Monthly Archives: December 2014

Thoughts On Proprioceptive Feedback


The literature:
Spatial Updating Of Self-Position And Orientation During Real, Imagined, And Virtual Locomotion (1998)

For efficient navigational search humans require full physical movement but not a rich visual scene.

The research done by Klatzky, Loomis, et al. as well as that of Ruddle and Lessels both indicate that proprioceptive feedback is a crucial factor in our ability to accurately gauge distance, size, heading and rate of movement. While my own experience echoes their findings, the reading left me with a couple questions.

First, what are the differentiating factors that separate those of us with what appears to be a more developed innate sense of direction (or perhaps a more advanced and accurate sense of place) from those who have difficulty with even the most rudimentary way finding operations when removed from familiar environments? Are there biological factors at play, or are the differences primarily acquired through life experience? Can we train to be more receptive to proprioceptive feedback, learn to interpret it more accurately, or are we consigned to our genetically disposed navigational fates, as it were?

Second, what are the implications of this kind of research on purely digital mediums, in which physical feedback is minimal or nonexistent? Are there natural corollaries between physical locomotion or visual perception and our navigation of pages on the web or through various states of an application? Could connections between these modes of ‘navigation’ be yoked more efficiently, enhancing a user’s innate ability to find their way about within a complex application?

What do you think?

Design Constraints Are Awesome

While reading some material recently I was particularly struck by a correlation between the sentiment of “designing for monochrome first” (for color deficient users) and the design movement termed “Mobile First”.

In both cases, the designer aims to build their interface elements such that the largest % possible of users will have accessibility to the data, based on the real and perceived limitations of the environmental factors imposed. After baseline accessibility and usability you can worry about nuances and aesthetics.

Monochromatic vision strips the designer of color-based tools and techniques, forcing you to fallback to the use of shape, contour, contrast and pattern. The Mobile First design sensibility forces the designer to carefully prioritize what elements of the design are truly needed to accomplish the goal(s) of the product, framed within the limits imposed by a smaller display. You also have to consider the contextual differences in usage between a mobile device and a desktop computer, and within the vastly different feature sets of modern devices.

I often hear about project constraints in terms of drawbacks, of obstacles to building the perfect widget. It’s much more helpful to think of constraints as helpful wayfinding elements on the road to successful project definition. If you know what they are, you won’t waste time in rabbit holes and you’ll be able to focus your time and attention on crafting the best product possible – one that will meet the unique needs of your users, whether or not they can see colors and regardless of what they’re using to access your offerings.

Thoughts On Medical Decision Making

Original article by Jerome Groopman

We all fall victim to habitual behaviors, and more so when we are unable to focus sufficient attention on tasks at hand, believing (consciously or unconsciously) that we can accomplish some process or task without conscious thought, instead thinking about ‘more pressing’ matters.

What is more difficult to detect are those biases not based on habit, but instead on other factors. Groopman’s article on medical decision making explored this issue in the light of decisions made every day by physicians in practices and hospitals across the world.

Several types of errors were explored, including Representativeness error (thinking that is overly influenced by what is typically true), Availability error (the tendency to judge likelihood of an event by how easy relevant examples come to mind), confirmation bias error (cognitive cherry picking – confirming what you expect to find by selectively accepting or ignoring information) and affective error (making decisions based on what you wish to be true).

The stories he shared demonstrate how a very skilled and educated doctor can make incredibly dangerous mistakes, due in some cases to the fast-paced world of medicine but in other in reaction to common human urges such as the desire to be merciful and spare a patient embarrassment or further fatiguing tests.

At my workplace we are tasked with making medical industry communication more secure and much more efficient – resulting in better patient care and increased physician and clinician satisfaction. After reading this article and having learned a great deal about how complex the communication needs of a hospital or practice have become, I have to wonder how many mistakes are made due to the very real problems of workflow dissolution and workplace communication breakdowns. How many errors of the classes described by Groopman could be avoided or reduced in severity through more frequent and higher quality peer-to-peer interactions in the medical industry?