Building Blocks For Motivating Human-Computer-Interaction

Interactive large format displays have presently found their way into many places in public space. After a long phase of experimenting with prototypes only recently have technically mature applications been observed that are used in an increasing number of potential areas.

The entry of interactive applications into public space appears to be part of a greater tendency: computer usage in many areas of public and private daily life has remained constant and has been for a long time now no longer restricted to mere task fulfillment at the workplace. Task oriented theories simply include statements regarding the “how” of an activity but not the “why”, and leave therefore questions concerning underlying motivations unanswered. [cp. a.o. Ferscha, A. et al. (2007), Fleisch, E., Mattern, F. (2005), Weiser, M. (1991)]

In spite of its increasing significance in human-computer interaction, motivation has been up until now only an isolated object for investigation. Based on prior research projects, Adams and Russel have identified nine central factors that influence interaction with computers. Just like their comparing of individual factors and their prior research becomes clear with the help of prototypal applications, there currently exists a significant need for advancement in investigating the areas of emotion and motivation. [ cp. Adams, R., Russel, C. (2007)]

Against this background the following article presents the intrinsically motivating factors that were identified in the context of a motivation theory analysis and that served as the orientation point for my empirical investigation of interaction in public space.


The following list of motivating factors are based on the foundational work of Thomas Malone, who is considered a pioneer in the investigation of motivating principles for designing human-computer interaction. [cp. Malone, T. W. (1981a), Malone, T. W., Lepper, M. R. (1987)]

1. Challenge and Control

The first motivating factor challenge and control, is based on the notion that an aptitude for or the ability to master an interaction will increase motivation to carry out this interaction. In human-computer-interaction people strive for an optimal level of competency that allows them to master the challenges presented by the application. Viewing the consequence of one’s own interactive behavior was described as the most important element for challenge as a motivating factor. In addition to this visibility, the presence of a goal to the interaction, in which a distinction between set and emerging goals can be made, also plays an important role. Whereas a set goal is established by cultural or social conventions, emerging goals arise from the interaction of the individual with his or her environment. Since emerging goals have a strong motivating effect, interactive environments should allow the designing of one’s own emerging goals. Moreover, the intrinsic motivating challenge of an activity appears to increase if, in interacting with the environment, a clear and direct feedback follows from one’s own behavior and the attaining of the goal. In order to turn an interaction into a challenge, the behavioral outcome should however be somewhat uncertain and the end result should remain unknown prior to being conducted. The motivating effect of control is based primarily on recognizing a cause and effect relationship, as well as on powerful effects and the freedom of choice in performing the interaction. For motivation the perception of control is more important than actual control. The subjective sense of control can even have a effect if the person doesn’t possess any actual control. [cp. Trevino, L. K., & Webster, J. (1992), Wong, A. K. (2006),Hoffman, D. L., Novak, T. P. (1996), Brandtzæg, P. B., et al. (2004)]

2. Curiosity and Exploration

As one of the most important foundations for intrinsically motivating behavior, curiosity is evoked through novel stimuli that present something unclear, incomplete or uncertain. The individual searches around for possible explanations within their environment and their behavior is motivated by a desire to avoid potential insecurities. Curiosity is described as a precursor to explorative behavior, through which people make accessible previously unavailable information about their environment. In accessing previously unavailable information about their environment, people utilize exploration as a means to avoid insecurities. In going beyond an optimal incongruity, specific explorations are attempts to reduce the degree of incongruity and therefore the level of activation. However, if the optimal level is crossed, the individual is motivated to make further explorations in order to re-establish the optimum. Curiosity appears to belong to the most important characteristics ofinformation about their environment, people utilize exploration as a means to avoid insecurities. In going intrinsically motivating environments. In order to stimulate curiosity and to influence motivation, the interaction shouldn’t be designed in a way that is either too complex or too trivial. Interactive elements should be novel and surprising, but not incomprehensible. On the basis of his or her prior experiences the user should have initial expectations for how the interaction proceeds, but these should only be partially met. In reactive environments a motivating optimum of complexity is therefore also fostered through the interplay of surprising and constructive interaction. The desired behavior for the interaction can be initially activated by surprising elements and maintained through constructive elements.6 In contrast to perceptible changes that appeal to people’s sensory curiosity, cognitive curiosity relates to anticipated changes. People are motivated in this way to optimize their cognitive structures. To increase motivation through curiosity, it appears at first sufficient to convey to the individual a sense of incompleteness, discrepancy or dissipation and to present through the interaction the possibility to abate these sensations. However during the interaction it should be made especially clear how to attain completeness. [cp. Malone, T. W. (1981a)]

3. Choice

Choice as a motivating factor is based on the observation that the motivation for a behavior appears to increase if in the process people can select between alternatives in behavior. The choice between alternatives enables them to control their behavior and to make active decisions regarding behavior for the individual situation. Preferable are those result alternatives that best correspond to one’s own preferences and through which not only the behavior itself but also the effects of one’s own behavior can be controlled. With a perceptible increase in the number of possible choices, the likelihood increases that a feeling suited to the individual can be found. Even with very trivial choice possibilities, or ones that only seem apparent—which only exist in the imagination of the individual—a motivating effect was clearly proven. Given that the mere presence of choice appears to promote intrinsic motivation, it can therefore be established among other things that the sensation of autonomy and control increases as a result. The greater the number of choice possibilities perceived, the stronger one’s own autonomy and control appears to be. On the other hand it was demonstrated that the absence of choice and possibilities for control leads in various ways to a reduction in intrinsic motivation. The offer or presence of interaction alternatives is also a motivating factor within human-computer interaction and encourages the performing and maintaining of specific interactions. The existence of choice possibilities alone, however, doesn’t always lead to a maximum of intrinsic motivations. In particular contexts, individuals from specific cultural backgrounds appear to prefer interaction alternatives that differ significantly from those of other cultural backgrounds. Concrete interaction alternatives, in which a motivating effect was demonstrated, are for computer games for example, the possibility to select speed levels, camera settings, time limits or degree of difficulty. But alternative software features designed to correspond to one’s own preferences could motivate in other areas as well, perhaps through the activation of flow. Moreover through the allocation of explicit choice possibilities the user can be provided with a greater control potential. [cp. a.o. Iyengar, S. S., Lepper, M. R. (1999), Cordova, D. I., Lepper, M. R. (1996), Kellar, M., et al. (2005)]

4. Fantasy and Metaphor

In general, imaginary settings where the individual is located outside the present time frame also appear to have a motivating effect on behavior. In these fantasy settings the constraints of reality are switched off so that one imagines possessing new abilities. In interacting with computers one of the initial user reactions is oftentimes the incitement of fantasy; the extent to which interactive environments incite fantasy determines their attractiveness and generates interest in the reception of the interaction. The use of metaphors allows inadequately concretized fantasy concepts to function. By employing metaphors fantasy elements can be directly integrated into human-computer interaction. Since they refer to physical or other systems metaphors can help the user to comprehend the interaction even prior to actual use, motivating him or her toward the reception of the interaction. Since the interaction bears resemblance to already known situations, it can be more easily grasped and utilized more efficiently. In so doing metaphors must not reproduce the real world in any way, since the abstract, conceptual or symbolic representation can prove equally as effective as true to life images. The significance of metaphors in human-computer interaction is supported by a series of research projects. If new forms of interaction are linked to familiar traditions, it appears easier for users to carry over already established behaviors. [cp. a.o. Blackler, A. et al. (2003), Kendall, J. E., Kendall, K. E. (1993), Shneiderman, B. (2004)]

5. Collaboration

In contrast to the first four motivating factors, collaboration is based on the interaction with other human beings. A condition for its motivating effect is the possibility that the individual can influence the interaction of other people. This also appears to apply when multiple individuals engage in communal activities via the use of computers. With the linking of computers via the internet, human-computer interaction was also expanded around a social component. In addition to social interaction over the internet, the use of interactive large format displays increasingly plays an important role in collective interaction located in one place. The motivation to collaborate is increased for example through functionalities that make visible the effects of one’s own behavior and group allegiance, whereby visibility as well as viewing theenacting is a result of the goal behavior as well as viewing the effects of the behavior. With a view toward social themes of cooperation and competition, differences can be ascertained between individualistic, cooperative and competitive orientations. While people with a cooperative orientation also hold the preferences of others important, people with a competitive orientation seek to maximize their own preferences in relationship to the preferences of others. In this case collaboration is especially motivating if individual behavior is recognized by others. If the efforts and effectiveness of one’s own behavior are recognized and valued, then people are motivated to repeat this behavior again. If the collaboration is continued, the probability of sustained recognition is even greater. The visibility of one’s own behavior is also one of the most important foundations for recognition. The degree to which collaboration has a motivating effect is influenced by the personal experience of the individual and can therefore strongly vary according to each particular situation. Alongside individual orientation cultural differences also play a role. [cp. o.a. Leikas, J., et al. (2006), Churchill, E. F., et al. (2004b), Haug, S., Weber, K. (2003), Tan, D. S., Czerwinski, M. (2003)]


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