Talk:Transparency (human–computer interaction)

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Unknown dated comment[edit]

Removed the last paragraph, because it contained inapropriate style.

Transparency (computing) originally referred to internal coding techniques to make the main application logic 'transparent', i.e. clear, by removing the detail of resource or device management logic, say, from the main problem solving logic. In many ways the concept was very similar to 'encapsulation', the called routines obscured their funcions from the application and allowed device independence and many other similar abstractions. Refer to IBM and Honeywell programming mannuals - cicra 1969.

Time for action here...[edit]

It is not a Bold gesture, but a conscientious action to be taken in cleaning-up this lead. I commented almost two weeks ago regarding the tragic nature of this Transparency lead. In the absence of any discussion to the contrary, I will make some changes to this article in the direction indicated below. I would hope to encourage substantive discussion surrounding this topic. JLSjr (talk) 10:13, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

This lead is an obstreperous obfuscation[edit]

Could a definition of computing transparency -- something intended to abstract complexity -- be more difficult to understand? I think not!

Is it reasonable to approach a definition more in line with the Examples and Types provided? Maybe something on the order of:

Transparency is a property of a system or application, that allows a user to accomplish an objective with little, if any knowledge of the internal particulars related to the objective. A system or application can expose as much, or as little transparancy as it deems necessary, in a given area of functionality. That is to say, the degree to which transparency is implemented can vary between subsets of functionality in a system or application.
There are many possible areas that may benefit from transparency; access, location. performance, naming, to name a few. For example, an operating system may present access to a hard drive as "C:" and access to a DVD as "G:". The user does not require any knowledge of device drivers or methods of direct memory access techniques possibly used behind-the-scenesl; both devices work the same way.
This example shows how transparency makes low-level details somewhat "invisible" to the user. On the other hand, if the user wants to access a file on another system or server, a host name or IP address may be required along with a remote machine oriented user login and password. This would indicate a low degree of transparency, as the user is required to know much more about the details in accomplishing this task.
Generally, transparency and required user knowledge form an inverse relation.
  • A low-level of transparency would indicate a user must have a high level of intimate internal system knowledge for proper usage.
  • A high-level of transparency indicates a user need not have intimate internal system knowledge for proper usage.


I would really like to get this article cleaned up, as I hope to link to it from my (in process) article on Distributed operating system.

This article has been in its current state for (ever)... What is a reasonable time before someone takes a bold stance, and begins clean-up?

JLSjr (talk) 08:55, 3 May 2010 (UTC)

meaning 2 is clear[edit]

"clear and easy to understand or recognize: I think we should try to make the instructions more transparent" To quote Cambridge Dictionary

The supporting program instructions removed from the problem logic become opaque. They can not be seen. The problem logic therefore becomes easier to understand. The problem logic is not clutered by program code which is ancillary to solving the problem. The problem logic therefore becomes transparent - as defined by the second meaning in the dictionary. It is the solution which becomes transparent. It is the solution that becomes "clear and easy to understand". This was the use of the term and it was widely used in the computer industry as a technical term. The opague code is encapsulated with the problem it is solving. Dr Peter Graham (talk) 23:22, 22 August 2008 (UTC)

Is this doublethink?[edit]

I believe most of this article to be the opposite of accurate...

So far, in my dealings in computer science and engineering, "transparency" has been referred to as a property that a process or piece of software has when its internal workings are exposed; i.e., the proverbial walls of the box containing the software are transparent so that the inside can be seen. A transparent application is a glass box or white box, as opposed to a black box.

The following is the first paragraph of the article, with "transparency" replaced by "opacity":

In human-computer interaction, computer opacity is an aspect of user friendliness which relieves the user of the need to worry about technical details (like installation, updating, downloading or device drivers). For instance, a program that automatically detects the monitor resolution is more opaque compared to one that asks the user to enter it manually.

It makes more sense this way, because an opaque program would hide the details from the user, but a transparent one would not.

Anyway, I'm not sure whether this is a mere foible of terminology or the person who originated this article had the wrong idea. Either way, the current content is unfortunate. 208.58.69.100 14:55, 11 May 2007 (UTC)

A level issue[edit]

I absolutely agree with the misuse of the term transparent in this article, that should be changed for opaque. Besides, the idea could express the different levels of transparency of computer programs, but this would never be used to change the correct term opaque (hiden, veiled) with its opposite transparent (sight, exposed). July 2007. (this edit was by 89.128.1.68)

Unfortunately, both meanings are used (nowadays). I believe the correct and historically earlier meaning of transparency is "the innards are exposed" (like in a mechanical watch with a transparent housing), but the interpretation is "invisible" (like a transparent window pane) is becoming increasingly popular. I would change the article to clearly mention that both versions exist. They do, maybe not in theoretical informatics, but surely in colloquial use. --Dr. Hok 16:31, 30 July 2007 (UTC)

Interesting![edit]

I can see your point, although I do not agree. I edited the article to at least explicitly clear the confusion - although not to clear it your way. I'm leaving dispute tag to be verified by yet another reviewer.

To quote Cambridge Dictionary

 transparent
 1 If a substance or object is transparent, you can see through it very clearly:
   Grow the bulbs in a transparent plastic box, so the children can see the roots growing.
   Her blouse was practically transparent!
 2 clear and easy to understand or recognize:
   I think we should try to make the instructions more transparent.

In a field of computing I see the use of meaning 1 with an emphasis on see through it , see the roots disregarding they are in the box.

BTW removed (irrelevant or wrong):

In human-computer interaction, computer transparency is an aspect of user friendliness which relieves the user of the need to worry about technical details (like installation, updating, downloading or device drivers). For instance, a program that automatically detects the monitor resolution is more transparent compared to one that asks the user to enter it manually.

Some communication networks are 8-bit clean, allowing users to transfer arbitrary files over them without needing to know how this particular network will interpret control characters.

--Kubanczyk 17:37, 30 July 2007 (UTC)

Hm.. It wouldn't be very hard to use your example from the cambridge dictionary to come to the opposite view (compared to your edit of the article). I read a C programming tutorial several years ago which compared transparent and opaque data structures. The former contains elements (the "roots") that are completely visible and accessible from the outside. The latter contains the same elements, but allows access only through well-defined interfaces (which is object-oriented without objects in a way). I believe you would call the latter transparent, because it's the usage and not the implementation that counts, right? --Dr. Hok 09:06, 31 July 2007 (UTC)
Mmmmm... nope. Such structure is transparent, but transparent-as-in-common-language not transparent-as-in-IT. I think what you call opaque and transparent is more commonly reffered in IT as information hiding and white-box respectively. Let me rephrase: In a field of computing I see the use of meaning 1 with an emphasis on see the roots as they were before an intermediate layer of plastic was introduced versus see the roots despite they are internal details of a container. I think the NFS example says it all. Of course you are more than welcome to make an edit. --Kubanczyk 15:07, 31 July 2007 (UTC)

Two meanings[edit]

In my IT experience, I often hear "transparent" as something that let you see beyond (through it, without having it as an obstruction to your sight) more than a box that let you see what is inside methaphor

To talk about "theoretical informatics" we would need a reference (article, software engineering book, whatever) where the term is formally defined. Cambridge Dictionary definitions are not useful here, because we are discussing specific technical jargon that does not necessarily follows dictionary definitions.

I believe the article is better served if both understandings (and even other more specific uses of the word) are presented, preferably with the references. Flavio Costa (talk) 21:18, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

I Agree Dr Peter Graham (talk) 23:36, 22 August 2008 (UTC)

The Meaning is Transparent - or Is It?[edit]

I find this discussion interesting, because often when I encounter the word "transparent" in technical discussions, or elsewhere, I think about its two apparently opposite meanings.

At times, transparent is used in the sense that glass is transparent. The details behind the "transparent" glass are clearly visible.

Yet, transparent can also mean the details are obfuscated to avoid confusion. We use this sense when we say, "transparent to the user." In other words, the user enjoys the benefits of a particular function without being aware of how it is accomplished.

In a way, you can think of the details themselves as transparent, i.e. the user "sees through" them as through glass.

So, either whatever contains the details is transparent - you can see the details - or the details themselves are transparent - you can see right through them.

As far as I know, both senses are correct.

24.144.124.84 (talk) 19:47, 1 September 2008 (UTC)

Many meanings, most coming from abuse[edit]

There is as much confusion in the article's definition of "transparency" as there is in this discussion. That comes from the fact that there is the same amount of confusion in it's usage in IT.

Transparent has 2 meanings in real world use: Meaning #1 - something is transparent, so you see what is behind it. «That bottle is transparent, so you can see what is inside» Meaning #2 - something is transparent, so you do not see it. «The glass is transparent, so you can see what is outside of the window» (in real world, #2 is rarely used if at all, i think strongly, but it's just my guess)

IT used to use most frequently #2 but (some years ago) IT marketing (both formal and informal marketing) started to add a 3rd and even a 4th meaning to it: Meaning #3 - something that does not requires learning nor effort to use. «NFS requires no configuration at all» Meaning #4 - it has a public interface/contract which it is defined by, allowing inner changes without changing it's usage

In JLSjr's proposal of «3 May 2010», he starts by presenting the explanation with the meaning as #3, then it starts to deviate to #2 and actually end up really using the word "invisible". No wonder. In the article's description, the word "hide" is actually used, also and explains it as having the meaning #2 and #4.

No description of "transparency" for computing is complete without explaining that: - all 4 meanings are used in IT (possible more); - #1 is rarely used, since: 1 - in computers many things happen without the user being able to see (1s and 0s computing within the electronics) 2 - when a system is transparent in meaning #1, it is usually described as "responsive" or something other than "transparent"; - #2 is the most commonly used meaning; - #2 is used to mean "opaque"/"invisible"; - #3 is used to mean "easy to use"; - #4 is used to mean "allows change without the need for user/client interaction" - both marketing and formal and informal descriptions of systems use meanings #2, #3 and #4 to make something sound better, therefore are an abuse of the word, since they are not used to mean actual transparency of something.

In fact, i am actually realizing that the true actual meaning of "transparency" in computing is almost always: abuse of it's real meaning to take advantage of a it's good connotation when describing a computer system. That is why all kinds of meanings behind the expression transparency are creeping all over: because it has a good connotation and is being rubbed on whatever marketing (formal or informal) can rub it on. — Preceding unsigned comment added by PauloMorfeo (talkcontribs) 22:44, 31 January 2011 (UTC)