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Experience, play, and interpretation - discontents of usability

Tapio Mäkelä


In the context of new media, emphasis on the term "usage" has privileged human computer interaction rather than human interaction with various forms of content in their cultural and social contexts. Thus also usability often refers to ease of use and functionality of given software, system or hardware. I am suggesting that even though the seminar title Cultural usability points towards a more holistic understanding of the HCI, the term usability itself remains problematic. One thesis that I am working on at the moment is to look at the history of "usage" as a behaviorist and cognitive discourse, where hermeneutics, ambiguity, and questions of culturally constructed identities are mostly avoided. Usability could be challenged for example with "experienceability", "readability", or "playability". Furthermore, since new media is less about a culture of machines and their operators than it is about a complex field with various technologies, contents and cultural practices of interpretation and production, a sophisticated view on usability perceives the limits of its own making.

Tapio Mäkelä is researcher at Turku University/ Media studies, Media Usage and the Transformations of Everyday Experience (MEDUSA) research project.