CSCD 487/587 Homework 4
Researching Mental Models

Due: Friday, Feb. 1st

Goal of is assignment is for you to elicit mental models from people. No, not by force!
Specifically, you are to find out how people's mental models affect their ability use and understand an interactive device. Lets go with the most common device on the face of this planet. Their cell phone !!!

Task 1. Write down your own mental model
Ask yourself the following questions:

a. Describe briefly how the cell phone system works.
b. What happens when people leave you messages? Specifically where are the messages stored?
c. How does your phone work when you travel across the country? Do you notice a difference in service? Describe any problems with traveling and your phone.
d. How does the GPS work for your phone? Just an overview. Do you know if your phone company can legally provide location data to anyone, including law enforcement?
e. Do you have a smartphone? If yes, give a rough count of how many times in a day and for what purpose you use the phone for Internet functions. Do you feel you are dependent on your phone? Is there a downside to all of us having cell phones? Any thing you want to say as to disadvantages of cell phones.
f. Are there any problems with the phone interface of your phone?

Task 2. Other People's Mental Models
Now, ask two more people the questions from Task 1. Preferably, they should be of a different technolgical skill level than you. Novice or Medium technology know-how preferred.

a. Write down their answers. And, identify them as Novice, Medium and Expert technology people.
b. Analyze their answers. How accurate are people's mental models of a phone and its GPS capability? Can you tie the accuracy of the models to how skilled they seem to be with technology?
c. Do you believe their mental model affects the way they use the phone? Why or why not.
d. From your results, is there something that could be improved with the phone system which would help the users ? Choose anything that came up from your research.

Turn In
1. Preferably paper copy of answers.