What is an Outside Context Problem?


In his 1996 novel Excession, author Iain M. Banks details what constitutes an outside context problem:

"The usual example given to illustrate an Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island; you'd tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever, the neighbors were cooperative or enslaved but at any rate peaceful and you were busy raising temples to yourself with all the excess productive capacity you had, you were in a position of near-absolute power and control which your hallowed ancestors could hardly have dreamed of and the whole situation was just running along nicely like a canoe on wet grass... when suddenly this bristling lump of iron appears sailless and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying long funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you've just been discovered, you're all subjects of the Emperor now, he's keen on presents called tax and these bright-eyed holy men would like a word with your priests."

To wit: an outside context problem is anything that has heretofore not been expected, due to either lack of imagination, or ability.

UX is basically about dealing with Outside Context Problems all day, every day.


The Latest in Writing