Iterate My Literacy Process as an Interface Product

ENGRD221W Final Portfolio and Reflection Letter

Interface is the place at which independent and often unrelated systems meet and act on or communicate with each other … Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) aims to create technology that harmonizes with and improves human capabilities, goals, and social environments by design, computer science, and behavioral and social sciences.

Merriam-webster and CMU’s HCII

Merriam-webster and CMU’s HCI institute dumped me these when I first became acquainted with the word “interface” on the description of a job for which I’ve already received an offer, signaling the start of my already two-year and likely prolonging entanglement with “interface”. At the time, I realized interface design study would be the biggest gap between my current tech-and-business background and getting a mature product manager career. Since then, iterating my understanding and daily practices of interface analysis has gradually become a habit. This FA21 semester, in an interdisciplinary media writing course with Professor David Morgen and 13 inspiring classmates, I made significant progress along this journey – I now see the parallel of interface design and my everyday information output to the world. Recalling the quoted definition, our interdisciplinary exploration of literacy form and digital writing tools match exactly with HCI tools.

The fact that I found my writing capability innovated at an unprecedented rate these past months lured me to apply and reflect on this mindset from an interface’s perspective. More specifically, as illustrated in this sk9 diagram as the blue highlight, I improved in 1) design philosophy and 2) revision growth curve, both of which echo with the essentials of interface design improvement.

sk9 diagram

Writing design philosophy: adding tech interface thinking to logic

In my initial Tech Literacy Narrative, when discussing my writing process, I emphasized my systematic information flow and how I rely on preliminary structure mapping before writing. They are still, irrefutably, proved to be crucial for building the cornerstone of writing, especially when I have special “architecture design” to build on top like in branching the dialogues as Twine code cards for our game “Vaccine Hesitancy Revisited”. The doctor-ask-patient-answer logic made clear sense to players, setting up the basic functionality of our work and allowing us to engage the players right into the scenario without cumbersome introductions that increase access barriers. Then, the game results returned to them shall also have a corresponding logic with their different choices in the process to achieve the educational effect of showing what kind of persuasion can work effectively for a certain anti-vax mindset. Like how we demonstrate post-hoc punishments or rewards to domestic pets to tell them some household habits, such story logic (especially cause-and-effect relationship) will be the theme that we plant into readers’ minds.

However, our game went into a bottleneck at the wrapping and polishing stage as so many unsatisfactory small details suddenly occurred during demo: the dialogue-like options were just too long and would make audiences feel cumbersome; lack of specific “back-bottom” trapped one in a transition page; some font color blends into the background… Here are the interface problems. With these revelations in mind, I started to pay more attention to similar interface demand points and their related writing considerations in the later writing of various forms. Compared to those successful works of art before, viral technology products nowadays gain a competitive advantage by the interface, and the expectation of modern tech emphasizes more on interface considerations. In new media writing, after careful analysis of readers’ mindsets, detailed interfaces like highlighted fonts or “sharing” bottom redirection appeal to the audience more, prompting them to understand and make better use of my work.

As I practiced my developing mindset, I even found its applicability in improving the process of my regular linear writing. Instead of indulging in building up my logic structure design at the planning stage, I shall conduct more research into my audience’s understanding range and “browsing preference”. This habit will be a great help for my long-term writing problem of being too perplexing.

Later revision: Compare to PSM, how to execute agile SDLC management and iterate systems myself

Confirmed by my recent days and days of final exam preparation, Process and System Management (PSM) in my business major — Information System — is strictly configurated by operational models and frameworks. Nevertheless, based on what I learned in the past semester of writing class, I found personal literacy processes dynamic and iterative, reminding me of the agile Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) that is again related to product design.

In the podcast-making assignment, the HTML landing page design, visual note-taking, the Twine project, and this WordPress webpage itself, we searched and acquired countless new writing skills/tools ourselves. The bondless assignment settings allowed us to explore our capacities and feverishly experimented new tools, similar to every agile product iteration in which product managers would debug old versions or add cutting-edge new feature design (and cautiously pre-planning blank modules or entries to accommodate later iterations). Even more important than this is the fact that we learned a specific set of skills and the confidence and growth mindset to keep exploring. For instance, my technology product background granted me some preliminary understanding of WordPress and was able to help classmates like Laurie and Jessica with organizing. Beyond organizing our course assignments on this website, I’ve planned to extend the use of this as a personal website in all future portfolio submissions. There are resume and independent project galleries; later, I hope there can be more interactive presentations of products and even 3-D avatars connected to Metaverse (not limited to Meta’s) – the setup of which could be more complicated even currently unknown, but I’m ready.

“The metaverse is coming”
Image Credit: Unit 2 Games Limited

Another large part of merit I gained was from iterating writing with collaborators’ help and based on past users’ feedback. For my main podcast, “Voices Through the Mask and Beyond”, I first saw a parallel between my idea of finding some benign communication outcomes of Covid-19 and my position as the last episode. I listened to and engaged 5+ classmates about their perspectives and reflections on what they found as the merit or drawback of Covid on the broad definition of communication. I’m thrilled to observe multiple chemical reactions like how both Saketh’s and Stella’s teams mentioned the innovation of tools and media. In this process, I enjoyed not only amplifying my synthesis but also the stimulated discussion and aggregate-level reflection among classmates.

Wait… These theorems can be limited

Writing till here, I suddenly arouse a second thought that this mechanism is only helping me improve as a literature product manager, but not achieving much free-lance artistic value. My creation can be based on solid analytics, revision curve, and collaboration, but how did I practice the intuitive imagination and creation like traditionally recognized great writers?

The answer to this question was found when I reorganized my menu bar and found all the versatile and random sk1-sk9 listed. The Sketches! I’m so glad such randomness supplemented this semester with creative and artistic writing opportunities. Among these nine “Try. You may not like it but may as well”, I actually found at least 5 of the 9 sketching processes rewarding, which is already a statistical high in terms of human interest discovery.

Conclusion

Just as this layered reflection essay that incorporates metaphor, theorems, analytics, and concession demonstrates, I’m most surprised with the degree to which I developed synthetic thinking for a wide range of my literacy media and even my other life occupations like major studying and career planning. Besides merging and Just as this layered reflection essay that incorporates metaphor, theorems, analytics, and concession demonstrates, I’m most surprised with the degree to which I developed synthetic thinking for a wide range of my literacy media and even my other life occupations like major studying and career planning. Besides merging and acquiring new writing skills into my architecture, I look forwards to the possibility of learning and incorporating new complex systems in a broader context by similar means.

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