Direct Interactive Generation of Interactive Systems

Frans Heeman, Pietje van der Velden, and Steven Pemberton, Software Engineering Research Centre (SERC), Utrecht, the Netherlands

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University May 8, 1991


The project DIGIS: Digis is to be a user interface management system that aims at Direct Interactive Generation of Interactive Systems. The user of Digis is to be a user interface designer, i.e., someone possessing knowledge in area's like ergonomics, cognitive psychology, and graphic design, but without (extensive) knowledge on programming. Consequently, the concepts offered in the user interface (UI) of Digis should be closely related to the concepts that interface designers use in their work. We strive as much as possible to provide direct manipulation techniques for the design of UIs. Digis will also give support on ergonomic aspects, by providing ergonomic guidelines in its design environment. *** The project VIEWS: Designing a System for Human Use: The Views System Steven Pemberton, CWI, Amsterdam Views is an open-architecture computing environment designed to make new applications easy to add, and all applications easy to use. It is a framework for applications such that the system can be put to productive use by end users without much training in using computers, for varying tasks that are relatively complicated and not necessarily well structured. This is achieved through the consistent uniformity and extreme conceptual simplicity of the interface and the high level of integration between functions of the environment. The user interface is part of the kernel of the system so that all applications automatically have the same user interface, and objects from other applications may be exchanged between applications without any loss of structure, allowing the objects to be accessed by the user in the same way regardless of which application has imported them. The user's conceptual model of the system is that all objects in the system are editable, and that all actions are achieved by editing objects: if an object is changed -- by the user, or from some other source -- the world is changed to match (in the same way that you use a thermostat). The institute SERC: The Software Engineering Research Centre (SERC) is located in the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands. It was founded in 1987 on governmental funding. Participants are companies, that pay a yearly contribution, and universities. By 1993, SERC should be able to exist on these contributions only. Activities include knowledge transfer between universities and industry, and research. All research is related to a central framework, called SEED (Software Engineering for Event-Driven environments). Currently, four major research area's are addressed: System Composition \& Reuse, Cooperative Computing, Methods \& Tools, and Human-Computer Interaction.


Frans Heeman obtained his MSc degree in Computer Science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), The Netherlands, in 1986. Then he worked for four years as a programmer on a project on interactive document processing systems, first at the Centre of Mathematics and Computer Science (CWI) in Amsterdam, later at the VU. Since March 1, 1990, he is employed as a researcher at SERC, and DIGIS is the subject of his Ph.D. dissertation. Pietje van der Velden is currently a researcher at SERC. Her work focusses on researching how ergonomic principles can be incorporated in the DIGIS environment. She studied Social Science Informatics at the University of Amsterdam, including artificial intelligence and human-computer communication. Steven Pemberton is project leader of the Computer Systems and Ergonomics group at the CWI, the Dutch national institute for research in mathematics and computer science in Amsterdam. His research interests revolve around user interfaces in a broad sense, including programming language design and usage. Before the CWI, he worked on research projects at Brighton Polytechnic, Manchester University, and Sussex University, all in England. His published papers include ones on grammars, programming language implementation, programming language design, and user interfaces. He is co-author of books on Pascal Implementation, and on a programming language he co-designed, ABC.


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