Levels of Abstractions in HCI: Theory, Implications and Design


Problem solvers think of a problem and its context through multiple Levels of Abstraction (LoA), e.g., when using a map of the city with roads and zooming into a specific street with houses. At any moment, the problem solvers focus on a particular LoA to achieve an immediate goal and, under certain conditions, move back and forth to other levels until the overall goal is achieved. Not moving between LoA when necessary (i.e., not being adaptive), may decrease performance. Designers of systems that support explicit and obvious LoA, such as navigators, design the HCI to support multiple LoA but only to a point, missing the opportunity to exploit fully the potential of supporting LoA. Using an example of data modeling, we explore how human-computer interaction should be designed to support adaptive behavior and propose a method for incorporating LoA in the design of HCI.

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