What Is the Steering Law?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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The steering law is one of several laws of action that have to do with the process of human-computer interaction. Essentially, the idea is to determine how to build and arrange an interface between human and machine in order to make it possible to begin a task at a point of origin and successfully move toward the desired completion of that task while making the most efficient use of the resources on hand. The underlying concept is sometimes referred to as "steering," since the task often involves using the human element to direct the protocols provided by the computer system in order to manage the task in the most productive manner possible.

One way to understand the basic of the steering law is to consider the effort of a human being to drive a car along a road with a number of twists and turns. In order to complete the task, it is essential to not allow the car to veer out of the lane or onto the shoulder of the road, both events that could have a negative impact on reaching the destination. Within this scenario, the human being must actively direct the forward movement of the vehicle using the brakes, accelerator and the steering column to control that movement. At the same time, the process will usually involve reaching the destination as soon as possible, making the task of controlling the forward movement even more important.


With this in mind, the steering law as it relates to the function of computer networks means using the most expeditious combination of resources in order to achieve the desired ends. This means building a network using the right type of hardware to support the functions necessary. At the same time, the proper application of the steering law also means installing software that makes the most of the network resources while also allowing human intervention and control in the way those programs operate.

One example of how the steering law is utilized in day-to-day computer usage involves the human manipulation of a simple pointing device, the computer mouse. Here, the combination of drivers and hardware makes it possible for a human being to move and control the activities of the mouse to make use of a number of functions, from locating files to making changes in existing files, or to direct an online search. Essentially, the human is using the mouse to steer toward a specific goal, using the features of the hardware and software resident on the system to access and make use of the abilities of the mouse.


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