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Recycled Creativity: A Note from Bill Buxton

Apr 12, 2010 In Design By Bill Buxton

If "redux" means a revisit of previous work, is "predux" revisiting your next work before having done your current work

This piece was originally an email written by Bill Buxton the week after MIX10. It was too good to not share, so we got Bill’s blessing and are publishing it with some minor edits.—the MIX Online Team.

Through the magic of Bing and while searching for the terms "Buxton Natural User Interface," I rediscovered the following article that I forgot I’d written:

The “Natural” Language of Interaction: A Perspective on Non-Verbal Dialogues

The article, which I wrote in 1988, is one of those examples where what I thought was a fresh perspective on a topic (see my recent MIX10 keynote) turns out to have a lot in common with language and examples I used over 20 years ago.

In the article, I addressed the language of human-computer interaction and argued that:

  • The concept of ‘natural language understanding systems’ should be extended to include non-verbal dialogues (gestural interactions), because the latter are in many ways more natural than those based on words
  • Non-verbal natural language systems are more feasible, beneficial and likely to be delivered by available technology than verbal language systems

In so doing, I hoped that designers would adopt a mentality wherein non-verbal gestural modes of interaction would fall within the domain of natural language. My opinion was that this broadened notion of natural language would improve human-computer interaction.

Creativity: Forget What You Said, Then Say It Again

Rereading the article, I noticed a striking overlap with my MIX10 keynote—right down to the example of German and English, and ending with a paint program with similar attributes. Even more surprising was the 20 year number (which fits right in with the Long Nose) and the focus on the need for design and the challenge of moving from concept to practice.

As a person who tries to be creative and have new ideas,it’s interesting to be reminded of how few ideas I actually have. Could it be that the two main skills and acts of creativity are (a) forget what you said before,and (b) have sufficient creativity to say that same thing repeatedly and dress it up in a sufficiently different way that even I think it’s a different idea?

On a related note, the article reminded me just how long it takes for these concepts to take hold. When I wrote this in 1988, many of the concepts were 20 years old. That was 22 years ago. Sigh. On the other hand, if Natural UI is ‘Natural’, why would the basic concepts change?

Perhaps the continuity of the threads is not me being pathetic, but a sign that we’re on the right path.

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2 comments so far. You should leave one, too.

Gisele Diaz Gisele Diaz said on Apr 17, 2010
Umesh Kumar said on Apr 26, 2010

Nice thought.