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*On The Impossibility Of Avoiding Aesthetics In Human-Computer Interaction [Nake, F.]

February 3, 2010

Taken from: On The Impossibility Of Avoiding Aesthetics In Human-Computer Interaction.
NAKE, F. (2008) On The Impossibility Of Avoiding Aesthetics In Human-Computer Interaction. In: M. Hassenzahl, G. Lindgaard, A. Platz and N. Tractinsky. 08292 – The Study of Visual Aesthetics in Human-Computer Interaction, 24th October 2008, Dagstuhl. Dagstuhl Seminar Proceedings 08292, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Informatik, (

The aesthetic judgment discriminates at the sensory level but it possesses an innate tendency of going beyond the sensory domain (if it could really be separated and considered in splendid isolation). So in the aesthetic judgment, we have discrimination and valuation. Valuation is definitely different from evaluation: it is about qualities, whereas evaluation should usually result in quantity and, in fact, much research aims at this. The subject matter of aesthetics before valuation thus appears as human sensory perception. Since perception creates signs as representers of the objects and processes studied, we enter the field of semiotics. Perception becomes a component of semiosis, i.e. the start into a sign process. Sign processes are processes of interpretation and re-interpretation, essentially without end. Visual aesthetics has its subject matter reduced to the visual sensory mode. Until recently, usability was of great concern within the HCI community. It is not possible to seriously compare aesthetics to usability unless we destroy aesthetics to a sort of instrument.” (p#)

To aesthetics, the computer is like a medium; it becomes important in game activities; decision making and values are guiding principles; and aesthetics is a matter of contemplative reason.” (p#)

Algorithmic signs are perceivable (by us) and computable (by the computer). They connect the aesthetic with the algorithmic domain. They have, metaphorically speaking, a surface (our view) and a subface (the computer’s view).” (p#)

From (an) aesthetic perspective, (…) the world appears as aesthetic signs, aesthetic processes, and aesthetic judgments. Since the aesthetic perspective is the perspective of perception, HCI has no choice but turn to aesthetics in its attempt to better understand certain processes. HCI, in my view, is the weak coupling of two semiotic processes. One of them is a full-fledged sign process (on behalf of the human, happening on the surface). The other one is reduced to a signal process (on behalf of the computer, happening on the subface). Therefore, the (visual) aesthetics of HCI is the aesthetics of algorithmic signs as they appear in environments or situations of interaction.” (p#)

Questions of HCI must be tackled from here, i.e. from the dialectics of the new sign class, the algorithmic sign. The designer’s operations immediately appear on, and influence, the surface. Through the coupling of the two processes, the computer takes up what the designer does, and carries out the required operations. The result are changes on the subface. They appear visible as changes on the surface, due again to the coupling. In this mediated way, the designer can make use of the algorithmic side of the algorithmic sign.” (p#)

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