Surrounded by objects whose workings are a total mystery
In "Why Toys Shouldn't Work "Like Magic": Children's Technology and the Values of Construction and Control ", Mark Gross and Michael Eisenberg describes the tension between "ease of use" and user empowerment" that is at stake in kids artifact design. Starting from an interesting quote from physicist and science writerJeremy Bernstein, they how the design of toys (and the incorporation of technology in objects) raises the same set of issue. Here's the quote from Bernstein that I quite like:
"Most of us, myself included, are increasingly surrounded by objects that we use daily but whose workings are a total mystery to us. This thought struck me forcibly about a year ago. One day, for reasons I can no longer reconstruct, I was looking around my apartment when it suddenly occurred to me that it was full of objects I did not understand. A brief catalogue included my color television set, a battery-operated alarm watch, an electronic chess-playing machine, and a curious fountain pen that tells the time. Here I am, I thought, a scientist surrounded by domestic artifacts whose workings I don't understand.
The whole discussion, exemplified by toy project is about how technology seems like magic when we do not understand how it works. The authors then argue for intelligibility of use.
Why do I blog this? this discussion is quite common in design as it deals with issues such as transparency and glass/black box model of technologies.
Mark D. Gross, Michael Eisenberg, "Why Toys Shouldn't Work "Like Magic": Children's Technology and the Values of Construction and Control," digitel, pp. 25-32, The First IEEE International Workshop on Digital Game and Intelligent Toy Enhanced Learning (DIGITEL'07), 2007