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Human Connections

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Humans and computers co-exist in modern society. Technology has been deeply integrated into our everyday life, which I have already touched upon in this post. What this means is that every day, humans are interacting with computers. Human Computer Interaction (HCI) as a field of study focuses on these interactions. Though there is a connection between HCI and Digital Rhetoric, it is also its own separate field.

Interfaces

The main connection between HCI and Digital Rhetoric is the concept of interfaces. Doug Eyman explains that “For digital rhetoric, the interface is both object and location…”. On a first read, this concept sounds a bit complicated, but it actually isn’t too difficult once you understand his use of “object” and “location”.

Interface as a Location

When referring to an interface as a location, Eyman is referring to it as the point of contact between human and computer. Think about a modern cellphone. When you use any phone with a touch screen, your skin directly connects with the screen. That contact is the input that allows the phone to act on your intentions. The point of contact between human skin and computer screen— the location— is also the interface.

Interface as an Object

Defining an interface as an object is a bit more abstract. When considering an interface an object, one is not considering the physical connection between human and computer. Instead, rhetoricians consider an interfaces an object of study. You can look at the physical point of contact between humans and computers, but you can also examine it and analyze the impact of this connection.

The “Humanity” in HCI

HCI tends to focus more on user wants and needs, as opposed to the digital rhetoricians angle of “concern[ing] itself with power, knowledge, and access by taking into consideration the different loci of power that exist simultaneously with users, designers, and the larger cultural context…”. Many fields of human study overlap with HCI, such as psychology, sociology, and cognitive science. This becomes clear when you consider common interface design and how it plays on the natural inclinations of the human brain.

I’m sure you’ve encountered numerous pop ups when visiting different sites on the web. Sometimes, they’re large advertisements that obscure the content you actually came to the page for. Other times, they’re sites asking you to allow cookies so they can collect data from your time perusing the site. These pop ups usually share a common design trait: a large, brightly colored button that would accept the ask of the pop up. If the pop up is regarding cookies, the colorful, easy to find button would be the “Accept all”. If it’s an ad, it might be a “sign up for our newsletter” button, or something similar.

The “reject unnecessary cookies” or “x to close” button is usually much harder to find. The text will be smaller, certainly not as colorful. It might not even initially look like something you can click. Meanwhile, the accept button is bright, eye-catching, enticing. You really want to press it, or at least, your brain does. Even though you decidedly do not want to accept all cookies, or sign up for a site’s newsletter, your brain still craves the satisfaction of pushing that bright colorful button.

Human psychology is used in the design of effective interfaces. By knowing how to exploit the inner workings of the human brain, developers of new tech can influence us to crave connection to machines, possibly even more so than with other humans. After all, a new and shiny technology that revolutionizes the way we interact with tech sounds exciting, doesn’t it?


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