Boris Smus

interaction engineering

John Napier - Hands

Really interesting deep-dive into human hands from many different perspectives: anatomical, evolutionary, functional and social. The book is packed with facts. For example, I had no idea the carpal bones were so numerous and complex! Also, it's nice to understand why human opposition differs from monkeys and the Opposability Index. Lots of interesting insights into distribution of handedness, including that certain species of monkeys are predominantly left handed, which is surprising on several levels. Napier also goes a bit into fingerprints, basic patterns, and mentioning some relation to worn-off finger prints in people with Celiac. It was fun to cross-correlate what was written in the book with my own hands.

Overall a thoroughly interesting account and I found good insights from an HCI perspective. I did think that the second part on social and cultural aspects was too brief and incomplete.

With the eye, the hand is our main source of contact with the physical environment. The hand has advantages over the eye because it can observe the environment by means of touch, and having observed it, it can immediately proceed to do something about it. The hand has other great advantages over the eye. It can see around corners and it can see in the dark.