Metaphors For HCI

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Metaphors for HCI Reber (1992) defined a metaphor as a linguistic device that illustrates an concept via analogy. The utilization of a metaphor allows foreign and abstract concepts to be easily and readily understood and grasped. This paper will explore the importance of metaphors for HCI. Additionally, it will expound on Lifestreams which is a better alternative to the desktop metaphor. Metaphors are very significant for Human Computer Interaction (HCI). This is primarily because they enable the users to utilize their comprehension of everyday situations and objects to aid them in comprehending the concepts which are within a computing environment. Unrelentless research in the field of HCI has been mostly successful. Consequently, this has basically transformed computing (Brad, 1999). Metaphors are often used in daily speech. For example, people speak about time like it is currency or money. By employing a metaphor, time which is an abstract concept is made more understandable and familiar. By using this currency metaphor in respect to time, it becomes normal for people to spend, save, waste, give or borrow time. When we look at how system interfaces are designed, we can also view how metaphors play a vital role. The types of user interactions people do, the objects found on the screen, and names associated with commands are mostly based on terms which are familiar. Icons, desktops, windows, menus, pasting, cutting and copying are all part of the virtual interface metaphor.The desktop metaphor has been used by mac windows system from an early age. This led to the windows operating system designed by Microsoft. The current desktop metaphor poses some significant problems to its users. They have difficulty in. finding or organizing information within the hierarchical file systems, managing their reminders and schedules, obtaining a big picture view, and utilizing archived or stored information, which is often discarded by users so that they are not overwhelmed by it. However, these problems have been addressed in Lifestreams. As such, it is a better metaphor than the current desktop metaphor. Lifestream replaces conventional directories and files by adopting a time ordered stream of documents. The human memory too works this way in storing information. It stores information in a stacking order according to time. To locate, organize, monitor or summarize incoming information, Lifestream uses software agents and stream filters. Lifestream solves the difficulties experienced by desktop system users by providing a metaphor tasked with organizing the electronic documents. They are organized in a natural way that reflects on the way the users work. The documents are arranged irrespective of the format they are in. for example, downloaded images, electronic mail schedule reminders or pages sourced from websites. Therefore, Lifestream offers a different but better way to manage information by organizing it according to the time continuum, and not space. Unlike the current desktop metaphor, Lifestream avoids the paper pile by putting recently accessed documents at the top end of the stack. Older documents and files are placed towards the bottom of the stack. This design enables the user to maneuver through the documents easily. Therefore, lifestream is not only an effective tool at being people oriented, but also it brings a new look and change to the standard GUI format. Due to the above reasons, lifestream is a better metaphor than the current desktop metaphor.Work CitedMyers, Brad A. User Interface Management Systems. Wiley Encyclopedia of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (1999).Print.Reber, Arthur S. The cognitive unconscious: An evolutionary perspective. Consciousness and Cognition 1.2 (1992): 93-133. Print.