ACTOR-ACTOR INTERACTION ANALYSIS – BLUEPRINT

eJournal: uffmm.org,
ISSN 2567-6458, 13.February 2019
Email: info@uffmm.org
Author: Gerd Doeben-Henisch
Email: gerd@doeben-henisch.de

Last corrections: 14.February 2019 (add some more keywords; added  emphasizes for central words)

CONTEXT

An overview to the enhanced AAI theory  version 2 you can find here.  In this post we talk about the   chapter dealing with the blueprint  of the whole  AAI analysis process (but leaving out the topic of actor models (AM) and the topic of simulation. For these topics see other posts).

THE AAI ANALYSIS BLUEPRINT

Blueprint of the whole AAI analysis process including the epistemological assumptions. Not shown here is the whole topic of actor models (AM) and as well simulation.
Blueprint of the whole AAI analysis process including the epistemological assumptions. Not shown here is the whole topic of actor models (AM) and as well simulation.

The Actor-Actor Interaction (AAI) analysis is understood here as part of an  embracing  systems engineering process (SEP), which starts with the statement of a problem (P) which includes a vision (V) of an improved alternative situation. It has then to be analyzed how such a new improved situation S+ looks like; how one can realize certain tasks (T)  in an improved way.

DRIVING ACTORS

The driving actors for such an AAI analysis are some stakeholders which communicate a problem P and a vision V and some experts with at least some AAI experts, which take the lead in the process of elaborating the vision.

EPISTEMOLOGY

It has to be taken into account that the driving actors are able to do this job because they  have in their bodies brains (BRs) which in turn include  some consciousness (CNS). The processes and states beyond the consciousness are here called ‘unconscious‘ and the set of all these unconscious processes is called ‘the Unconsciousness’ (UCNS).

SEMIOTIC SUBSYSTEM

An important set of substructures of the unconsciousness are those which enable symbolic language systems with so-called expressions (L) on one side and so-called non-expressions (~L) on the other. Embedded in a meaning relation (MNR) does the set of non-expressions ~L  function as the meaning (MEAN) of the expressions L, written as a mapping MNR: L <—> ~L. Depending from the involved sensors the expressions L can occur either as acoustic events L_spk, or as visual patterns written L_txt or visual patterns as pictures L_pict or even in other formats, which will not discussed here. The non-expressions can occur in every format which the brain can handle.

While written (symbolic) expressions L are only associated with the intended meaning through encoded mappings in the brain,  the spoken expressions L_spk as well as the pictorial ones L_pict can show some similarities with the intended meaning. Within acoustic  expressions one can ‘imitate‘ some sounds which are part of a meaning; even more can the pictorial expressions ‘imitate‘ the visual experience of the intended meaning to a high degree, but clearly not every kind of meaning.

DEFINING THE MAIN POINT OF REFERENCE

Because the space of possible problems and visions it nearly infinite large one has to define for a certain process the problem of the actual process together with the vision of a ‘better state of the affairs’. This is realized by a description of he problem in a problem document D_p as well as in a vision statement D_v. Because usually a vision is not without a given context one has to add all the constraints (C) which have to be taken into account for the possible solution.  Examples of constraints are ‘non-functional requirements’ (NFRs) like “safety” or “real time” or “without barriers” (for handicapped people).

AAI ANALYSIS – BASIC PROCEDURE

If the AAI check has been successful and there is at least one task T to be done in an assumed environment ENV and there are at least one executing actor A_exec in this task as well as an assisting actor A_ass then the AAI analysis can start.

ACTOR STORY (AS)

The main task is to elaborate a complete description of a process which includes a start state S* and a goal state S+, where  the participating executive actors A_exec can reach the goal state S+ by doing some actions. While the imagined process p_v  is a virtual (= cognitive/ mental) model of an intended real process p_e, this intended virtual model p_e can only be communicated by a symbolic expressions L embedded in a meaning relation. Thus the elaboration/ construction of the intended process will be realized by using appropriate expressions L embedded in a meaning relation. This can be understood as a basic mapping of sensor based perceptions of the supposed real world into some abstract virtual structures automatically (unconsciously) computed by the brain. A special kind of this mapping is the case of measurement.

In this text especially three types of symbolic expressions L will be used: (i) pictorial expressions L_pict, (ii) textual expressions of a natural language L_txt, and (iii) textual expressions of a mathematical language L_math. The meaning part of these symbolic expressions as well as the expressions itself will be called here an actor story (AS) with the different modes  pictorial AS (PAS), textual AS (TAS), as well as mathematical AS (MAS).

TAR AND AAR

If the actor story is completed (in a certain version v_i) then one can extract from the story the input-output profiles of every participating actor. This list represents the task-induced actor requirements (TAR).  If one is looking for concrete real persons for doing the job of an executing actor the TAR can be used as a benchmark for assessing candidates for this job. The profiles of the real persons are called here actor-actor induced requirements (AAR), that is the real profile compared with the ideal profile of the TAR. If the ‘distance’ between AAR and TAR is below some threshold then the candidate has either to be rejected or one can offer some training to improve his AAR; the other option is to  change the conditions of the TAR in a way that the TAR is more closer to the AARs.

The TAR is valid for the executive actors as well as for the assisting actors A_ass.

CONSTRAINTS CHECK

If the actor story has in some version V_i a certain completion one has to check whether the different constraints which accompany the vision document are satisfied through the story: AS_vi |- C.

Such an evaluation is only possible if the constraints can be interpreted with regard to the actor story AS in version vi in a way, that the constraints can be decided.

For many constraints it can happen that the constraints can not or not completely be decided on the level of the actor story but only in a later phase of the systems engineering process, when the actor story will be implemented in software and hardware.

MEASURING OF USABILITY

Using the actor story as a benchmark one can test the quality of the usability of the whole process by doing usability tests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AAI THEORY V2 – MEASURING USABILITY

eJournal: uffmm.org
ISSN 2567-6458, 6.February 2019
Email: info@uffmm.org
Author: Gerd Doeben-Henisch
Email: gerd@doeben-henisch.de

CONTEXT

An overview of the enhanced AAI theory  version 2 you can find here.  In this post we talk about the tenth chapter dealing with Measuring Usability

MEASURING  USABILITY

As has been delineated in the post “Usability and Usefulness”   statements  about the quality of the usability of some assisting actor are based on some  kinds of measurement: mapping some target (here the interactions of an executive actor with some assistive actor) into some predefined norm (e.g. ‘number of errors’, ‘time needed for completion’, …).   These remarks are here embedded in a larger perspective following   Dumas and  Fox (2008).

Overview of Usability Testing following the article of Dumas & Fox (2008), with some new AAI specific terminology
Overview of Usability Testing following the article of Dumas & Fox (2008), with some new AAI specific terminology

From the three main types of usability testing with regard to the position in the life-cycle of a system we focus here primarily on the usability testing as part of the analysis phase where the developers want to get direct feedback for the concepts embedded in an actor story. Depending from this feedback the actor story and its related models can become modified and this can result in a modified exploratory mock-up  for a new test. The challenge is not to be ‘complete’ in finding ‘disturbing’ factors during an interaction but to increase the probability to detect possible disturbing factors by facing the symbolically represented concepts of the actor story with a sample of real world actors. Experiments  point to the number of 5-10 test persons which seem to be sufficient to detect the most severe disturbing factors of the concepts.

Usability testing procedure according to Lauesen (2005), adapted to the AAI paradigm
Usability testing procedure according to Lauesen (2005), adapted to the AAI paradigm

A good description of usability testing can be found in the book Lauesen (2005), especially chapters 1 +13.  According to this one can infer the following basic schema for a usability test:

  1. One needs 5 – 10 test persons whose input-output profile (AAR) comes close to the profile (TAR) required by the actor story.
  2. One needs a  mock-up of the assistive actor; this mock-up  should  correspond ‘sufficiently well’ with the input-output profile (TAR) required by the  actor story. In the simplest case one has a ‘paper model’, whose sheets can be changed on demand.
  3. One needs a facilitator who is receiving the test person, introduces the test person into the task (orally and/ or by a short document (less than a page)), then accompanies the test without interacting further with the test person until the end of the test.  The end is either reached by completing the task or by reaching the end of a predefined duration time.
  4. After the test person has finished the test   a debriefing happens by interrogating the test person about his/ her subjective feelings about the test. Because interviews are always very fuzzy and not very reliable one should keep this interrogation simple, short, and associated with concrete points. One strategy could be to ask the test person first about the general feeling: Was it ‘very good’, ‘good’, ‘OK’, ‘undefined’, ‘not OK’, ‘bad’, ‘very bad’ (+3 … 0 … -3). If the stated feeling is announced then one can ask back which kinds of circumstances caused these feelings.
  5. During the test at least two observers are observing the behavior of the test person. The observer are using as their ‘norm’ the actor story which tells what ‘should happen in the ideal case’. If a test person is deviating from the actor story this will be noted as a ‘deviation of kind X’, and this counts as an error. Because an actor story in the mathematical format represents a graph it is simple to quantify the behavior of the test person with regard to how many nodes of a solution path have been positively passed. This gives a count for the percentage of how much has been done. Thus the observer can deliver data about at least the ‘percentage of task completion’, ‘the number (and kind) of errors by deviations’, and ‘the processing time’. The advantage of having the actor story as a  norm is that all observers will use the same ‘observation categories’.
  6. From the debriefing one gets data about the ‘good/ bad’ feelings on a scale, and some hints what could have caused the reported feelings.

STANDARDS – CIF (Common Industry Format)

There are many standards around describing different aspects of usability testing. Although standards can help in practice  from the point of research standards are not only good, they can hinder creative alternative approaches. Nevertheless I myself are looking to standards to check for some possible ‘references’.  One standard I am using very often is the  “Common Industry Format (CIF)”  for usability reporting. It is  an ISO standard (ISO/IEC 25062:2006) since  2006. CIF describes a method for reporting the findings of usability tests that collect quantitative measurements of user performance. CIF does not describe how to carry out a usability test, but it does require that the test include measurements of the application’s effectiveness and efficiency as well as a measure of the users’ satisfaction. These are the three elements that define the concept of usability.

Applied to the AAI paradigm these terms are fitting well.

Effectiveness in CIF  is targeting  the accuracy and completeness with which users achieve their goal. Because the actor story in AAI his represented as a graph where the individual paths represents a way to approach a defined goal one can measure directly the accuracy by comparing the ‘observed path’ in a test and the ‘intended ideal path’ in the actor story. In the same way one can compute the completeness by comparing the observed path and the intended ideal path of the actor story.

Efficiency in CIF covers the resources expended to achieve the goals. A simple and direct measure is the measuring of the time needed.

Users’ satisfaction in CIF means ‘freedom from discomfort’ and ‘positive attitudes towards the use of the product‘. These are ‘subjective feelings’ which cannot directly be observed. Only ‘indirect’ measures are possible based on interrogations (or interactions with certain tasks) which inherently are fuzzy and not very reliable.  One possibility how to interrogate is mentioned above.

Because the term usability in CIF is defined by the before mentioned terms of effectiveness, efficiency as well as  users’ satisfaction, which in turn can be measured in many different ways the meaning of ‘usability’ is still a bit vague.

DYNAMIC ACTORS – CHANGING CONTEXTS

With regard to the AAI paradigm one has further to mention that the possibility of adaptive, learning systems embedded in dynamic, changing  environments requires for a new type of usability testing. Because learning actors change by every exercise one should run a test several times to observe how the dynamic learning rates of an actor are developing in time. In such a dynamic framework  a system would only be  ‘badly usable‘ when the learning curves of the actors can not approach a certain threshold after a defined ‘typical learning time’. And,  moreover, there could be additional effects occurring only in a long-term usage and observation, which can not be measured in a single test.

REFERENCES

  • ISO/IEC 25062:2006(E)
  • Joseph S. Dumas and Jean E. Fox. Usability testing: Current practice
    and future directions. chapter 57, pp.1129 – 1149,  in J.A. Jacko and A. Sears, editors, The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook. Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies, and Emerging Applications. 2nd edition, 2008
  • S. Lauesen. User Interface Design. A software Engineering Perspective.
    Pearson – Addison Wesley, London et al., 2005