Jun 26 2008


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Peer-Reviewed Publications

Barr, P., Brown, J., Biddle, R., Khaled, R., & Noble, J. (2006). Changing the virtual self: The avatar transformation activity in popular games. Joint International Conference on CyberGames and Interactive Entertainment. Perth, Australia: ACM.

During play, players of videogames change their avatars in a variety of ways, altering how the avatar looks, behaves, or can be manipulated. This process is integral to gameplay in many genres of game. We present an activity theoretic analysis of qualitative data from players to provide a grounded description of avatar transformation in four popular games.  The resulting discussion aids understanding of this component of gameplay, and helps validate an under-used theoretical and practical approach to the study of videogames.

Barr, P., Khaled, R., Noble, J., & Biddle, R. (2006). Playing the Interface: A Case Study of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference. Sydney, Australia: ACM.

Video games are currently not at all well understood from an HCI perspective and this problem centres around understanding play as a form of interaction. Without developing an approach to describing and analysing play as interaction, it will continue to be difficult to address video games within HCI. In this paper we offer a description and analysis of a form of video game play we call “playing the interface.” By approaching video game play as a form of interaction with software, we can move toward a video game-specific HCI.

Barr, P., Khaled, R., Noble, J., & Biddle, R. (2006). Feeling strangely fine: The well-being economy in popular games. First International Conference on Persuasive Technology for Human Wel l-Being (Persuasive06). Amsterdam: LNCS 3962, Springer Verlag.

There is a growing interest in persuasive games designed to positively influence players’ well-being in areas such as physical and mental health, particularly in terms of education. Designing such “well-being games” is challenging because games themselves have not been sufficiently examined from this perspective. Examining the ways popular games convey messages persuasively is an important step in understanding design in this area. By studying the popular domain we can derive considerations for the design of games targeted at promoting human well-being.

Barr, P., Khaled, R., Noble, J., & Biddle, R. (2006). Get out of my way! exploring obstruction in popular video games. International Academic Conference on the Future of Game Design and Technology. London, Ontario.

Video games are full of obstructions. From aliens with laser-guns to the architecture of a game world, obstruction is an acknowledged element of all games, but is rarely considered in isolation or in de- tail. It is critical to understand obstruction in video games not only abstractly, but in terms of player experience. We present qualita- tive data from players of five popular games to examine the role of obstruction in shaping gameplay. The resulting experience-driven understanding is relevant to both analysis and design.

Barr, P., Khaled, R., Noble, J., & Biddle, R. (2006). Well-being to well done!: The development cycle in role-playing games. First International Conference on Persuasive Technology for Human Wel l-Being (Persuasive06). Amsterdam: LNCS 3962, Springer Verlag.

Interest in designing games to convey persuasive messages concerning human well-being is growing, but presents a number of challenges. A significant problem comes in connecting the gameplay with the persuasive intent. We show how the gameplay structure of “avatar development” in popular-role playing games can be applied to the design of persuasive well-being games.

Barr, P., Noble, J., Biddle, R., & Khaled, R. (2006 ). From pushing buttons to play and progress: Value and interaction in fable. In W. Piekarski (Ed.), Seventh Australasian User Interface Conference (AUIC2006), Vol. 50 of CRPIT (pp. 61–68). Hobart, Australia: ACS.

A value can be understood as a belief that one mode of conduct is preferable to others. The user-interface of computer games mediates all player conduct in the game and is therefore key to understanding how val- ues are expressed both by and to the player. How the interface affects player’s expression and under- standing of value in computer games is a relatively unknown quantity. We performed a qualitative case study of the game Fable to investigate connections be- tween interface and value in gameplay. The concepts uncovered allow us to better address the computer game interface in both design and analysis.  A particular point of interest regarding computer games is the way in which they express and allow the expression of values. Thus, for example, moral de- bate has raged over the “hot coffee” sexual content in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (BBC News 2005).  Although this level of discourse is important, it is im- portant to see that the values in gameplay do not have to be strictly seen as involving issues of “moral good- ness” or “violence,” although they certainly can in- volve these issues. As per the definition above, values are beliefs pertaining to the preferability of conduct.

Chiasson, S., van Oorschot, P.C., Biddle, R. (2006). A Usability Study and Critique of Two Password Managers.  USENIX Security Symposium. Aug. 2006, Vancouver, Canada.

We present a usability study of two recent password manager proposals: PwdHash (Ross et al., USENIX Security 2005) and Password Multiplier (Halderman et al.,WWW 2005). Both papers considered usability issues in greater than typical detail, the former briefly reporting on a small usability study; both also provided implementations for download. Our study involving 26 users found that both proposals suffer from major usability problems. Some of these are not `simply’ usability issues, but rather lead directly to security exposures. Not surprisingly, we found the most significant problems arose from users having inaccurate or incomplete mental models of the software. Our study revealed many interesting misunderstandings — for example, users reporting a task as easy even when unsuccessful at completing that task; and believing their passwords were being strengthened when in fact they had failed to engage the appropriate protection mechanism. Our findings also suggested that ordinary users would be reluctant to opt-in to using these managers: users were uncomfortable with `relinquishing control’ of their passwords to a manager, did not feel that they needed the password managers, or that the managers provided greater security.

Dormann, C., Barr, P., & Biddle, R. (2006). Humour theory and videogames: Laughter in the slaughter. ACM SIGGRAPH Videogame Symposium. Boston, Massachusetts: ACM.

In this paper we address the value and importance of using humour in videogames. We show how humour can facilitate character inter- action, support gameplay, and augment players’ intrinsic involve- ment. We outline humour theories: superiority, incongruity and relief. We then review some videogames, and discuss the roles that humour plays. In the last part of the paper, we discuss more specif- ically the role of humour in videogames, drawing on the theory of humour to highlight specific functions of humour and how it can benefit the design of videogames. We hope that this paper will con- tribute to a better understanding of humour and that future designers and educators will be able to use humour to enhance videogames and delight players.

Dormann, C., & Biddle, R. (2006). Humour in game-based learning. Learning, Media, and Technology, Vol. 31:4. pp. 411-424.

This paper focuses on the benefits and utilisation of humour in digital game-based learning. Through the activity theory framework, we emphasis the role of humour as a mediating tool which helps resolve contradictions within the activity system from conjoining educational objectives within the computer game. We then discuss the role of humour within the digital game and its advantages for the learning process, in sustaining emotional and cognitive engagement, as well as stimulating social presence. We argue that humour makes the game experience more enjoyable, through emotional and persuasive arguments and characters that are more believable and interesting, thus in turn stimulating affective learning. We hope that through designing an engaging role-play, we can sustain personalised knowledge that encourages critical thinking.

Dormann, C., & Biddle, R. (2006). Semiotics of humour in hedonic e-commerce. International Conference on Organisational Semiotics. Sao Paulo, Brazil: INSTICC Press.

In electronic commerce, shopping experience can be described in terms of utilitarian value, but also hedonic experience such as humour. Engaging in humour is fun and pleasurable, and we argue that humour could be a powerful technique to enhance the design, most particularly the hedonic value of electronic commerce. However, while humour is widely used in advertising, humour appears to be a largely ignored field of inquiry in electronic commerce; thus many questions concerning the utilisation of humour in e-commerce are un- explored. In this paper, we outline the role of semiotics in understanding the nature of electronic commerce, and then review the theories and functions of humour in general, and in advertising and retail in particular. We then review some illustrative examples of humour in e-commerce practice, and relate this to consideration of humour in retail.  We show how the theory and practice fit into the semiotic framework, and identify promising opportunities for further exploration.

Dormann, C., Woods, B., Cacquard, S., & Biddle, R. (2006). Cybercartography as a role playing game: From multiple perspectives to critical thinking. Cartographica, 41 (1).

This paper discusses the use of computer games in cybercartography, and how computer game characteristics can enhance the design of cybercartographic products. We focus on investigating multiple perspectives through role-play in a geospatial virtual environment. The ways in which literature and film support multiple perspectives can guide us in our design efforts for developing cybercatographic atlases. We explore the potential of games for presenting multiple points of view in an environmental context, through the modification of an existing computer game, which includes quest narratives, character interaction, as well as role-play. Active engagement with different characters and the environment in role-playing games encourages exploration and learning, and these interactions give a player the opportunity to discover diverse points of view and develop different ways of solving problems. Multiple points of view in cybercartography can offer a plurality of voices on critical issues. In particular, information presented in maps can stimulate ideas and encourage critical thinking. This leads us to conclude that the engaging and emotional dimensions of computer games can be combined with the multiple perspectives they offer to attract new atlas users and to provide them with a more critical perspective on geographic and environmental information.

Duignan, M., Noble, J., & Biddle, R. (2006). Activity theory for design: From checklist to interview. HWID’06 – Human Work Interaction Design: Designing For Human Work (pp. 9–32). Madeira, Portugal: IFIP.

Cultural historical activity theory has shown much promise as a frame- work for Human Computer Interaction, particularly for analysing complex activity and its context. However, it provides little practical methodological support for user interface designers. This paper presents an activity interview resource which can be used by interface designers when developing new tools to support creative activity. The new activity interview is based on the excellent foundation of the activity checklist, but resolves a number of its deficiencies. We describe how we have dealt with these problems, and reflect on our experience applying the activity interview in the domain of computer mediated music production.

Ferreira, J., Noble, J., & Biddle, R. (2006). A case for iconic icons. In W. Piekarski (Ed.), Seventh Australasian User Interface Conference (AUIC2006), Vol. 50 of CRPIT (pp. 97–100). Hobart, Australia: ACS.

Today common functions, such as zoom and print, have conventional icon representations (the magnifying glass and image of a printer, respectively) and user interface designers can be sure that most or all users of their applications will understand what functionality the magnifying glass and the image of the printer represent. However, designers still have to rely on personal creativity and skill when designing icons for functions that have no existing conventional representation and there is also no guarantee that users will interpret these icons correctly. We designed an icon intuitiveness test to gain insight into how users interpret icons. Our hypothesis was that users would interpret icons they do not know the functionality of as iconic signs, by assuming that the icon looks like the functionality it represents. According to Eco (1984) this will be the case unless the users already believe that it is appropriate to make further inferences about the icons. Our study suggests that users do indeed base their guesses on the visual clues they can see and interpret the unknown icon as having the functionality they think it resembles.

Greenspan, B., Dormann, C., Eaket, C., Cacquard, S., & Biddle, R. (2006). Live hypernarrative and cybercartography: You are here, now. Cartographica, 41 (1).

In this paper we explore some of the potentialities of narration in the context of cybercartography. We have developed a new kind of dynamic or “live” form of hypernarrative, in which the content and structure of stories is determined by live information. This system would ultimately allow the creation of hypermedia narratives capable of mining public databases on the fly, in order to customize and integrate narrative material appropriate to the user’s particular temporal and geospatial context. Unlike other forms of hypermedia, a live hypertext narrative can actually be different every time it is read. More akin to an improvised performance than a recorded one, a live hypertext changes depending on where and when it’s accessed, and on what’s happening in the world and on the Web. Live hypertext thus presents a new development in the history of writing that challenges our inherited notions of the stability, fixity and even authority of printed text. The role of live data, and the spatial and temporal aspects of the data, suggest strong connections to cybercartographic environments. Not only are the same data sets relevant to both hypernarrative and cybercartography, but the nature of the hypernarrative shows new possibilities for cartographic environments. In particular, narrative and end-user navigation in a story show new ways of involving users, a key principle of cybercartography.

Hadziomerovic, A., & Biddle, R. (2006). Tracking engagement in a role play game. International Academic Conference on the Future of Game Design and Technology. London, Ontario.

This paper describes a methodology for analysing how people learn when playing videogames using an activity theory framework, and applies it towards the design of a customised computer role play game. The study in this paper demonstrates that this approach can be used to provide a taxonomy of learning using contradictions in an activity system. This framework can then be used to measure outcomes of learning or, in this study, engagement through Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow.

Khaled, R., Barr, P., Fischer, R., Biddle, R., & Noble, J. (2006). Factoring culture into the design of a persuasive game. Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference. Sydney, Australia: ACM.

Preliminary studies indicate that games can be effective vehicles for persuasion. In order to have a better chance at persuading target audiences, however, we claim that it is best to design with the background culture of the intended audience in mind. In this paper, we share our qualitative insight into differences of perception between New Zealand (NZ) Europeans and Maori (the indigenous people of NZ), regarding smoking, smoking cessation, and social marketing. Based on our findings, we discuss how to design two different versions of culturally- relevant persuasive game about smoking cessation, one aimed at a NZ European audience, the other aimed at a Maori audience.

Khaled, R., Barr, P., Noble, J., & Biddle, R. (2006). Investigating social software as persuasive technology. First International Conference on Persuasive Technology for Human Well-Being (Persuasive06). Amsterdam: LNCS 3962, Springer Verlag.

Social software (SSW), nowadays increasingly widespread, has excellent potential for use as persuasive technology. What differentiates it from many other persuasive technology platforms is that it is inherently collective, making group dynamics a powerful factor in any SSW context of persuasion. Based on the psychology of groups, persuasion, and cross-cultural theory, we discuss affiliation, access, and participation as themes that are important in understanding SSW’s use as a persuasive technology platform.

Khaled, R., Barr, P., Noble, J., & Biddle, R. (2006). Our place or mine?: Exploration into collectivism-focused persuasive technology design. First International Conference on Persuasive Technology for Human Well-Being (Persuasive06). Amsterdam: LNCS 3962, Springer Verlag.

Persuasive technologies are increasingly ubiquitous, but the strategies they utilise largely originate in America. Consumer behaviour research shows us that certain persuasion strategies will be more effective on some cultures than others. We claim that the existing strategies will be less effective on non-American audiences than they are on American audiences, and we use information from interviews to show that there exists much scope to develop persuasive technologies from a collectivism-focused perspective. To illustrate the development of such a tool, we describe the design of a collectivism-focused financial planning tool.

Khaled, R., Biddle, R., Noble, J., Barr, P., & Fischer, R. (2006). Persuasive interaction for collectivist cultures. In W. Piekarski (Ed.), Seventh Australasian User Interface Conference (AUIC2006), Vol. 50 of CRPIT (pp. 73–80). Hobart, Australia: ACS.

Persuasive technology is defined as “any interactive product designed to change attitudes or behaviours by making desired outcomes easier to achieve”. It can take the form of interactive web applications, hand held devices, and games. To date there has been limited research into persuasive technology outside of America. Cross-cultural research shows that in order for persuasion to be most effective, it is often neces- sary to draw upon important cultural themes of the target audience. Applying this insight to persuasive technology, we claim that the set of persuasive technology strategies as described by B J Fogg caters to a largely individualist audience. Drawing upon cross- cultural psychology and sociology findings about patterns of behaviour commonly seen in collectivists, we present a principled set of col lectivism-focused persuasive technology strategies. These strategies are: group opinion, group surveil lance, deviation monitor- ing, disapproval conditioning, and group customisation. We also demonstrate how application of the strategies can support the design of a collectivist, per- suasive game.

Martin, A., Noble, J., & Biddle, R. (2006). Programmers are from mars, customers are from venus. Proceedings of Pattern Languages of Programming. Portland, Oregon.

This paper will introduce you to the roles and practices that will increase the effectiveness of someone in the customer on an XP project. Customers have one of the most complex and difficult roles on a project, yet XP includes very few practices that support the customer in their role — the aim of this paper is to change that.  Over the last three years, we have investigated many projects around the world to identify how customers succeed in this complex and difficult task — discovering not what people think should have happened, but what really happened and what actually worked!  This paper distils this research, grounded in practical experience, into a number of patterns: Covering the key roles required on a customer team, both what they are and why they matter; Covering the nine practices that enable customers to sustainably drive XP projects to successful completion – think “XP practices” but for customers.

Noble, J., & Biddle, R. (2006). Postmodern prospects for conceptual modelling. In M. Stumptner, S. Hartmann, & Y. Kiyoki (Eds.), Third Asia-Pacific Conference on Conceptual Model ling (APCCM2006), Vol. 53 of CRPIT (pp. 11–20). Hobart, Australia: ACS.

A number of recent developments in software engineering — from agile methods to aspect-oriented pro- gramming to design patterns to good enough software — share a number of common attributes. These developments avoid a unifying theme or plan, focus on negotiation between different concerns, and exhibit a high level of context sensitivity. We argue that these developments are evidence of a postmodern turn in software engineering. In this paper, we survey a number of these developments and describe their potential implications for the practice of conceptual modelling series of Notes on Postmodern Programming (Noble & Biddle 2002, Biddle, Martin & Noble 2003, Noble & Biddle 2004) we have considered more pragmatic artifacts of software development, programming and programming technology, including languages and de- sign, and the construction of systems from existing software.  In this paper, we draw on this work, plus some crucial theories of the postmodern, to raise questions of postmodernism for conceptual modelling.

Potanin, A., Noble, J., Clarke, D., & Biddle, R. (2006). Featherweight generic confinement. Journal of Functional Programming. Volume 16:6, pp. 793-811.

Existing approaches to object encapsulation and confinement either rely on restrictions to programs or require the use of specialised ownership type systems. Syntactic restrictions are difficult to scale and to prove correct, while specialised type systems require extensive changes to programming languages. We demonstrate that confinement can be enforced cheaply in Featherweight Generic Java, with no essential change to the underlying language or type system.  This result delineates the differences between parametric polymorphism and ownership type systems, demonstrates that polymorphic type parameters can simultaneously act as ownership parameters, and should facilitate the adoption of ownership and confinement type systems in general-purpose programming languages.

Potanin, A., Noble, J., Clarke, D., & Biddle, R. (2006). Generic ownership for generic java. Object-Oriented Programming, Languages, Systems, and Applications, OOPSLA 2006. Portland, Oregon: ACM.

Ownership types enforce encapsulation in object-oriented programs by ensuring that objects cannot be leaked beyond object(s) that own them. Existing ownership programming languages either do not support parametric polymorphism (type genericity) or attempt to add it on top of ownership restrictions. Generic Ownership provides per-object ownership on top of a sound generic imperative language. The resulting system not only provides ownership guarantees comparable to established systems, but also requires few additional language mechanisms due to full reuse of parametric polymorphism. We formalise the core of Generic Ownership, highlighting that only restriction of this calls and owner subtype preservation are required to achieve deep ownership. Finally we describe how Ownership Generic Java (OGJ) was implemented as a minimal extension to Generic Java in the hope of bringing ownership types into mainstream programming.