One of the things that initially drew me to study Human-Centered Computing was my sense that this discipline seemed to embrace the holistic inter-connectivity of all things more naturally and passionately than many fields of study even outside of the technical domains. Reading the Task Analysis chapter this week only served to reinforce this impression.
As the chapter described and discussed the process and aspects of task analysis, I found myself on several occasions reflecting on how the discussion is fitting so seamlessly with topics of many of the “prerequisite” 600 courses that are required of an HCC Master’s candidate. Many of these parallels are obvious, of course, and were often explicitly pointed out in the text such as the kinship that task analysis shares with the SDLC and requirements gathering. But there was also an “accidental” parallel that I discovered which feed directly from the direct prerequisite of this course (HCC629). The first project deliverable that I completed for that course was applying usability criteria to an everyday object (a la Donald Norman’s principles of visibility, feedback, affordance, etc.). Reading this chapter and looking back on my process, much of what I did was “task analysis”. Particularly, I emphasized the process of that was described in the chapter as “task decomposition”. I choose a Keurig coffee maker and in examining its usability in making a cup of coffee, I performed an HTA. (Although not as well as I could have according to the chapter. I did not have a very well thought out set of “stopping rules”, for example.)
But it is also striking to note that the parallels in the domain that I come from that resides outside of HCC and HCI, which is the study of presentations and presentation theory. One of the things that we learn in my Presentation Theory and Applications class is the need to brainstorm one’s topic “off the grid”. One does not create a presentation by receiving a topic and within seconds, opening an instance of PowerPoint or Keynote and proceeding to create an ocean of bullet points. One must collect information. Then one must gather that collection and present it all together without filter. Then once must discover the underlying structure that is attempting to speak from underneath all this data, remove the data that is noise, organize the remaining data in related collections, remove more noise, reorganize and reclassify some more, and continue this iterative process until was has content that is ready to be turned into what I like to refer to as a “lean, mean, presentation machine”. This process, of course, is almost identical to what is being described in the latter part of the chapter particularly in the “Uses of Task Analysis” section where it discusses “Requirements capture and systems design”.
I entered the HCC program hoping to find an information systems link to my study of presentation theory. I continue to be amazed by how these holistic parallels continue to manifest themselves.