We don't pay attention to what exactly is in front of our eyes.
The current plethora of conceptual analysis of the present time is matched by a singular lack of phenomenological description.
INTRODUCTION: PEREC AND HCI
As Charles Acland points out, we continue to encounter a relentless techno- boosterist rhetoric that proclaims the supersession of the old by the new. Not only are we told that the desktop personal computer is dead but, if we are to believe Apple CEO Tim Cook, so is the laptop computer as well. And, yet, ‘residual media’, as Acland terms them, continue to matter, not least because of enduring use and because we still barely understand our ‘endotic’ or routine modes of engagement with these everyday devices and the familiar settings within which this use occurs. In this chapter, I take up Georges Perec's call to ‘question the habitual’ and do so in relation to the scene of everyday computer use. My questioning of habituated computer use is framed within a consideration, first, of human–computer interaction (HCI) research on skilled typing and, second, in relation to computer-based typing and everyday computer use. HCI research is an academic field of inquiry that began its rise to prominence during Perec's lifetime, and it shares with him a strong interest in description as a means of understanding everyday, habituated processes. And, yet, to the best of my knowledge, HCI research has never engaged directly with Perec's numerous writings and thinking on this issue (or vice versa).
Throughout the 1970s and up to the time of Perec's death in 1982, HCI research was comprised, for the most part, of two overlapping and dominant strands of research – one preoccupied with ergonomics issues (otherwise referred to as human factors research), and the other drawing from human sciences approaches, especially cognitive and experimental psychology. The importance of ergonomics to the study of HCI was identified very early on in the history of computers, while the merit of human sciences approaches to HCI runs even further back, at least to early twentieth-century studies of machine use.
The specific strand of HCI research – broadly conceived – that I wish to concentrate on in the first part of this chapter is the work conducted in the 1970s and 1980s on the acquisition of ‘skilled cognitive-motor performance’ in ‘expert typing’, both for typewriters and for computers.