of it.
The book is based on the simple premise that effective interface design, just like effective drama, must engage the user directly in an experience involving both thought and action. Laurel's key point is that a user's enjoyment must be a paramount design consideration, and she posits that it demands a deep awareness of dramatic theory and technique. While I might shrink back from the idea that this awareness is an absolute requirement, I will quickly and easily concede that this awareness would be extremely useful.
This is not a book of practical tips and tricks. It is a reader-accessible study that lays out the philosophical and academic foundations for understanding first how humans audience members interact with drama and uses that as a basis for thinking about how computer users can more effectively be enabled to interact with computers.
The beginning of Computers as Theatre focuses on both classical and modern schools of thought and theory about drama. This is very interesting and outside of my previous experience. It got me thinking about things I had never considered. I like that.
The rest of the book takes this knowledge and applies it to computers. It does so in ways that alternately seem obvious and revolutionary. I will illustrate using one small portion of the book's content.Read more ›
It is a new "Way" of thinking, and, indeed, is so far ahead of any way we design software now that many ideas that this book suggests still need extensive research to even understand how to implement. (e.g. Freytag graphs as a way of structuring software/task flow to provide a pleasing HCI, and Brenda's Principles of Intelligent Computer Agency as a means for implementing truly AI agents with personality and emotions).
Along with the wonderful head rush of compelling new theory, she also takes the second half of the book to explain principles of software design that you can implement in your programs _now_, and also takes the time to introduce you to fascinating HCI research offshoots like Programming by Demonstration.
It is wonderful writing, and her ideas and concepts continually refresh and remind me why I am in such an exciting field.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Brilliant, I used to work with Brenda at the old Atari - this was written in the early 80's and accurately predicted the world we live in to today and why.Published 18 months ago by Tim
I thought this book would be helpful in giving examples of how to design applications that immerse users and make the interaction between computers and humans more accessible and... Read morePublished on March 22, 2014 by RevolveR
It's difficult to update a classic. The original work needs to stand the test of time, and the update needs to add sufficient value. Read morePublished on November 18, 2013 by Christopher