CS Department Seminar, Harriet King, Master’s Defense

Understanding “Just Enough” Users

3 – 4 p.m. Friday, November 30, 2012


Abstract: Among daily computer users who are proficient, some are flexible at accomplishing unfamiliar tasks on their own and others have difficulty. Software designers and evaluators involved with Human Computer Interaction (HCI) should account for any group of proficient daily users that are shown to stumble over unfamiliar tasks. We define “Just Enough” (JE) users as proficient daily computer users with predominantly extrinsic motivation style who know just enough to get what they want/need from the computer. We hypothesize that JE users have difficulty with unfamiliar computer tasks and skill transfer, whereas intrinsically motivated daily users accomplish unfamiliar tasks readily. Intrinsic motivation can be characterized by interest, enjoyment, and choice and extrinsic motivation is externally regulated. In our study we identified users by motivation style and then did ethnographic observations. Our results confirm that JE users do have difficulty accomplishing unfamiliar tasks on their own but had less problems with near skill transfer. In contrast, intrinsically motivated users had no trouble with either unfamiliar tasks or near skill transfer. This supports our assertion that JE users know enough and can transfer that knowledge, but become unproductive when faced with unfamiliar tasks.

Biography: Harriet King is a candidate for an MS degree in computer science. She has three previous degrees: one in art, a masters in education, and a BS in computer science from Michigan Tech. Harriet worked locally as a software engineer for a number of years before coming back for her masters. She recently started her own business, We Help You Use Tech, LLC, which provides tutoring and training to computer users, just like driver’s education for computer gadgets.