[Air-l] key terms/concepts for understanding the web

Nancy Baym nbaym at ku.edu
Thu Jan 30 07:42:02 PST 2003

Leaping groundlessly into Louise and Ulla's discussion of "user experience"

>At 09:47 30/01/2003 -0500, Ulla wrote:
>>Okay, I see how the term "user experience" can be interpreted in two

Louise responded:

>But I think there's really only one accepted use of the term in the 
>profession itself....
>My own field is 'user experience', which these days incorporates 
>ideas such as information design, interface design, information 
>architecture, navigation design, visual design, interaction design, 
>content specification, user needs, requirements definition, etc etc.

It seems to me that part of what we are seeing here is that Internet 
Research spans many professions, so a term that has a clearly 
accepted standard meaning in one profession is used in a variety of 
ways in others. As an ethnographer/social constructionist in 
Communication, I associate the term "user experience" with any number 
of possibilities most of which are far more social and less technical 
than what Louise includes (which is not to say I wouldn't include 
what Louise does, but I would also want to look at the social history 
of a persons exposure to and use of the Internet -- i.e. relevant 
experiences people have had that shapes their use). This is not just 
my idiosyncratic ignorance, but accepted use of the term in my 

This speaks to the need for us to be clear about our own definitions 
and to recognize that terms with seemingly standard meanings may mean 
different things elsewhere. When Louise says "user experience," I now 
realize she is referring to a very explicit set of ideas, and that 
when people in my field say 'user experience' to mean what we take it 
to mean, Louise and others in her field may view us as having 
mis-used the term. Don't even get me started on the use of the term 
"communication" in some other fields! We need these discussions, if 
not to find common language then at least to better understand one 

2 cents from the Peanut Gallery
Nancy Baym 	http://www.ku.edu/home/nbaym
Communication Studies, University of Kansas
102 Bailey Hall, 1440 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045, USA
Association of Internet Researchers: http://aoir.org

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