Book: Brenda Laurel 10 Sep 1993

Computers as Theatre

This book presents a new theory of human-computer activity. Building on Aristotle's analysis of the form and structure of drama, Laurel shows how similiar principles can help us understand what people experience when interfacing with computers.

As early as the beginning of the 1990s, Brenda Laurel hit on the idea that usability alone would not suffice when it came to the design of successful applications. Using Aristotle’s Poetics as a basis for dramatic theory, she explains how concepts such as catharsis, engagement, and agency manifest in digital (i.e. “representational”) contexts. She adds to the conversation by bringing in the rich vocabulary of theatre, which she convincingly points out is strikingly similar to human computer interaction. Although her examples are now badly dated, her concepts and theoretical framework remain relevant today.


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