Saturday, July 16, 2011

Insight from the blind

Clip art: Clker
In this 2000 paper, Design of Haptic and Tactile Interfaces for Blind Users, Christian makes an important observation: " . . . At a high level, an interface is a collection of objects and operations one can perform on those objects. The visual representation of an interface on the monitor is only one interpretation. The idea is that when affording the blind access to an interface, one should not convey the visual representation, but rather the interface itself. . . .  by translating the semantic level of the interface, one can convey the same constructs that are available to sighted users."

In other words, our use of the visual field is, more accurately, use of the "proprioceptive" field, which involves much more than just sight. We have all observed learners who, in attempting to focus on a sound, will close their eyes to enhance their concentration. Turns out, in a haptically-anchored system (such as EHIEP) for most, doing a full protocol (a set of sounds or sound patterns) or a single sound with eyes closed significantly intensifies concentration--and almost certainly, retention. Compared to "simply" saying a word "blind," the addition of the haptic anchor (movement terminating in touch of both hands in the visual field) creates an extraordinarily "vivid" experience.

Although I have not explored the application of this concept to all protocols systematically, the idea of blocking visual modality extensively is an intriguing possibility. It seems to work surprisingly well in most contexts. Try it. You are in for a "blinding" revelation . . . 

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