Opening the Box: Meta-level Interfaces Needs and Solutions

Alan Dix

Talis, 43 Temple Row, Birmingham, B2 5LS, UK
and Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4WA, UK

Paper at 1st International Workshop on Supportive User Interfaces (SUI 2011) (part of ACM EICS 2011), Pisa, 13 June 2011

Download full paper (PDF, 233K)


This paper begins by considering reasons why some form of meta-level interface may be required for modifying or exploring existing user interfaces, from obvious functional reasons of customisation and personalisation to more political and social goals such as education and empowerment.  The paper considers examples of systems developed by the author and others, and uses these to present a number of techniques and principles for effective meta-interactions.  Some of these concern more surface manipulation, and others deeper levels of code and meta-descriptions of the application and UI.  It concludes that meta-interaction may be a key element for future liberal society.

keywords: customisation, personalisation, end-user programming, end-user empowerment, appropriation

Full reference:
A. Dix (2011). Opening the Box: Meta-level Interfaces Needs and Solutions. 1st International Workshop on Supportive User Interfaces (SUI 2011) G. Lehmann, A. Demeure, M. Petit, G. Calvary (eds.) (at ACM EICS 2011), Pisa, 13 June 2011, pp. 13-16.
Download full paper (PDF, 233K)



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Figure 1. Screw Metaphor from [15]
(a) screw in – UI (b) screw out – metaUI


Figure 2. Mac OS Dashboard widget
(a) front – UI (b) back– metaUI


Figure 3.  Wall Stud Detector

Alan Dix 29/4/2011