Unscrambling the "average user" of Habbo Hotel
The "user" is an ambiguous concept in human-computer interaction and information systems. Analyses of users as social actors,
participants, or configured users delineate approaches to studying design-use relationships. Here, a developer's reference to
a figure of speech, termed the "average user," is contrasted with design guidelines. The aim is to create an understanding about
categorization practices in design through a case study about the virtual community, Habbo Hotel. A qualitative analysis highlighted
not only the meaning of the "average user," but also the work that both the developer and the category contribute to this meaning.
The average user a) represents the unknown, b) influences the boundaries of the target user groups, c) legitimizes the designer
to disregard marginal user feedback, and d) keeps the design space open, thus allowing for creativity. The analysis shows how
design and use are intertwined and highlights the developers' role in governing different users' interests.
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