Landing : Athabascau University

Human - Computer Interactions

Hello, Landing!

As promised a month ago, I am now ready to resume my textventures in the blogosphere. I'll be catching up on what's happened on the Landing over the past two months, plus doing some more writing. In particular, I'm taking two courses which require the creation of original content - ENGL255 and COMP214. ENGL255 in fact requires I create something like a blog. I guess that makes this all rather convenient!

I'd like to take a look at COMP214, though, as I find this course my most interesting and most frustrating, simultaneously. It's interesting how those two often intersect, too - if something's fascinating, it's often because you simply can't put it down due to sheer antagonism. How dare this rubix cube be unsolved? It's a crime against, well, whatever it is that regulates the state of rubix cubes. A crime against logic nerds?


COMP214 is a new course, investigating Human-Computer Interaction. Despite being in the Comp Sci stream, this course has precious little to do with my other courses. There's no math (save that which I manage to worm in, because everything is better with math), there's no logic or algorithms beyond that which I can find myself. Instead, we're dealing with ergonomics and "prceptive psychology"? If that's even a thing. Is that a thing? I suspect that others in the Landing will be able to interpret for me. The course deals with how we interact with our machines, and how we ought to interact with machines given the peculiarities of our physiology and the particularities of our savannah-sculpted brains.

I'm enjoying COMP214 greatly. It's freeform - there are four units, with each containing 4-6 assignments. Each one covers an area of HCI, tools used to work on improving the user interface of software, analyses of computer ergonomics, etc. There's no textbook and not even any assigned readings - I'm expecte to go out into the wilds of the Internet to dig up my source material in order to complete the assignment. In short, it's more of a research course than an actual course. 

I'm also highly aggrivated by the course because it's so freeform. Don't get me wrong, Prof-if-you're-reading-this. I am having a blast. I'd just like to also get some of the established research on computer ergonomics as well, but don't have access to those shiny research pay-journals. Is it because3 the state of the science is poor? I could understand that. Psychological sciences can take awhile to get good statistical feet under them, and can be riddled with fallacies and assumptions. Freud, anyone? It would be nice to get a bit more structure. 




This said, I'm still enjoying the course. My next assignment requires me to play video games, for crying out loud. Remember my posts on EVE Online? Expect some videos shortly, because EVE has an interface much like COMP214 - great fun, but head-on-desk annoying at times. I'll also be uploading some of the more interesting assignments with some post-script commentaries - please feel free to comment.

I think that I'm going to have to build my own course when it comes to HCI, though. My first assignments broke things down somewhat. Maybe that's where I'll start.


  • Jon Dron February 16, 2012 - 9:38am

    Great reflections!

    I love this kind of course - those aggravating bits involve practicing exactly the skills that matter most and that are too often overlooked in traditional courses.

    We do have quite a few of those expensive journals in the AU digital library including the two top journals in the field (albeit only up to 12 months ago) in case you've not found them - International journal of human-computer interaction and Human-computer interaction. Search the titles at if you've not been there already - there are some other human-computer interaction titles too.


  • Dragan Gasevic February 16, 2012 - 9:45am

    Indeed, most of relevant articles in the area can be accessed via AU Library. Also, there is a direct way, which works for most of publishers how to access a paper, once you are already on a publisher's website. Here is a copy of instructions we used in some other courses: 


    Once you are on the web page of a paper at a publisher's Web site, you need to add an AU Library proxy to your URL. Consider the following example.

    Zowghi, D., & Coulin, C. (2005), "Requirements Elicitation: A Survey of Techniques, Approaches, and Tools," In

    Engineering and Managing Software Requirements, A.Aurum and C. Wohlin, Eds., Springer, Berlin, Germany, pp. 19-46.

    Once you click the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) link,, you will be redirected to a URL that looks like

    Add a "0-" prefix, and an "" suffix to your URL before the first "/" character, as follows:


    You will next be asked for your AU Library login information, and when you have successfully logged on, you will be given access to the article.

  • Simon Chandler February 16, 2012 - 10:38am


    Regarding the reformatted addresses.

    Some time ago I wrote a simple Windows app that does this URL reformatting for you. By copying the original URL to your windows clipboard and clicking a button the URL is reformatted to the 0-...etc  format and replaced into your windows clipboard. You can then paste it back into the browser address bar.

    Requires .NET framework and a Windows box. If needed I can post the code and binary.



  • Jon Dron February 16, 2012 - 12:00pm

    Even easier...

    If you create a bookmark with the following code as the location/address (copy as plain text):

    javascript:temp=location.href.split('/');theHref='http://0-'+temp[2]+'';for (i=3;i<temp.length;i++){theHref+='/'+temp[i];};location.href=theHref;

    You can click it any time you are visiting a publisher site that AU subscribes to. If we have a subscription, it will reload the page and let you open any links on that site, redirected via our electronic library. Note that you will usually have to log in using your usual user ID and password the first time you use this after opening your browser.

    There are different ways of creating bookmarks in different browsers. Quite a few don't let you create a bookmark from scratch, so the first step is usually just to bookmark a page - any page. Next, edit your bookmark title to whatever you want, and replace the URL with the code above, ensuring that you paste only the text that you can read here, not the underlying HTML. Usually, copy and paste will do that for you automatically.


    • in Firefox, choose 'Bookmarks' then ''Show all bookmarks', find your newly created bookmark and edit the name (whatever you like) and location (use the code above).
    • In Safari, click the bookmark icon, find your newly created bookmark (or any existing bookmark), right-click it and choose 'Edit name' then 'Edit address'. Just paste the code into the address box.
    • In Chrome, choose 'Bookmarks' then 'Bookmark Manager'. Find your new bookmark, right-click and choose 'Edit'. Paste the code into the second field shown, and make the title whatever you want it to be.

    Hope this is useful. This is quick and dirty code but it has worked on all sites I've tried so far - suggestions for improvements are welcomed!


  • Colin Pinnell February 16, 2012 - 12:10pm

    You've all just blown my mind. All that, for free? Dang. I've got some reading to do!


  • Simon Chandler February 16, 2012 - 1:05pm

    Oh, that is just excellent!