In a Ph.D. thesis called “The Paradox of the Guided User,” a dutch researcher examined the productivity of users who were dependent on computers, and users who had a pen-and-paper alternative. The article doesn’t link to the full dissertation, so it’s risky to extrapolate beyond the quotes in the article, so I’ll just repeat a few here:
“Present-day software must be user-friendly. Indeed, train ticket
machines at railway stations should be simple and provide us with a
ticket quickly,” van Nimwegen told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
“But in other situations, I think we should not be assisted as much
as graphic software interfaces like Microsoft Windows or Apple OSX are
doing today,” he added.
Van Nimwegen says much software turns us into passive beings,
subjected to the whims of computers, randomly clicking on icons and
menu options. In the long run, this hinders our creativity and memory,
he says. —eNews 2.0
This article meshes nicely with a unit I’m preparing to spring on my Writing for the Internet students later this week. I’m trying to get them past the “creative hypertext is confusing and boring” attitude that sometimes prevents experienced ‘net users from appreciating the hyperauthor’s use of a medium that can, in fact, be disorienting and alienating.
Next, I’m going to introduce them to the command line, in order to prepare my English majors to appreciate the lesson I’m trying to teach them when I ask them to do some elementary programming and game-creation tasks.