Chapter 2. Implementation Models and Mental Models

The computer industry makes frequent use of the term computer literacy. Pundits talk about how some people have it and some don’t, how those who have it will succeed in the information economy, and how those who lack it will inevitably fall between the socioeconomic cracks. Computer literacy, however, is nothing more than a euphemism for forcing human beings to stretch their thinking to understand an alien, machine logic rather than having software-enabled products stretch to meet people’s ways of thinking. In this chapter, we discuss how a poor understanding of users and the specific ways they approach digital products has exacerbated the computer-literacy divide, and how software that better matches how people think and work can help solve the problem.

Implementation Models

Any machine has a mechanism for accomplishing its purpose. A motion picture projector, for example, uses a complicated sequence of intricately moving parts to create its illusion. It shines a very bright light through a translucent, miniature image for a fraction of a second. It then blocks out the light for a split second while it moves another miniature image into place. Then it unblocks the light again for another moment. It repeats this process with a new image 24 times per second. Software-enabled products don’t have mechanisms in the sense of moving parts; these are replaced with algorithms and modules of code that communicate with each other. The representation ...

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